Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Controversy Continues...

More from Dave Newbart of the Chicago Sun-Times today on the continuing controversy over the way the University of Illinois handled (or failed to handle some would say) the Chief Illiniwek decision. Be sure to read the article in its entirety because it is outstanding but here are a few of the excellent questions raised in the article:

Because there was virtually no public debate, neither critics nor supporters of the chief really know what happened. Was there any disagreement? Was the decision unanimous? Was this solely a decision by the board of trustees or was the university administration involved?

In 1990, seven members of the board were willing to take a public stance on the issue. They passed a resolution to n the chief. That resolution was repeatedly cited as school policy until this month's decision.

If there was a "consensus," how could it overrule a formal resolution? Although the university counsel, Thomas Bearrows, did not return a call, other legal experts didn't think it could.
"Nothing I have seen would indicate that," said Ann Lousin, a professor at John Marshall Law School and former chairwoman of the Illinois Civil Service Commission. Dawn Clark Netsch, a Northwestern law professor and a former state lawmaker and comptroller, agrees that the earlier resolution "set a precedent" for future board action.

Where did any deliberations take place? Presumably in closed session, which the board believes is OK because it faced lawsuits against the chief. Beyond that, officials emphasize that Eppley -- a law partner of former Speaker of the Illinois House Lee Daniels -- was careful not to violate the letter of the state's Open Meetings Act -- by conferring with trustees privately, but individually.

But should one of the state's most powerful boards make its most highly anticipated decision in years completely outside the bright lights of the board room? "It would certainly seem to be an end run around the Open Meetings Act," Lousin said.

Perhaps more disturbing, said Netsch: What stops the board from creating future policy this way? "That's a little scary," said Netsch. "If they can do that by having the president just call up people and make decisions, they can do that on other issues."

That should be of concern no matter which side of the chief debate you're on.

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Random Thoughts from the Road

It's a bit of a challenge to keep track of the Illini from the road. But here are a few random thoughts from the world of college sports in general:


Monday, February 26, 2007

Deron Williams

Since Chief provided you with a little update on Luther Head, I thought I would pass along a little blurb from the Tribune today about Deron Williams. Click on the link and then scroll down to the section titled "Layups," where you will find this:

Said coach Jerry Sloan of his soon-to-be-perennial All-Star: "He's not a really good player, he's on the verge of being a great player." Coming from a coach like Jerry Sloan, that is about as high a praise as you can get.


Roger Powell a Bull? I doubt it will happen but if you click on the link and scroll down to the "Help Wanted" section of the article, it points out that he is a wing player who is having a good season in the NBA Development League and might be a possible option for the Bulls if they want to bring someone else in while Andres Nocioni recovers from his foot injury (plantar fasciitis--extremely painful. If you have every incurred this type of injury, you will understand why he hasn't been able to play through it. It can get so bad that you can barely walk and until it heals completely, it is very easy to re-aggravate the injury again and again).

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U of I at Least Has Manly Athletes

I am so glad this isn't a photo and story about Shaun Pruitt and Warren Carter. Hat tip to Deadspin.


Luther Head

In case you were completely enthralled yesterday with this (I feel really bad for Butch...hate for a player and team to have their postseason chances hurt by a nasty injury....hmmmm that sounds familiar) or this (is Carhartt the ultimate NASCAR sponsor or what?) perhaps you missed the Rockets-Magic game.

I wouldn't blame you if you did...I've soured on the NBA over the past few years as well. But whenever former Illini are on, I can't help but watch to see how they're doing.

Luther had a great game: 15 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal.

Check out the love he gets on Jonathan Feigen's Houston Chronicle blog here. Also, here is a nice little interview did with Luther after the Rookie/Sophomore game during All-Star weekend.



Friday, February 23, 2007

More on the Chief

IlliniPundit has more interesting news here.



Thursday, February 22, 2007


Last night I left a business entertainment function early to find a spot to watch The Last Dance. I was accompanied by coworkers from around the Midwest. We went to a quiet sports bar here in Big XII country. And I watched a painful first half of basketball.

Then ESPNU skipped most of their standard halftime show to let us see it. The Last Dance. As the Chief stood at the entrance of the floor, you could see grief on the normally stoic face. I choked up. As he ran out onto the floor, I sang the 3-in-1 to myself, mesmorized by the familiar, passionate dance of Chief Illiniwek. I saluted the Chief with the crowd, even while trying to explain what this meant to my coworkers. And tears came to my eyes. Then, as he was leaving the floor, the Chief did something I had never seen before -- he turned around and returned to the center of Assembly Hall for a final salute. And I cried.

Those around me were generally sympathetic and understanding of the significance of the event. I was relieved to see a stronger second half performance by the team -- even though Rich shot way to deep for my taste a few times, I thank Rich, Warren and Marcus for playing hard and helping us pull away to win on their Senior Day and, most significantly, The Last Dance. This was a game that would have been crushing to lose, along with our symbol.

Grieving is a part of life, and I have given myself permission to mourn the end of this era at the University of Illinois. I love my alma mater, but I hurt today. As I sit at the airport and watch the talking heads on ESPN saying it was time for this tradition to go, I get angry. As I write this, I find myself tearing up again.

