After a very shaky start to the Big Ten season, the Illinois men’s basketball team has put together a decent 5-2 run in the past seven games, marginally improving their outlook to make the NCAA tournament at the end of the season. Of course, how well they play in the final five Big Ten games will determine their fate.
I will continue to do my part, though… I’m not the only one who has noticed that the Illini play better when I don’t or can’t actively watch the games. As soon as I turn on the game, they commit a turnover or do something else stupid. It’s all my fault.
For the past 22 years, any true fan who has ever attended a University of Illinois basketball or football game has thrilled to hear public announcer Jim Sheppard rally the fans with spirited calls like “It’s a Threeeee!!!” or “First Down ILLINI!!!” in his signature booming voice.
However, on December 7, 2006, the University’s Division of Intercollegiate Athletics informed Sheppard that they will “go in a different direction” after next year’s football season and Sheppard’s 22-year run will end.
WTF?!? I can’t believe the U of I would basically fire Sheppard without any better reason than “a different direction.” This Daily Illini article discusses the situation and I think echoes my opinion that Illinois is way off the ball here.
Coach Ron Zook and the Illinois football program should be celebrating a tremendously successful recruiting season, earning what experts are calling a top 15 recruiting class nationwide. Unfortunately, that very success is causing some losers, uh, I mean some coaches who lost recruiting battles, to bitch and moan privately, and not so privately. The New York Times published a literary masterpiece earlier this week titled “Illinois Has Rivals Fuming About Its Recruiting Coup”, which seems to have ignited this controversy with its less-than-balanced coverage of the story. For a more news-worthy study of the situation, I suggest reading this Chicago Sun-Times article instead.
Now don’t get me wrong… If there’s proof that Illinois did something illegal in recruiting these kids, punishment should be swift and appropriate, and then we’ll all move on to the next scandal. But I haven’t heard anything so far that even remotely resembles a shred of proof. If this turns out to just be sour grapes, it’ll give me even more reason to dislike a certain holier-than-thou midwestern university that has been named as the driving force behind these vague accusations. After all, having your very own national television deal isn’t enough of a competitive recruiting edge, is it? No Doubt about it.