Illini Legends, Lists & Lore

Bob Zuppke

Bob Zuppke

November 17, 2017
Seventy-six years ago today in Fighting Illini history -- Nov. 17, 1941 -- Hall of Fame football coach Bob Zuppke announced his resignation. The native of Berlin, Germany was schooled in football at the University of Wisconsin. He coached briefly in the high school ranks, including a stint at Oak Park (Ill.) High School where one of his players was a future author named Ernest Hemingway. 

 Here are some other tidbits about Zuppke that you may not have known:

• Illinois won seven Big Ten football championships under his direction.

• Among other Big Ten coaches, only Woody Hayes (205), Bo Schembechler (143), Amos Alonzo Stagg (115), Hayden Fry (96), Joe Paterno (95), Kirk Ferentz (82) and Lloyd Carr (81) won more than Zuppke’s 76 total conference victories.

• Zuppke won nine of 22 games versus Michigan, while over the 55 seasons since his retirement, his Illini successors have won just 11 times.

• His Illini teams beat Ohio State 11 times, a victory total exceeded only by Yost’s 16 wins against the Buckeyes. 

• Zuppke’s non-conference record was 56 victories, 15 losses and four ties, a winning percentage of .773.

• His teams posted 82 shutouts in 225 games. Since Zuppke’s retirement, Illini teams have registered 50 shutouts in 817 games (including games of 2017).
Minnesota's Memorial Stadium

Illini Help Dedicate UM's New Memorial Stadium

November 15, 2017
Ninety-three years ago today—Nov. 15, 1924—Red Grange and the Fighting Illini football team helped dedicate the University of Minnesota’s new Memorial Stadium. Ironically, just four weeks earlier, Illinois had dedicated its own facility against Michigan, a game in which No. 77 was immortalized as one of football’s all-time greats. 

Minnesota’s new “Brick House” was packed with 55,000 screaming fans. Grange opened the game in much the same way he had done a month earlier, running the pigskin into the end zone then kicking the extra point for a 7-0 lead. After that, however, it was all Minnesota, scoring 20 unanswered points for a 20-7 victory. 

Just as Grange had dominated Michigan, running back Clarence Schutte did the same for the Gophers against the Illini. Among his 32 carries, three went for touchdowns. His 282 yards far exceeded Grange’s production that day, due in part to the fact that “The Galloping Ghost” suffered straight shoulder ligaments midway through the game. 

It turned out to be Illinois’ only loss of the 1924 season and cost Coach Bob Zuppke’s club what would have been a second straight Big Ten title.
Gary Wieneke

Gary Wieneke

November 13, 2017
Gary Wieneke, a man synonymous with Fighting Illini track and field and cross country, celebrates his 80th birthday today. He served as Illinois’ cross country mentor for 36 years and as director of the track and field squad for 29 years, retiring after the 2002-03 season. 

Wieneke’s 1984 harriers won the Big Ten title, UI’s first conference championship since 1947. Another highlight came in 1988 when Illinois finished as runner-up at the NCAA Indoor Track & Field meet. 

A four-year letter winner at Augustana College in both sports, Wieneke set the AC record in the 880-yard run and was part of two relay records. After his graduate assistantship at Bowling Green, he coached at three Illinois high schools before accepting Bob Wright’s invitation to become UI’s assistant coach. 

It was at the Champaign-Urbana campus where he enjoyed his greatest success, tutoring Olympians Craig Virgin, Mike Durkin and Marko Koers. Thirteen other individuals also earned All-America honors. Virgin became the first athlete in Big Ten history to win four consecutive individual titles. Nine times, Wieneke was NCAA District IV Coach of the Year, and three times he was the Big Ten Outdoor Track Coach of the Year. He also was named NCAA National Indoor Track & field Coach of the Year in 1987. Wieneke has also been involved in coaching the U.S. Junior National Team, the USOC National Sports Festival unit, and the World Cup Track and Field squad. 

He’s been inducted into the Halls of Fame of the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association, the Illinois Track and Cross Country Coaches Association, the Drake Relays and at East Moline High School. 

Most recently, he coached the Unity High School cross country team in Tolono, Ill..
Mark Smith

Memorable Basketball Season Openers

November 10, 2017
Tonight's season opener for the Fighting Illini men’s basketball team is much anticipated, but it’s doubtful that it will contain the emotion that the 1946-47 season opener captured. The largest crowd in UI history, 7,785 jammed Huff Gym to see the famed Whiz Kids return from World War II. Gene Vance, Jack Smiley, Andy Phillip and Ken Menke all received deafening applause in the pre-game introductions, then went out and defeated Cornell College, 87-39. 

Other memorable season openers for the Illini hoopsters:

• Dec. 4, 1964: Illinois beat defending NCAA champion UCLA, 110-83, at the Assembly Hall as UI’s Skip Thoren out-battled the Bruins’ Gail Goodrich.

• Nov. 28, 1975: Rookie coach Lou Henson directed Illinois past host Nebraska as Rich Adams scored 25 points, including 16 of his team’s last 20.