Eventually I will move on to acceptance, but I won't forget. I won't forget the excitement of watching the Chief for the first time with my family at an Illini football game in junior high. I won't forget sharing the tradition with my baby sister, who was not quite 2 at her first Illini football game. I won't forget the pride I felt knowing some of the founders of Save the Chief, or the excitement of visiting a former Chief's home. And I won't forget that the Chief is part of my pride in being a member of the Illini Nation.

May Chief Illini live on in the heart of the Illini Nation, if not on the fields and courts of the University of Illinois.



Sadness amidst celebration

My wife (Oskee Mom-Mom) celebrated her 30th birthday last night, which meant I took her and my daughter out for dinner, we sang Happy Birthday, she blew out candles, we ate cake, opened presents, and did everything else that goes into celebrating a birthday. Overall, it was a fun evening, but I couldn't help but feel a sense of sadness at the end of it.

Thanks to ESPN, we couldn't watch the Illinois-Michigan game last night. They decided to broadcast it on ESPNU and, for some reason ($$$), were not willing to open it up to any other stations for broadcast in Champaign or the Chicago area. Thus, we listened to the game on the radio in the car and then at home.

We were home in time for halftime and I want to thank WIND-560 in Chicago for broadcasting the entire final dance of the Chief. My wife and I are both Illinois alums and so we stood as the band played the 3 in 1 and the Chief performed. We did the motions as we remembered them from our time in Champaign-Urbana. My daughter, the Illinette, tried to do the motions too and then swayed with us as we sang Hail to the Orange.

What saddened me immensely is that as we listened to the crowd roar for the Chief, I realized that my daughter will never have the chance to see the Chief perform in person. While I don't know if she will one day choose to become an Illini (although a dad can hope), I do know that I had plans to take her to football and basketball games once she was older (She did make it to part of a Homecoming game as an infant but won't remember that). I had looked forward to teaching her about Illinois traditions and the Chief and having a chance to share the halftime performance with her. That won't happen now. Yes, we will probably still go to the games but it won't be the same.

The Chief danced his last dance last night. His opponents will celebrate. His supporters will mourn. The arguments from both sides have been made over and over again and I have no intention of rehashing them here.

Let me close by saying the following. Whether as a student, as an alumn, or as a supporter of the University of Illinois, I have always been proud to call myself an Illini. To me Chief Illiniwek was not a mascot. He was a symbol. He was not a symbol of bigotry, hate, abusiveness, or hostility as some would argue.

He was a symbol who stood for bravery, courage and strength. A symbol who was respected, honored, and revered. If you don't believe that, then you have never been to an Illinois game and seen how he was treated by the crowd. It was demonstrated again last night, not only during his peformance, but also when he walked off the court.

Instead of going on down the tunnel and leaving as he always does, he instead turned around and came back to center court where he proceeded to face all corners of the arena one last time before departing for the final time. The roar of the arena was deafening and the thousands of flash bulbs going off from the cameras were blinding. Those in attendance were showing their thanks and appreciation to the Chief for what he has, does, and will always stand for whether it be in-person or now in spirit.

My wife and I wish we could have been there to see him one final time. I wish my daughter would have had the chance to see him. Last night amidst a big birthday celebration, the fun was tempered by sadness. Thank you for the memories Chief Illiniwek and may your spirit live on in each of us.

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The Last Dance

Last night was Chief Illiniwek's last dance. If you haven't already, be sure to check out the video the university put together here. (I'm surprised with all the controversy that the university had the guts to use its resources to make such a video. I'm sure the anti-Chief crowd will be screaming about that soon.)

And speaking of the crowd that is intolerable of opinions other than their own, check out this press release from S.T.O.P. (Students Transforming Oppression and Privilege). If you aren't familiar with this group, you will be soon because they have the momentum and, as this space predicted earlier this week, are going after all things Chief and Illini (in order to stay relevant they have to have a cause).

Take note of this line in the press release: Neither should the trademark be transferred to any other public or private entity that considers the mascot an "honorable tradition."

You know why they don't want that? Because they are scared to death that some wealthy alum who loves the Chief (and there are many) will buy the trademark and they won't be able to do a thing to control it.

Perhaps S.T.O.P. would sue this wealthy alum. However, if the alum is wealthy enough to buy the trademark, he/she is probably wealthy enough to pay a couple of high-priced attorneys. And that means S.T.O.P. either goes broke with legal fees (unless they've got a big donor behind them) or they have to give up.

Please, someone buy the trademark.

And by the way, since when does a student group basically dictate to the university how it operates? I'm all for the students having a say but the demands in this press release are over the top. The University of Illinois needs to put its foot down soon or the inmates will be running the asylum if they aren't already.

Incidentally, here is S.T.O.P.'s website.

Finally, I forgot to mention earlier this week that IlliniPundit had a great take on this whole controversy earlier this week. I highly encourage you to check it out.



Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Guest Blog: Chief Memory

We asked for your favorite memories of Chief Illiniwek. You delivered. U of I alum Basil Tripsas wrote the following:

The first Illinois football game I went to was in 1977, my freshman year. This was Gary Moeller's first year as head coach and the start of an era most Illini fans would rather forget (I was also there for the 0-0 tie with Northwestern).

In those days a one-game student ticket could be had for $5 and one could walk up to Memorial Stadium on game day and get a seat. I was up in the balcony, section AA. The game was against Missouri. It was an overcast, drizzly day for most of the first half, and the Illini were losing at halftime.