• Nov. 30, 1979: A crowd of 23,042 watched the Illini beat BYU at Provo. Mark Smith’s 20 points and Rob Judson’s 18 led Illinois.

• Nov. 18, 1984: In the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Classic at Springfield, Mass., second-ranked Illinois defeated fifth-ranked Oklahoma, 81-64, behind 17 points and 10 rebounds from game MVP George Montgomery.

• Nov. 22, 1996: Lon Kruger began his Illini coaching career versus former UI assistant Jimmy Collins, as Illinois beat Illinois-Chicago, 68-63.

• Nov. 16, 2001: Third-ranked Illinois beat Gonzaga, 76-58, in the season opener at UI’s Assembly Hall. The triumvirate of Brian Cook, Cory Bradford and Robert Archibald combined for 51 points.

• Nov. 8, 2010: Brandon Paul hit six 3-pointers as No. 13 Illinois topped UC-Irvine, 79-65, in Champaign.
Luther Head

Luther Head

November 8, 2017
Seventeen years ago today, the University of Illinois signed Luther Head to a national letter of intent to play basketball. 

As a Fighting Illini freshman for Coach Bill Self, he averaged 4.5 points and 1.9 rebounds while ranking second on the team in steals with 34. Despite missing seven games due to a pelvic injury during his sophomore season, Head averaged 7.9 points and 2.8 rebounds, then boosted those numbers to 11.0 points and 3.8 rebounds as a junior. 

During his fabulous senior campaign in 2004-05, Head was named First-Team All-Big Ten by the media and the league coaches, leading the Illini with an average of nearly 16 points per game. He set an Illinois single-season record with 116 three-point field goals made, including six treys in the NCAA semifinal game against Louisville. Head earned Consensus Second-Team All-America honors and made the NCAA Chicago Regional Team, as well as the Final Four All-Tournament Team.  

He finished his collegiate career at Illinois as the school’s 19th all-time leading scorer with 1,295 points, ranked fourth in three-point field goals made (209) and ninth in steals (158). Head left Illinois as the school record holder for career NCAA Tournament games played (14) and points scored (162). Drafted by Houston in the first round (24th overall) of the 2005 NBA Draft, he played with the Rockets for four seasons, averaging 9.9 points and 2.6 assists in 255 games. 

Head split the 2008-09 season between Houston and the Miami Heat, then played 47 games for the Indiana Pacers in 2009-10. He completed his NBA career with the Sacramento Kings in 2010-11.

Altogether, in 348 career NBA games, Head averaged 8.2 points per game.
Eddie McGovern

Today in Illini History

November 6, 2017
Eighteen years ago today, Illinois football snapped its three-game losing streak with a 40-24 victory over the Iowa Hawkeyes at Kinnick Stadium. Placekicker Neil Rackers booted a career-best four field goals, including a 50-yarder, good for 22 total points. A 26-10 Illini lead shrank to 26-24 before Coach Ron Turner’s team scored the last 14 points of the game. Of quarterback Kurt Kittner’s 289 passing yards, 103 were credited to receiver Brandon Lloyd. 

Other memorable moments in Illini history:

• 1920: Ralph Fletcher’s 23-yard field goal in the second quarter hit the cross bar and squirted over. It was the game’s only score as Illinois beat Chicago, 3-0, and improved its record to 5-0.

• 1943: Eddie McGovern (pictured left) returned an interception 95 yards as Illinois topped Iowa, 19-10.

• 1948: Illinois’ 14-0 shutout over Iowa featured punts of 88 and 75 yards by Dike Eddleman.

• 1951: Illinois’ football team climbed to No. 2 in the AP and UP polls, following its 7-0 victory over Michigan.

• 1971: Illinois mounted a 15-point effort in the fourth quarter, nipping Indiana by a score of 22-21.

• 1976: Craig Virgin won its fourth-consecutive Big Ten cross country title, becoming the Conference’s first runner to do so.

• 1993: Illinois overcame a 20-9 fourth-quarter deficit and beat Minnesota, 23-20. Quarterback Johnny Johnson connected with Gary Voelker and Ty Douthard on touchdown passes.
Ken Holtzman

By the Numbers: Ken Holtzman

November 3, 2017
Ken Holtzman, Fighting Illini baseball’s most successful Major League pitcher, celebrates his 72nd birthday today. During his 15-year career as a professional, he compiled a record of 174-150, including 127 complete games. 

This is Holtzman’s career story, by the numbers:

• 1 … Lettered one season (1965) for Coach Lee Eilbract’s Illini.

• 2 … Number of no-hitters he threw for the Chicago Cubs, vs. Atlanta in 1969 and vs. Cincinnati in 1971.

• 3 … Number of World Series championship rings he won (1972, ’73 and ’74).

• 4 … Played for four Major League teams, including the Cubs (1965-71 & 1978-79), Athletics (1972-75), Orioles (1976) and Yankees (1976-78).

• 6 … Number of post-season pitching victories, including a 4-1 record in World Series play.

• 21 … Career-high single-season pitching victories in 1973, fourth-best in the American League.

• 83 … Number of Major League hits, including 15 doubles, 1 triple and 2 home runs.

• 1,601 … Number of strikeouts he posted in 2,867 1/3 innings.

• 1963 … Year he graduated from University City High School in St. Louis.

• 1976 … Year he was traded with Reggie Jackson from the A’s to the Orioles.
Juice Williams

By the Numbers: Illinois-Purdue Football

November 1, 2017
This Saturday marks the 93rd match-up in the football series between Illinois and Purdue. Though the Illini hold the all-time edge, the Boilermakers have dominated the rivalry since 1994, winning four of the last six and 12 of the last 17 meetings. Illinois played its second-ever football game against Purdue in 1890, ending up on the short end by a score of 62-0. 

 A closer look at the series, by the numbers:

• 1:37 ... Time remaining when Dan Beaver kicked a game-winning field goal vs. Purdue (15-13, 1973)

• 5 ... Field goals by Dan Beaver vs. Purdue (1973)

• 16 ... Pass receptions by David Williams at Purdue (1985)

• 32 ... Pass attempts by Jack Trudeau in the 4th quarter at Purdue (1985)

• 36 ... Largest margin of victory by Illinois over Purdue (43-7, 1946)

• 44 ... Victories by Illinois vs. Purdue in the 90-game series (42 wins by Purdue, six ties)

• 57 ... Field goal kicked by Dan Beaver vs. Purdue (1975), still an Illini record

• 62 ... Biggest margin of victory by Purdue over Illinois (62-0, 1890)

• 84 ... Longest rushing play vs. Purdue, by Antoineo Harris (2002)

• 100 ... Longest Illini scoring play vs. Purdue (2002), By Travis Williams on a lateral from Eugene Wilson

• 114 ... Combined pass attempts by Illinois & Purdue (1985), without an interception

• 145 ... Net rushing yardage by Juice Williams vs. Purdue (2006)

• 232 ... Combined rushing yardage by Burt Schmidt (121) & John Karras (111) vs. Purdue (1949)

• 425 ... Passing yardage by Dave Wilson vs. Purdue (1980)
Lester Leutwiler

Chief Illiniwek's First Performance

October 30, 2017
Ninety-one years ago today—Oct. 30, 1926—Chief Illiniwek made his first appearance at a Fighting Illini athletic event. 

Lester Leutwiler, son of University of Illinois professor O.A. Leutwiler, was the individual who performed the role. UI assistant marching band director Ray Dvorak is credited with starting the tradition. 

 In his recollection of that first performances, Leutwiler wrote, “As the band marched into the formation (spelling out the word “Penn”), the Chief ran from a hiding place north of the Illinois stands and led the band with his frenzied dance. The band stopped in the center of the field and played ‘Hail Pennsylvania’ while the Chief saluted the Penn rooters. William Penn, impersonated by George Adams (the Illinois drum major), came forward and accepted the gesture of friendship. Together, we smoked the peace pipe and walked arm in arm across the field to the Illinois side, amidst a deafening ovation.” 

Leutwiler’s performance was so well received that he was asked to continue his performances at Fighting Illini football games, and he did so through the 1928 season.

Abe Woodson

Today in Illini History

October 27, 2017
On this date in 1984, the Fighting Illini men’s cross country team won its only Big Ten championship of the last 65 years. Coach Gary Wieneke’s team broke a three-year winning streak by the Wisconsin Badgers, edging out Michigan by just four points, 58-62, on the course at Purdue. The Illini were led by Ty Wolf’s third-place individual finish. It was the only year that the course was 10,000 meters instead of 8,000. 

Other memorable Illini moments on this date in history:

• Oct. 27, 1917: With its 27-0 win over visiting Purdue, the Illini football team posted its fourth consecutive shutout.

• Oct. 27, 1923: In limited action, Red Grange ran for 251 yards and three TDs as Illinois beat Northwestern, 29-0.

•Oct. 27, 1934: In its first victory at Ann Arbor in 14 years, Illinois beat Michigan and its captain and future president, Gerald Ford.

• Oct. 27, 1951: Johnny Karras scored three TDs, including a Big Ten record 88-yard run, as Illinois topped Indiana, 21-0.

• Oct. 27, 1956: The Illini claimed a 20-13 win over top-ranked Michigan State, buoyed by Abe Woodson’s three scores.

• Oct. 27, 1973: Bob Blackman’s Fighting Illini improved their Big Ten record to 4-0 with 50-0 shutout over Iowa.

• Oct. 27, 1990: Illinois’ Len Sitko placed second at the Big Ten Cross Country Championships in Minneapolis.

Dave Wilson

Dave Wilson and the Illini Passing Yardage List

October 25, 2017
Thirty-seven years ago on this date in Fighting Illini history--Oct. 25, 1980--quarterback Dave Wilson passed for 318 yards, but Illinois fell to host Michigan, 45-14. Combined with his 425-yard performance the week before vs. Purdue, Wilson’s two-game total of 743 yards sets an all-time Illini record for consecutive contests. 