Halftime arrived, and the Marching Illini began the Three-in-One. It was the first time I'd seen the Chief, and I was looking forward to the event. As he finished the dance, took his spot at midfield, and raised his arms at the start of the Alma Mater, the sun broke out through the clouds. I remember the moment, and thinking, "We're winning this game." And we did.

I saw the Chief at several other football games over the years (including the '83 Michigan game where we clinched the Rose Bowl) as well as home basketball games from '78 to '83. But none of his performances ever matched the tingle down the spine I had on that day in 1977.

Basil Tripsas
B.S. UIUC 1980
M.S. UIUC 1981
Ph.D. UIUC 1988


This Ain't Over

John Supinie, who copied his blog name from our's, has a column up about how hard Ron Guenther is working given all the balls he has in the air right now i.e. allegations of football recruiting violations (wish he would come forward and finger the culprit of that NY Times story), the Jamar situation and the Chief situation.

For this morning, I want to focus on this section of his story:

On Friday, Guenther and the Illini watched as the school announced Chief Illiniwek — an 81-year-old tradition — would be retired following Wednesday’s game against Michigan. The school still can use Fighting Illini and Illini as nicknames, but there’s still the lingering issue of the Chief Illiniwek logo that’s sold on official school merchandise.

Eventually, the logo will also likely be retired, but first the school must handle the legal issue of the copyright. If the copyright isn’t used for a long period of time, the school could lose it and the Chief logo could fall into someone else’s possession.

That silly copyright. I tell ya. Gettin' in the way of everything.

If anyone out there is an expert in copyright law, we want to hear from you. Is there a way the university could "close" the copyright so it can never be used again? Is there any way an alum (a wealthy one if necessary) could buy the copyright and preserve the Chief logo?

In the end I don't think opponents of the Chief are going to be satisfied that the Chief is gone. I hope I'm wrong but I believe they will look to channel their energies in going after the logo, then the name "Fighting Illini."



Tuesday, February 20, 2007

SI Interviews the Student Who Portrays the Chief

Another hat tip to Andy Gray at's "On Campus" for pointing out this interview they did with U of I student Dan Maloney who portrays Chief Illiniwek.




This is not good.

My fellow contributors at Illinitalk may disagree with me but even though Jamar may plead for lesser charges, I still believe Weber needs to come down hard on him. I lean toward not playing at U of I again.

My reasoning is thus: tough punishment deters crime. This is the second DUI by an Illinois basketball player this year. That is unacceptable. It creates a perception problem for the program and the university.

Interestingly enough, the university has a large chunk of it's student code devoted to alcohol but no guidelines on punishment that I could find.

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It's Chief Week

ESPN has "Feast Week." Illinitalk has "Chief Week."

In honor Chief Illiniwek's last dance tomorrow, please send us your stories, photos etc. of your memories of the Chief and/or how you are mourning the passing of this legendary tradition. If yours is good, we'll post it on this site.



Friday, February 16, 2007


Chief Illiniwek will no longer perform.

Additional background information on this development and answers to frequently asked questions (FAQ's).

All of our regular readers know where Illinitalk stands on this issue. This portion of a statement from Athletic Director Ron Guenther sums up the reality of the situation:

"Personally, as an alumnus and former athlete, I am disappointed, however, as an administrator, I understand the decision that had to be made."

We too are disappointed. But the reality is, we knew this was likely coming once the NCAA created their new policy mascot/symbol policy back in 2005. The sanctions imposed by the NCAA on schools that violated their policy left the University with little other choice once the appeals process was exhausted. Score one for the NCAA bureaucrats as they have dealt a blow to institutional autonomy.

One question from the FAQ's stands out to us as one that needs to be answered more definitively:

Q: What will happen with the University’s trademark rights to the name Chief Illiniwek, the portrayal of the Chief and the Chief Illiniwek logo?
A: The University is reviewing trademark laws. No final decision has been made.

It is our hope that the University of Illinois will decide to turn over the trademark rights to the group of former Chief's or to another suitable entity who will honor the tradition of Chief Illiniwek.

Finally, we would appeal to all of you out there, regardless of whether you support the Chief decision or not, to continue to support the University of Illinois and the Fighting Illini Athletics.

Have a good weekend and good luck to the Illini at Northwestern on Sunday! Go Orange and Blue!

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Carlwell and Smith

Brian Carlwell will likely be released from the hospital today. There is some thought that he may be done for the season, while Coach Weber said under a best case scenario that he might return in time for the Big Ten Tournament.

Meanwhile, Jamar Smith will not play again this year. That does not bode well for what will likely soon be coming out regarding the investigation into this week's accident.

To add to the Illini's woes, Warren Carter sprained his ankle in practice on Wednesday and did not practice yesterday.

This has just been one of those year's...let's hope the Illini don't have another one like it for a long, long time.

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

A Hole-In-One

The University of Illinois golf program is following the pattern Guenther has established to improve all Illini athletics, including lesser-known sports (tennis, wrestling, gymnastics): Hire quality coaches to build strong programs.

Mike Small, the men’s golf coach, was named PGA Professional Player of the Year last month. That means he is considered the top player among PGA professionals, a high honor. He has built a top-25 program at Illinois, and is attracting noted talent to Champaign.

Small is a true Illini:

He is described as an excellent teacher. "His teams are always well coached, and he could probably for the [PGA] tour," says a pro* who competed against Small's Illini at the collegiate level.

The future of Illini golf looks bright with Small at the helm and new facilities in the works. Go Illini!