Wilson’s name is included three times on the top 15 list of Illinois’ single-game passing leaders:

1. Dave Wilson, 621 yards, vs. Ohio State, 11/8/80
2. Tony Eason,  479 yards, vs. Wisconsin, 10/23/82
3. Juice Williams, 462 yards, vs. Minnesota, 10/11/08
4. Wes Lunt, 456 yards, vs. Western Kentucky, 9/6/14
5. Juice Williams, 451 yards, vs. Missouri, 8/30/08
6. Nathan Scheelhaase, 450 yards, vs. Indiana, 9/9/13
7. Jason Verduzco, 431 yards, Missouri, 9/14/91
8. Jon Beutjer, 430 yards, vs. California, 9/20/03
9. Jon Beutjer, 426 yards, vs. San Jose State, 9/21/02
10. Dave Wilson, 425 yards, Purdue, 10/18/80
11. Tony Eason, 423 yards, Alabama, 12/29/82
12. Nathan Scheelhaase, 416 yards, Southern Illinois. 8/31/13
13. Jack Trudeau, 413 yards, Purdue, 10/12/85
14. Tony Eason, 409 yards, Northwestern, 11/21/81
15. Dave Wilson, 403 yards, Indiana, 11/15/80

Tony Eason

Tony Eason's Greatest Games

October 23, 2017
Thirty-six years ago today (Oct. 23, 1981), I Illinois nipped Wisconsin at Madison, 29-28, behind standout individual performances by quarterback Tony Eason and place kicker Mike Bass. Bass’s game-winning field goal, a 46-yarder in the final seconds, was his fifth successful placement of the day. Eason passed for a career-best 479 yards, hitting Richard Ryles 10 times and hooking up with Tim Brewster several other times for 154 yards receiving. 

Eason threw for 263 yards or more on 17 different occasions. Here are his top ten efforts as an Illini:

1. 479 yards At Wisconsin, 10/23/82
2. 423 yards Vs. Alabama, 12/29/82
3. 409 yards At Northwestern, 11/21/81
4. 386 yards At Michigan, 11/7/81
5. 368 yards At Ohio State, 10/17/81
6. 360 yards At Purdue, 10/10/81
7. 358 yards Vs. Purdue, 10/9/82
8. 357 yards Vs. Wisconsin, 10/24/81
9. 330 yards Vs. Minnesota, 10/3/81
10. 301 yards Vs. Michigan State, 9/11/82

Earl Britton

October's Field Goal Heroes

October 20, 2017
Field goals played a huge role in Illinois football’s successes on this date in history. 

Ninety-four years ago today (Oct. 20, 1923), Earl Britton kicked the Fighting Illini’s first-ever 50-yard field goal as Illinois beat Iowa, 9-6. 

Forty-four years ago (Oct. 20, 1973), Dan Beaver kicked two field goals in UI’s 6-3 victory at Michigan State. 

And 27 years ago today (Oct. 20, 1990), placekicker Doug Higgins tied an Illini single-game record with five successful placements. Once again, the Spartans were the victim, falling 15-13. 

Other memorable Illinois October football games in which field goals played a role include:

• Oct. 4, 1924: Earl Britton’s fourth-quarter, 27-yard field goal helped Illinois beat Nebraska, 9-6.

• Oct. 30, 1926: Frosty Peters’ 15-yard field goal in the final minute gave Illinois a 3-0 victory over Penn.

• Oct. 31, 1936: Dave Strong’s successful placement from the 14-yard line was the difference as Illinois beat Michigan at Ann Arbor.

• Oct. 7, 1972: Lonnie Perrin booted a record 52-yard field goal vs. Penn State.

• Oct. 13, 1973: Dan Beaver’s record-setting five field goals defeated Purdue, 15-13.

• Oct. 15, 1977: Dave Finzer’s 53-yard field goal at Purdue tied the Ross-Ade Stadium record and gave Coach Gary Moeller his first Big Ten win.

• Oct. 27, 1979: Kirk Bostrom kicked a 31-yard field goal with 1:37 left to help Illinois salvage a 17-17 tie at Minnesota.

• Oct. 23, 1982: Mike Bass’s 46-yarder three-pointer in the final second beat Wisconsin, 29-28.

• Oct. 5, 1985: Chris White’s 38-yard field goal with four second left gave UI a 31-28 win over Ohio State.

• Oct. 12, 1991: Chris Richardson hit a career-best 41-yard field goal with only 37 seconds left to beat Ohio State, 10-7.

Rich Kreitling

Today in Illini History

October 18, 2017
Ninety-three years ago today--Oct. 18, 1924--the University of Illinois’ Memorial Stadium was dedicated as Red Grange and the Fighting Illini defeated powerful Michigan, 39-14. In the first 12 minutes, the Galloping Ghost ran for 265 yards and scored four touchdowns. In 42 minutes of play, Grange gained a total of 402 yards and completed six passes for 64 yards. 