*My brother-in-law

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The Latest on Carlwell and Jamar

The Daily Illini is doing a good job of providing updates here. Tupper's last update of the night is here. I really hope Carlwell is ok...especially for Jamar's sake since he was driving.


Monday, February 12, 2007

Digging Deeper

Last week's NYT article questioning the Illini football recruiting class continues to spark discussion.

Most really good reporters are willing to dig a bit deeper, and Mark Tupper did just that, offering some profound insight -- maybe Zook & Co. are just good at recruiting.

Then there are the columnists. Can't say that I always agree with Gregg Doyel at CBS SportsLine, but he also dug a bit deeper into the "rumors," and added his opinion, which I found highly entertaining.

Are there still questions about Zook's abilities? Sure, but we won't get short-term answers for another seven or eight months. And we won't really know where we are headed for another 2 years. But at least we have reason to be optimistic!


Odds and Ends

A few interesting tidbits from today's papers:

--Skip Myslenski of the Tribune has comments from Brian Randle about his transition from role player to being a go-to guy for the Illini. The article also talks about other Big Ten players who are also making that transition.

--Teddy Greenstein, also of the Tribune, reports that Illinois may be lining up a quarterback recruit by the name of Phil Haig to replace Clint Brewster, who decided to sign with Minnesota at the last minute when his dad became their new head coach. In an interesting twist, Haig was originally planning to commit to Minnesota.

--Greenstein also reports on some "trash talking" between the Big Ten Commisioner (open letter) and the SEC Commissioner (response).

--Finally, today's headline of the day is (drumroll please):

Maryland adds to Duke's Misery (Blue Devils suffer fourth straight defeat)

Sadly, this headline was in the print addition of the Daily Herald and not their online edition, which titled it "Unfamliar Territory."

--The quote of the day also comes from this article:

"After the final buzzer, the Maryland fans didn’t rush the court — an indication, perhaps, of Duke’s fall from elite status."

After the game, Coach K had a few things to say, including the following comments on how to right his struggling team:

“I’ll do whatever I can,” he said Sunday, moments after a 72-60 loss to host Maryland. “I’m not going to punt, let’s put it that way. You have to figure it out. The one thing you can’t do is feel sorry for yourself.”

Maybe he could do another American Express commercial about winning to make himself feel better.

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Check out Fighting Illini Men's Tennis

On Friday, I put up a post to highlight Illinois' highly successful wrestling program. Today, I want to highlight another sport we don't often mention on the blog: The nationally ranked (#6) men's tennis team. For those of you who may not know, in 2002-2003, the team won a NCAA National Championship and went 32-0!

They have continued to have success since that title and are currently preparing to play for the 2007 USTA/ITA National Men's Team Indoor Championship on February 16-19 in Chicago at the Midtown Tennis Club. So all of you Fighting Illini fans in Chicago that are looking for something to do this upcoming weekend, click here for the tournament schedule or here for ticket information. Go out and support the nationally ranked Fighting Illini Men's Tennis!


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Sunday, February 11, 2007

Does Hutchens Think IU Fans Are Angels?

This sidebar story by IU basketball beat reporter Terry Hutchens is pretty funny. Particularly this line:

But, then, Indiana's fans were mild in comparison to the obscenity-laced assault that IU coach Kelvin Sampson received from the Illini crowd Jan. 23 in Champaign.


So IU fans didn't curse Bruce Weber's name once. Give. Me. A. Break. Kind of a holier than thou attitude, don't ya think?


Saturday, February 10, 2007

The (Seventh) One That Got Away

Tough loss, especially since we played so hard in such a tough environment, despite the 5 seconds every Illini fan would like to have back.

Quote of the game from my dad after Wilmont missed a bucket in the paint with 3:25 to go in the game: "It must have been a foul, since nobody touched him." That says it all.


Alma Mater

She's definately earned her keep the past few weeks since we brought her on board as our newest contributor. In fact, she posted the Morrissey column this morning 10 minutes before I did.

Make sure you check out her posts recently.


Morrissey: Why Would Anyone Want to Coach?

Rick Morrissey writes sports columns for the Chicago Tribune. He's one of my favorite columnists in the nation. Here is why.


Illini Golf

I got an e-mail newsletter from the U of I chancellor's office this week. At the end it talked about the new golf practice facility Illinois is building out on St. Mary's road. Check out the sketches and details here.


It's a Tough Job

"Why would anybody in his right mind want to be a college football or basketball coach these days?"

That's a good question, posed by the Tribune's Rick Morrissey in this column. As Morrissey points out, Coach Weber is under fire for not bringing in enough talent in the last couple years, while Coach Zook is being scrutinized for bringing in too much talent.

And, as it is easy to forget, some recruits greatly exceed expectations (James Augustine, anyone?), while others never quite live up to them (remember Iowa's Pierre Pierce?). So I will wait to see what happens on the court/field.


Friday, February 09, 2007

Illini Wrestler #1 in the Nation!

As we are the only comprehensive Illini sports blog on the web, we do like to occasionally bring you news from outside the world of football and basketball. Many of you may not know it, but Illinois has a great wrestling program that has been very strong nationally in recent years. They are currently ranked 9th as a team and, until last weekend, they were undefeated in matches (excluding the Midlands Championships).