Other Illini highlights on this date:

• Oct. 18, 1913: Bob Zuppke’s Big Ten coaching debut is a success as his Fighting Illini defeat Northwestern, 37-0.

• Oct. 18, 1941: Illinois’ football team gives Zuppke a victory in his Illini coaching finale, 40-0, over Drake.

• Oct. 18, 1947: Dike Eddleman returned a punt 89 yards for a touchdown as Illinois beat Minnesota, 40-13.

• Oct. 18, 1958: Rich Kreitling caught four passes for an amazing 166 yards as Illinois beat Minnesota, 20-8. Kreitling had touchdown catches of 83 and 66 yards.

• Oct. 18, 1980: Dave Wilson completed a Big Ten-record 35 passes for 425 yards, but the Illini still bowed to Purdue, 45-20.

• Oct. 18, 1991: The Illini volleyball team played before a record crowd of 4,050, but lost to Ohio State, 3-1.


Eddie Bray

Today in Illini History

October 16, 2017
Seventy-four years ago today, 17-year-old freshman Eddie Bray scored touchdowns of 39 and 25 yards while junior teammate Eddie McGovern tallied three more TDs in a 33-25 victory over Pittsburgh. 

Other memorable Illini moments on this date:

• Oct. 16, 1895: In a game at Wisconsin, Illinois threw the first direct forward pass in its history. George Huff was the Illini coach.

• Oct. 16, 1915: Bart Macomber booted a 24-yard drop kick in the final minutes to salvage a 3-3 tie at Ohio State.

• Oct. 16, 1923: Workers began to dismantle the historic east bleachers at Illinois Field. They would be re-assembled and used to seat the overflow crowd for the first-ever game at Memorial Stadium three weeks later. 

• Oct. 16, 1926: Illinois’ football team beat Iowa 13-6, defeating former Illini star Burt Ingwersen’s Hawkeyes.

• Oct. 16, 1965: Jim Grabowski pounded the Memorial Stadium turf for 186 yards and passed Red Grange’s career rushing record.
• Oct. 16, 1993: Illinois out-rushed Iowa, 279 yards to 23 yards, as Coach Lou Tepper’s Illini crushed Iowa, 49-3. 


Tim Brewster

Tim Brewster

October 13, 2017
Former Fighting Illini tight end Tim Brewster celebrates his 57th birthday today (Oct. 13). 

A native of Phillipsburg, N.J., he originally enrolled at Pasadena City College. He walked onto Mike White’s 1981 team, joining a recruiting class that included quarterback Jack Trudeau. After redshirting in ’81, Brewster set a record for receptions by a tight end with 46 catches for 550 yards. His senior season in ’83 was even more impressive, tying David Williams for the team lead with 59 grabs. Despite only playing two seasons, Brewster finished his collegiate career in third place on Illinois’ career receptions list (105 for 1,178 yards). 

He tried out for both the New York Giants in 1984 and for the Philadelphia Eagles in ’85, but didn’t make the final cut either time. 

Brewster began his coaching career as a grad assistant in 1986 at Purdue under Leon Burtnett, then was hired as head coach at Lafayette, Indiana’s Central Catholic High School. In two seasons as CCHS, the team had a record of 15-8. Brewster was an unpaid volunteer assistant for Mack Brown’s North Carolina Tar Heels in 1989 and impressed Brown so much that he became a fulltime assistant at UNC for the next eight years. Brewster followed Brown to Texas following the 1997 season and was the Longhorns’ tight ends coach through the 2001 campaign. 

He decided to give the NFL a try and was hired by the San Diego Chargers in 2002. Following three seasons in San Diego, he moved to the Denver Broncos in 2005 and ’06. 

On Jan. 17, 2007, Brewster was named as head coach at the University of Minnesota. In his three-and-a-half seasons with the Gophers, Brewster had only one winning record and was terminated midway through the 2010 campaign. 

In 2012 he served as an assistant coach at Mississippi State and is currently in his fifth season as Florida State’s tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator. Brewster and his wife, Cathleen, have three sons.


Chuck Studley

Chuck Studley

October 11, 2017
Chuck Studley, a native of Pontiac, Illinois and an All-American football player for Ray Eliot at the University of Illinois in 1951, was named interim coach of the Houston Oilers 34 years ago today. Studley replaced Ed Biles in Houston and finished with a 2-8 record in his only job as an NFL head coach. 

Prior to joining the Oilers as a defensive coordinator in 1983, he was Bengals’ defensive line coach and was eventually promoted to defensive coordinator. In the 1982 Super Bowl, Studley's defense made a famous goal-line stand in a 26-21 Super Bowl win over the Bengals. 

Studley then assisted Don Shula with the Miami Dolphins as defensive coordinator (1984-86) and linebackers coach (1987-88), earning his second Super Bowl ring — this time as runner-up — with the 1984 Dolphins. 