One member of the wrestling team is currently ranked #1 in the nation in the 157 pound weight class. His name is Mike Poeta, I thought it was only right that we give him a little publicity and get his name out there. The team has one more wrestling meet at home on February 18th vs. Ohio State. If you are near the Champaign-Urbana area that weekend, go watch the team, see the top-ranked 157 lb. wrestler in the country, and give them all some support.


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Is Notre Dame Saying Benn and Tez Can Be Bought?

Ron Zook did the rounds with the Chicago media yesterday. Meanwhile, Charlie Weis was unreachable. Could it be because just about every sports commentator out there, save Jim Rome, said the NY Times story that slammed Illinois on signing day wasn't worth the paper is was printed on and therefore they knew the source? I think one prominent TV personality even went as far as to say that he wouldn't use the story to wrap dead fish in. Classic.

MAJOR SIDENOTE: Consensus in the papers today seems to be that Notre Dame is the source of the mud being thrown at Zook. If that is the case, Notre Dame is actually hurting Benn and Tez even more than Zook.

First of all, the Domers look like sore losers.

Second, and most importantly, they are basically saying Benn and Tez can be bought. Way to try and destroy the character of a couple of young teenagers.

And finally, if all of this is true, Notre Dame lost a bidding war to Illinois? Wow. How pathetic.

But all that seems to be Notre Dame values today.

Below is a summary of some of the great stories out there today with key excerpts from each:

Orlando Sentinel:

Florida Athletic Director Jeremy Foley, the man who hired and fired Zook at UF, has seen this sort of thing before when Gators basketball coach and recruiting dynamo Billy Donovan first began luring top-caliber recruits to downtrodden UF.

"Ron and I may have had our differences, but not for one second do I think he cheats," Foley said. "These are the same sort of knee-jerk accusations they made about Billy at first. They didn't take into consideration that maybe Billy was a great recruiter for a great university in a great league with great facilities and great weather. They just said he must be cheating."

Foley was speaking of established coaches such as Roy Williams (then at Kansas) who began to complain about cheating only after being out-recruited by the young, hard-charging Donovan. According to those close to the Illinois program, it is Notre Dame officials who are leaking negative information about Zook.

This is typical Golden Dome arrogance. How could high-and-mighty Notre Dame lose a recruit to those lowly bumpkins in Illinois?

As somebody who once went on a recruiting trip with Zook, I can tell you how: Because the guy works harder and cares more. I still remember that 13-day span during the May recruiting period before his first UF season when Zook jumped in a car and visited 71 high schools in the state (an average of almost six per day) and gave speeches to 12 Gator Clubs. I'm just guessing Charlie Weis isn't driving alone at midnight through the back roads of Indiana, gulping down convenience-store coffee to try to stay awake.

That's what Ron Zook once did at Florida, and it's what he's doing now at Illinois.

Chicago Sun-Times:

Wilson's father, Michael Whitehead, told the Sun-Times he was shocked when a Notre Dame assistant coach got into a shouting match with a Simeon assistant at their home. The discussion centered on what Illinois football would accomplish during Wilson's time there.

'It was like we weren't even in the room,'' said Whitehead, who was taken aback by the argument.

Chicago Tribune:

Zook saw where Irish coach Charlie Weis said the word "commitment" needs to be redefined in recruiting.

It is believed Hughes gave Illinois a "silent" commitment before settling on Notre Dame.

Zook wouldn't confirm that but did say of Weis, "One of those kids that committed to him committed to me before he committed to him. Do I cry about that?"

Through a university spokesman, Weis could not be reached for comment.

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Thursday, February 08, 2007

A Few of My Favorite Things

I saw a few of my favorite things during the Illini's convincing win at Northwestern:
1. A road win. Plus a strong finish -- no letting this one go.
2. Assists. 18 of them, I believe. I saw some pretty sweet passes inside, where the Illini were wide open and dominating.
3. Rebounds. Lots of them -- on both ends of the floor. Many fell into their hands, but they jumped and fought for a few, too. (By the way, it's nice to know that Illinois leads the Big Ten in offensive rebounds. I'll take that as a positive and ignore the fact that this stat is related to shooting percentage.)
4. Wide-open 3s. I prefer HORSE shots to quick 3s when there is a defender's hand in the shooter's face.

There were other things to like, but Northwestern is having a really rough season. Now on to another big road game this weekend.


Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Building Character

Warren Carter has emerged as a leader on the court this season, and he had a great game tonight against Northwestern. But my respect for him reached a whole new level after reading this. I'm always encouraged by those who refuse to let circumstances dictate their lives.



Bill Cole Update

Another great guest blog from Illini basketball recruit Bill Cole:

Hey everyone,

Just wanted to keep all the fans updated on how things have been going lately.

First off, on Friday night we played Peoria Notre Dame (Brian Randle's old school) in the gym at their school. They usually play at Spalding Gymnasium downtown, but that was torn down earlier in the year so we had to play at ND's school gym which only hold 1,500 people.

For those of you who don't know much about Peoria, Richwoods and Notre Dame are a two-minute drive from each other...two streets over. Needless to say its a big rivalry.

Since we messed up and lost to Manual, the outright conference title was this game. The game was sold out by the second half of the sophomore game. It was a cool atmosphere in the little gym, and a tough game. I saw a double and triple team the most of the game so I only took five shots and ended up with nine points and 12 rebounds. We ended up pulling away in the fourth quarter like we usually do!

Notre Dame has a tough hard-nosed team this year. The final score was 58-42 RHS. Winning the game was awesome, because it meant we didn't have practice on Saturday so I could go to my first ILLINI game of the season.