Following his tenure with the Dolphins, Studley rejoined the Cincinnati Bengals from 1989 to 1991 as a defensive line coach. 

Studley first arrived in Cincinnati as head coach of the UC Bearcats (1961-66), winning two Missouri Valley Conference titles and compiling a 27-33 career record. 

His coaching career began in 1952 at Alton (Ill.) High School. Studley’s Illini teammates included All-Americans Chuck Ulrich, Chuck Boerio, Al Brosky and Johnny Karras. Studley has done part-time scouting work for NFL teams including the New York Jets and Baltimore Ravens and did some local radio as an NFL analyst. 

Today, at the age of 88, he resides in Cincinnati.


Mike Martin

Today in Illini History

October 9, 2017
On this date in 1937, Coach Bob Zuppke’s 25th Fighting Illini football team battled Coach Elmer Layden’s heavily favored Notre Dame squad to a 0-0 tie at Memorial Stadium before 45,000 fans. The Illini’s Mel Brewer missed a 14-yard field goal and the Fighting Irish failed on three passes from the 12-yard line late in the game. It was the second consecutive game that Illinois had played a scoreless tie. The Illini wound up the 1937 campaign with a 3-3-2 record, while Notre Dame finished at 6-2-1. 

Other memorable moments on this date in Illini football history:  

•Oct. 9, 1915: Illinois crushed the Missouri School of Mines, 75-7, in the school’s largest margin of victory since an 87-3 win over Illinois Wesleyan in 1912. 

• Oct. 9, 1926: UI’s Frosty Peters scored the team’s first 17 points (two TDs, two PATs and one field goal) in the Illini’s 38-7 win over Butler.

• Oct. 9, 1943: Illinois’ Jack Kane scored his team’s final touchdown on a 45-yard interception as the Illini defeated Wisconsin, 25-7, at Madison.

• Oct. 9, 1948: A sellout throng of 71,119 saw their Illini’s fourth-quarter rally fall short vs. Army. At one point in the game, Army led 26-0, but it held on for a 26-21 win.

• Oct. 9, 1982: Tony Eason threw for 358 yards and four TDs as Illinois topped Purdue, 38-34. Mike Martin’s nine catches for 132 yards helped the Illini improve their Big Ten record to 4-0.

• Oct. 9, 1993: Illinois’ five-game winning streak over Ohio State came to an end as the Buckeyes won by a score of 20-12 at Memorial Stadium. Johnny Johnson’s apparent TD pass to Ken Dilger midway through the fourth quarter was called back because of an illegal receiver down field.


Doug Laz

Doug Laz

October 6, 2017
Celebrating his 63rd birthday on October 8 is Champaign native Doug Laz. One of Fighting Illini track and field’s top performer of the mid 1970s, he was a teammate of Craig Virgin, Charlton Ehizuelen and Jeff Jirele. 

At the 1977 NCAA Championships, hosted by the University of Illinois, he placed fourth in the pole vault competition with a jump of 16’-6” behind Arkansas State’s Earl Bell, UCLA’s Mike Tully and Arizona State’s Ralph Haynie. At the NCAAs in 1976, he placed sixth with a 17-1 ¼ effort. 

Doug is the son of the late Don Laz, silver medalist in the pole vault of the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki, Finland. Doug’s mom, June, was a longtime realtor in Champaign-Urbana. 

Laz currently holds a CLU designation at Wells Fargo, specializing in group and individual health benefits. He resides in Champaign with his family.  

Illinois’ All-Time Pole Vault Bests 
18-8 ... Dean Starkey, 1989 
18-5.25 ... Daren McDonough, 1994 
18-1.25 ... Steve Bridges, 1992 
18-0.5 ... Bob Shank, 1991 
18-0.5 ... Lane Lohr, 1987 
17-4.5 ... Justin Norberg, 2000 
17-4.5 ... Doug Laz, 1976, 1977
17-4.5 ... Cody Klein, 2014
17-4.5 ... Matthew Bane, 2013 
17-3 ...  Andrew Zollner, 2009 
17-3 ... Tony Marchese, 2001 


Scott Weaver

Scott Weaver

October 5, 2017
Twenty one years ago - October 5, 1996 - University of Illinois quarterback Scott Weaver passed for four touchdowns as the Fighting Illini beat Indiana, 46-43, in the first-ever overtime game in Big Ten football history. In the extra session, Illinois and Indiana both scored TDs on their first possessions. After an Illini defensive stand, Weaver then hit Jason Dulick with his career-best fourth TD of the game for the victory. 

Weaver is in his fifth year as an assistant football coach at Eastern Michigan University and his second as the receivers’ coach. Weaver joined the EMU staff in the summer of 2004 after spending the previous four seasons as an assistant football coach under Lou Tepper at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. 

Prior to his Edinboro experience, Weaver was the quarterbacks coach at Tiffin University in 1998 and 1999. A native of Beaver Falls, Pa., he went on to enjoy a fine collegiate football career at Illinois where he was a four-year starter at quarterback, finishing as the seventh best passer in school history. Weaver was the ABC Player of the Game versus Michigan in 1994 and in 1996 he was named the recipient of the George Huff Scholar-Athlete Award at Illinois. 