What did I tell all you guys-my first game back and Jamar ends the slump! I knew he would pull through for me. All in all I thought the game was a very well-balanced attack for the Illini. I think we had four in double figures. It was a perfect way for me to spend my Saturday.

Bill's new random fact of the day: People always ask me who my favorite Illini basketball player is. I cant decide. However, I think I would have to go with Lucas Johnsonor or Robert Archibald. Thats it for tonight,.

Go Illini!
Bill Cole

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Signing Day Part IV: Selling a Dream

I'm excited about Illini football -- and it's February! Signing Day is usually a small blip on my radar that pops up in the middle of basketball season.

But today, Ron Zook sold me on the idea that Illini football has a football. At the same time, he got significant national attention as a master salesman from the likes of SI and ESPN.

The national take strikes me as a bit harsh -- why would it be hard to convince a bunch of 17-year-olds that Champaign is the place to be, even if they are very talented? (I chose Illinois at 17, and it was one of the best decisions I ever made.) I'm confident these young men will feel the same.

Florida is still giddy over the recruits Zook brought in for them, and although I don't expect to compete for a national championship in the next year or two, I do expect to compete in the Big Ten. Definitely a step in the right direction for the football team.

Go Illini!

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Signing Day Part III: Notre Dame

Want some insight into how fine and upstanding the Notre Dame football program's recruiting tactics are? Check out the following excerpt from this story in today's Washington Post (props to the reporter for some good investigative reporting):

"I thought I'd make my decision and that would be it," said Arrelious Benn, who announced his commitment to Illinois on ESPNU on Nov. 9 before graduating from Dunbar in December and enrolling in Champaign last month. After the commitment? "That's when it got worse. These are grown men. Why can't they live with the decision I made?"

Throughout his junior school year, Benn said he had considered Notre Dame his top choice, but when he felt as though the Fighting Irish coaching staff was putting too much pressure on him to commit he stopped considering the school. Once Benn orally committed to Illinois, Notre Dame assistant Peter Vaas continued to pepper Benn with text messages and voice mails, some of which Benn provided to The Post:

"FYI, ILL is telling Robert Hughes that they will build their offense around him? Didn't they tell you that?

Coach Vaas," Vaas wrote Benn on Dec. 17.

Earlier that month, Vaas left this voice message on Benn's phone: "You don't want to do anything except bury your head in the sand. . . . I guess you're not tough enough to compete at the big level."

Vaas, who was let go as quarterbacks coach by the Irish after their 44-14 loss to LSU in the Sugar Bowl, did not deny leaving the messages. He said last night that even though Benn made his announcement on national television, that isn't necessarily a recruit's final word.

"Did he say [he was going to Illinois] to me? Did I see him on TV?" Vaas said. "There's an awful lot of rumors or innuendo out there . . . and kids change their minds after they do that. A lot of times, it depends upon what kind of conviction a kid has about a place. You know how you read between the lines? As a recruiter, I have to hear between the lines."

A Notre Dame spokesman declined to comment last night.

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Signing Day Part II (and other thoughts)

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Signing Day Part I (and B-ball vs. NU)

This is a BIG DAY for Illinois athletics. For the football team, signing day has finally arrived. Coach Zook and his staff have assembled a great recruiting class that ranks in the Top 20 in the country. When is the last time we saw an article with this headline for football recruiting? Answer: I don't recall ever seeing one like it but for those of you who are older than me, it has been more than a decade and probably even longer than that.

The hard part of recruiting for this class is done and all the coaches can do now is wait the formal, signed national letters of intent to come across the fax machine today. While there is always the risk of surprises on signing day, let's hope the only surprise came earlier this week when quarterback Clint Brewster changed his mind and committed to Minnesota (where his father is the new coach).

I can't wait to see these guys on the field over the next four years. Check the blog again later today for some additional thoughts on football recruiting from Chief.

In addition to the excitement of signing day for the football team, Illinois has an important basketball game tonight at Northwestern. Like just about every game for the remainder of the season, this is a must win game for the Illini. Here are a couple of previews about the game from the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune, respectively. Also, here is one from the Daily Herald that contains information at the end about the Illini's continuing battle with injuries.

Couple of miscellaneous side notes:

--This is what often frustrates me about the NBA. I support John Paxson's decision wholeheartedly on this one. I can only hope that the comments Thomas made in the second article are more reflective of him than the first article, which was written by Sam Smith.

--Interesting perspective on the Bears and Rex Grossman. The thing that stood out to me in this article: The Bears had enough money under the salary cap that they could have signed Drew Brees last off-season!!! I know hindsight is 20/20 but come on, that should have been a no-brainer. They would likely be getting fitted for the Super Bowl rings if they had made that move. To win a championship, you have to go all in (as they would say in poker). I hope Jerry Angelo considers that and takes it as a lesson learned.

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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Remember When?

With just over a month to go to Selection Sunday, the Illini seem to be firmly on The Bubble. The uphill battle to make the Big Dance is well documented in the latest news. And with two road games this week, the risk of bursting that bubble is rising.

But do you remember when Illinois often fell in the middle of the Big Ten at the end of the season? It hasn't been that long -- we spent most of the 90s in the upper-middle half of the conference, often making the tournament, but sometimes not. In fact, just 8 years ago, we finished dead last in the Big Ten (although the conference tournament run to the championship game hinted at things to come).

How quickly we become spoiled. Last week Weber mentioned the weight of expectations on the 2006-07 Illini, who have been challenged by a never-ending list of injuries and illnesses.

So, as the team hits the road for Evanston and Bloomington, I resolve to cheer for these guys to do their best. But I also resolve to remember when a season like this was more the norm than the exception -- and enjoy the games.

Go Illini!

P.S. Congrats to Warren Carter's little brother Josh on a great game in the Aggie's win over Texas -- one of the most entertaining games I've half-watched this season, especially coming on the heels of their historic victory at KU.


Indiana Fans Are Mature

Not to look past Northwestern tomorrow night because that's a pretty important game, but IU fans are already looking for revenge for their loss at Champaign last month. Today's issue of the Indiana Daily Student has a preview of their taunting:

One Facebook group is asking students to bring baby rattles to the game -- insinuating that Weber has whined too much about the Gordon saga.

I cannot express in words how much I hope every single Indiana fan who attends that game wears an IU shirt and brings a baby rattle. While they're at it maybe they can wear bibs and stick pacifiers in their mouth (don't laugh it's already been discussed on Peegs).

CBS will not be able to resist putting that on camera. Oh for the nation to see IU fans dressed like babies.




Weird News of the Day

This story isn't an Illini item but it's too crazy to pass up.


When she found out that Shipman was flying to Orlando from Houston, Nowak decided to confront her, according to the arrest affidavit. Nowak raced from Houston to Orlando wearing diapers so she wouldn't have to stop to urinate, authorities said.

Astronauts wear diapers during launch and re-entry.

Dressed in a wig and a trench coat, Nowak boarded an airport bus that Shipman took to her car in an airport parking lot. Shipman told police she noticed someone following her, hurried inside the car and locked the doors, according to the arrest affidavit.

Nowak rapped on the window, tried to open the car door and asked for a ride. Shipman refused but rolled down the car window a few inches when Nowak started crying. Nowak then sprayed a chemical into Shipman's car, the affidavit said.

Shipman drove to the parking lot booth, and the police were called.


Monday, February 05, 2007

XLI Recap, Etc.

First, I'm flattered that Good Hope Orange thinks I have enough influence to affect the outcome of a major sporting event -- but I know better. (If that were the case, Illinois would have played Michigan State instead of North Carolina for the 2005 NCAA Championship.)

Second, congrats to Kelvin Hayden on making Super Bowl history (10th interception returned for a touchdown).

I am a Bears fan, and I will gladly resurrect the Super Bowl Shuffle again next season, provided they hold on to key players (Lance Briggs, etc.) and continue to improve. But the passion of college sports comes first for me. In fact, I spent much of this season learning to cheer for Rex, even though he left Big Ten country for Florida. I must admit that though it often was hard to watch Orton play, I found it easier to cheer for him than Grossman. And perhaps the reason I backed Lovie's unwavering support of Rex all season was a subconscious aversion to Michigan (sorry, Griese).

[Side note: I have come far enough that I can't blame the Bear's loss solely on Rex. You can't let a team with a future hall-of-fame quarterback run at will. A few more stops in the second quarter would have been helpful. However, don't expect me to cheer whole-heartedly for Kirk Hinrich, Luol Deng, Chris Duhon, Ben Gordon & company anytime soon -- that would go against the very fiber of my college basketball being. I'll take the Deron Williams-led Jazz in SLC over the Bulls tonight. Oh, and even though it's after the fact, you may find the Jazz Super Bowl picks amusing.]

I was heartbroken that the Bears couldn't pull it out yesterday. But it helped that a former Illini was part of the reason. It also helped that Coach Dungy was the mastermind on the other sideline. In my opinion, the interview (James Brown with SB Coaches) with head coaches/friends Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith prior to the game was the highlight of the pre-game coverage. And I appreciated their post-game congratulations, as well.

XLI was exciting -- if sloppy -- football until Rex's second interception. The opening kick-off return looked a bit like Ted Ginn's, and the score could have been just as ugly as Ohio State's given the way the Bears played after the first quarter. Missed handoffs, tackles, field goals and extra points gave fans on both sides plenty to cheer and lament. The Bears heart and desire were evident in that they were still in the game midway through the 4th quarter. Plus, the action on the field made up for the mediocre commercials. I thought Blockbuster was the most memorable.


Don't be nice to your opponent until AFTER THE GAME!


As a fellow Illini fan, I appreciated Alma Mater pointing out two former Illini players who are now with the Colts. One of those players, happens to be Kelvin Hayden, who she wished good luck on Saturday. Now, I know she is a Chicago Bears fan like me and that she was cheering for the Monsters of the Midway. However, next time, maybe it would be wise to avoid wishing one of our opponents good luck before the Super Bowl or any other big game. Then we won't have to read headlines the following day that say this or also this.

That being said (and all kidding aside), if the Bears had to lose, I would rather than lose to the Colts with good guys like Hayden, Dungy, and Manning rather than some of the other teams out there. And they really are good guys. You probably have read the various stories about Dungy and Manning but you may have missed a couple that the Tribune ran on Hayden last week. I think you will be impressed by him too if you read this story with comments from one of his former teachers and this story about his mom.