He completed his bachelor’s degree in speech communications at Illinois in 1996 and earned a master’s degree in business administration in 1998. 

Today, Weaver is Territory Manager for Medtronic in Grand Rapids, Mich. He and his wife, Kimberly, have two daughters.

Jeff Arneson (background, with ball)

Illini Football's Octoberfest

September 29, 2017
With October just a couple of days away, we rank what might be the top 10 performances of the Fighting Illini football team during the 10th month of the year. Predictably, Red Grange’s legendary game in 1924 against Michigan is most definitely Illinois’ top October moment of all-time. 

To make things a bit easier, we’re limiting the eligible time span to the last 50 years. It was extremely difficult to discern which games belonged and which ones had to be left off. Not included was Grange’s return to Memorial Stadium on the 50th anniversary of “The Game”, nor did we include a huge shutout win over Iowa in 1983, nor Dana Howard’s guaranteed win at Ohio State in 1994. 

Our top 10 October moments in Illinois football since 1963: 

1. Oct. 29, 1983: A record crowd at Memorial Stadium saw Illinois beat Michigan, 16-6. It was UI’s first home-field win over the Wolverines in 26 years.

2. Oct. 23, 1993: Simeon Rice stripped the ball from Michigan’s Ricky Bowers with 1:13 left, setting up a thrilling last-minute drive that culminated with a fourth-down, 15-yard TD pass from Johnny Johnson to Jim Klein. Illinois won, 24-21, at the Big House.

3. Oct. 15, 1983: The Illini beat Ohio State for the first time since 1967 with a heart-stopping five-play, 83-yard touchdown drive. Final score: UI 17, OSU 13.

4. Oct. 23, 1982: Mike Bass kicked his fifth field goal of the game with time running out to lift Illinois past host Wisconsin, 29-28. Tony Eason passed for 479 yards.

5. Oct. 10, 1992: Jeff Arneson’s 96-yard return of an Eddie George fumble and a game-winning 15-play, 86-yard, 8:29 drive highlight Illinois win at Ohio State, 18-16.

6. Oct. 8, 1966: The Illini drove 74 yards in the final six-and-a-half minutes to beat Ohio State, 10-9. It was Illinois’ first victory over a Woody Hayes-coached Buckeye team.

7. Oct. 23, 1999: Illinois, a 24-point underdog and losers of 23 of its last 25 Big Ten games, shocks No. 9 Michigan in Ann Arbor, 35-29. The Illini rebounded from a 27-7 deficit by scoring four touchdowns in the final 18 minutes.

8. Oct. 12, 1991: Chris Richardson hit a career-long 41-yard field goal with just 37 seconds left to help the Illini top Ohio State, 10-7. Dana Howard had a record 20 solo tackles.

9. Oct. 5, 1963: Dick Butkus sacked Northwestern QB Tommy Myers four times as Illinois upset Ara Parseghian’s nationally ranked Wildcats, 10-9.

10. Oct. 5, 1985: Chris White kicked a 38-yard field goal with four seconds left to lift the Illini past Ohio State, 31-28.

Manuel Strong

Manuel Strong

September 27, 2017
Former University of Illinois football standout Manuel Strong celebrates his 41st birthday today. The aptly named linebacker from Grand Rapids, Michigan lettered in 1996 for Coach Lou Tepper and in ’97 for Coach Ron Turner’s Fighting Illini. 

Members of Illinois’ All-Football Name Team:
Lennox Armstrong, 1913-14
Alan Ball, 2003-06
Eric Block, 2007-08
Chunky Clements, 2013-16
John Counts, 1959
Dan Cutter, 1999-2001
Stan Fit, 1985-88
Richard Good, 1940-42
Jason Guard, 1986-89
Jerry Line, 1967
Dean March, 1974-76
Don Passmore, 1981-84
Antonio Steele, 2006-07
Chuck Studley, 1949-51
Scott Studwell, 1973-76
Darrin Tee, 1986-87
Jeff Trigger, 1966-68
John Twist, 1908-10
Charles Wham, 1910
Gary Windy, 1970
Tyrone Worthy, 1979-80

Bill Burwell

Bill Burwell

September 25, 2017
Though the borough of Brooklyn, N.Y. is best known as the longtime home of professional baseball’s Dodgers, its most prolific contribution has traditionally come from the sport of high school basketball. Brooklyn’s Boys High School, located in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, has produced an amazing collection of prep stars who went on to become world famous, including Hall of Famers Connie Hawkins and Lenny Wilkens. 

Bill Burwell, another standout player from Boys High, became a prominent member of the University of Illinois’ 1963 Big Ten champions. At 6-8, 235 pounds, Burwell was by far the biggest Illini player on Coach Harry Combes’ squad. 