Last night's loss was disappointing and I wish the outcome had been different. If we are lucky, the Bears will be back to the Super Bowl again next year but it is a long road to get back there again. I will say that this loss of one of my favorite teams, did not sting near as badly as the Illini's loss to North Carolina back in 2005. I think that is because it was so much fun to watch that group of players and to see them perform as a true team. You felt like you knew those guys and could relate to them. Good memories...


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Blood is Thicker Than Water

Reason #1 why, while I was rooting for the Bears, I didn't mind seeing the Colts win: Tony Dungy is a class act.

Reason #2: Blood is thicker than water. I'll always root for former Illini to do matter who they play for...almost (it's really tough to root for Brandon Lloyd on the Redskins).

Anyway, Colts DB Kelvin Hayden did the Illini proud with his interception return for a TD. In fact, in a nice bit of irony, Bears Offensive Coordinator and former Illini Head Coach Ron Tuner was the one who got Hayden to switch to cornerback from wide receiver when Hayden played for the Illini. Classic.

Speaking of blood is thicker than water...Clint Brewster is going to play for his dad at Minnesota instead of Illinois. Now I understand wanting to go play for your dad. And I know we're dealing with high schoolers here, many of whom can't make up their mind about what to wear each day, let alone which college to go to. But good grief. The kid decides this on the first day of the no contact period. Thanks pal. At least it's not as bad as this guy because we've still got Juice and an awesome recruiting class on the way.

Finally, Duke has lost two straight. Sniff. Sniff.

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Sunday, February 04, 2007

Chris Hicks

Thanks to SI's "On Campus" editor Andy Gray for pointing out a great story they did on Illini walk-on Chris Hicks here.

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Did John Supinie Trademark Illini Talk?

So John Supinie started his own blog. Cool. He's a good writer.

John also chose to call his blog Illini Talk.

The only logical explanation is that he saw what he liked here and decided that, imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, if he imitated the first Illinitalk, his blog would have resounding success.

There is no other possible explanation. None.

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Ron Zook Bringing in Stellar Class

Thursday is going to be a huge day for Illini football fans who have yearned to see the program turn around. Bob Asmussen will have all the coverage here throughout the week. We expect Zook to sign a top class.

Btw, Ron Guenther will be relieved if this happens because otherwise he's taking a lot of heat for moving the students to the north end zone.

Um, Ron, hello? Why do you think the basketball team has such a great home-court advantage?

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Is the Microwave Back?

Jamar Smith may have finally found his stroke last night as the Illini rolled over Minnesota in a game that Tupper says wasn't as close as the final score indicated.

Tupper also says Jamar may have been so distracted by his stomach problems that he may have started to break out of his shooting slump. An encouraging call from Luther Head probably didn't hurt either.

Btw, I know XLI is today but I couldn't find anything on the Pantagraph's sports page about the game last night. Isn't Bloomington 45 minutes or so from Champaign?

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Saturday, February 03, 2007


Contrary to popular belief, there's more to Super Bowl XLI than one of the World's Greatest Quarterbacks, one of the Worst Quarterbacks Ever To Start A Championship Game, and two classy, history-making coaches.

Watch for the Illini connection tomorrow. On the Colts sidelines, defensive back Kelvin Hayden and wide receiver Aaron Moorehead both had notable careers at Illinios. Hayden will likely see more time on the field than usual, with starter Nick Harper questionable for the Colts.

Hayden on his time at Illinois: "I consider my time playing football at the University of Illinois as a great privilege. There are so many guys who play at the college football level who dream of the chance to play at the NFL, and I feel that the University of Illinois was a big reason that I am blessed to have that opportunity. ...The fans at Illinois are extremely loyal. At times when I was there, we didn't give them a lot to cheer for, but they were always there at the games and always making sure you knew they were behind you. ...It's awesome to be a part of the Illinois football family, and I really believe the Illini fans have a lot to look forward to."
Good stuff Kelvin, and good luck tomorrow.

For the Bears, former Illini football coach Ron Turner will call the attack from the booth. And, Ron Zook has coached several players who have a chance to get a ring, most notably QB Rex Grossman.

That said, I'm cheering for Chicago. Go Bears!


Friday, February 02, 2007


Hey Alma Mater-

Nice letter to Izzo below. I'd like to write one to Sampson but have no idea where I'd even begin.



Thursday, February 01, 2007

Bright Spots

So there was a lot not to like about our victory Tuesday night (free throws, rebounding, turnovers, etc.), but I prefer to focus on the positive. Even if the list is short.

1. A win. No matter what it looked like, it's still a W.

2. Defense. Once again the Illini held their opponents to long scoreless stretches. And, they did a good job limiting top scorers much of the game (even if some people think Randle's play is reminiscent of "junior high defense"*).

3. Guts. Most, including Izzo, attribute Chester's excellent performance off the bench to his guts (but maybe it was the new hair style).

*Quote trademarked courtesy of KR BrainTrust, LLC.


Friendly Advice

Dear Coach Izzo,

Your boys played tough in Assembly Hall this week after an exhausting effort against the Buckeyes. "Bad News Bears" or not, they deserve credit for hanging in an ugly game.

I'm no coach, so my advice isn't worth much, but why didn't you start fouling at the 2:11 mark? You were only down 4 or 5, and you would have had plenty of time to take the lead. Given the Illini percentage at the line and Drew's clutch performances, you probably could have pulled it out. But you are much too classy for such an ugly strategy.

All the best on the rest of your season -- I honestly hope we don't have to face you in the Big Ten tournament.

Alma Mater


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