In three seasons—1960-61, ’61-62 and ’62-63—he averaged 15.3 points per game. In fact, when Burwell graduated, he ranked as UI’s third-leading scorer of all-time with 1,119 points. His top single-game scoring effort ironically came at New York’s Madison Square Garden (26 points). 

Perhaps Burwell’s most important role with the Illini came as a rugged rebounder. He averaged nearly 10 boards per game, second only to teammate Dave Downey. Today, his 9.6 rebounds per game average is sixth-best in Illinois’ record book, trailing only Nick Weatherspoon (11.3), Skip Thoren (11.2), Downey (11.0), Don Freeman (10.3) and Dave Scholz (9.7). Burwell’s 21 rebounds versus Wisconsin on Feb. 19, 1962 once tied for the school record. The team’s overall record during Burwell’s last two seasons was a respectable 35-14. 

 Today marks his 77th birthday.

Howard Griffith

Howard Griffith's Record-Setting Day

September 22, 2017
September 22, 1990 is a date that is steeped in history for University of Illinois football. It was a day that Howard Griffith penciled his name into the NCAA record book beside those of Red Grange, Jim Brown and Arnold Boykin. 

Not only did the illini senior gain 208 yards on 21 attempts, it was a day when an amazing 38 percent of his runs ended up in the end zone. 

Surprisingly, after the first quarter, Illinois trailed visiting Southern Illinois, 21-7. That’s when Griffith went into overdrive, scoring three touchdowns in the second quarter and four more in the third period. His eighth TD came with 1:25 left in the third quarter, breaking two NCAA records. 

Not only did Griffith snap the national mark for touchdowns in a game—seven, by Mississippi’s Arnold Boykin in 1951—the 48 points he accounted for that day broke the immortal Jim Brown’s record of 43 points scored for Syracuse against Colgate in 1956. 

Griffith’s eight touchdowns:
1. 1st quarter – 5-yard run
2. 2nd quarter – 51-yard run
3. 2nd quarter – 7-yard run
4. 2nd quarter – 41-yard run (tied Illinois’ record for first-half TDs)
5. 3rd quarter – 5-yard run
6. 3rd quarter – 18-yard run (broke Red Grange’s UI record for single-game TDs)
7. 3rd quarter – 5-yard run
8. 3rd quarter – 3-yard run (broke the NCAA record for touchdowns by Mississippi’s Arnold Boykin & the NCAA record for total points by Syracuse’s Jim Brown)

Bob Dintelmann

Bob Dintelmann

September 20, 2017
Bob Dintelmann, former Illinois distance runner and winner of the 1957 Big Ten Conference Medal of Honor, celebrates his 82nd birthday on Tuesday (Sept. 21). 

The Belleville native answered an ad in the Daily Illini and walked on to Coach Leo Johnson’s track and field squad in January of 1954. A few weeks later, Dintelmann placed third at the Big Ten indoor track championship. In the spring of 1957 at the Drake Relays, he ran a 4:11.5 mile, placing second behind Iowa’s Charles “Deacon” Jones who won the event in a time of 4:10.8. Dintelmann’s time would have established an Illini record, but Illinois had a rule that didn’t permit a non-winning time to be a record. 

Illinois’ ’57 team captain also placed second in the Big Ten’s 880 as a senior, both indoors and outdoors. As a member of the Illini cross country team in the Fall of 1956, distance coach Ed Bernauer directed Dintelmann and teammates Tom Luker, Frank Hedgcock and Verland Sheuring to fourth place at the NCAA Championships. 

After graduating from Illinois in 1957 with a degree in floriculture, Dintelmann served two years of military duty. He initially began his career in landscaping with the State of Illinois’ Department of Agriculture, then returned to Belleville to help his father and brother run Dintelmann Nursery. 

He retired in 1997 after 28 years with the family business. Today, Dintelmann remains very active in local community service, volunteering for the Scott Field Heritage Air Park, the Turkey Hill Grange, the Belleville Optimist Club and BEACON. 

He and his wife, Joyce, celebrated their 60th anniversary on Aug. 31. Their family includes five children and 15 grandchildren.

Tony Yates (middle) with Lou Henson & Les Wothke

Tony Yates

September 15, 2017
Tony Yates, one of Lou Henson’s first assistant coaches, celebrates his 80th birthday today (Sept. 15). 

Following a spectacular prep career in Cincinnati, he served in the Air Force for four years. At the age of 23, Yates walked on at the University of Cincinnati and started at point guard for Bearcats coach Ed Jucker. The team’s most valuable defensive player, Yates helped lead UC to NCAA championships in 1961 and ’62 and a near miss of a third consecutive crown in 1963, his senior season. During those three seasons, Cincinnati had a cumulative record of 82-7. 

Following his graduation from UC, Yates spent three years in business and public service, then two more scouting for the Cincinnati Royals before returning to his alma mater in 1972 to become as assistant coach. 

He became Gene Bartow’s assistant at Illinois in 1974 then stayed for eight more seasons with Henson, through 1982-83. He was an outstanding recruiter for the Illini, bringing such players as Audie Matthews, Eddie Johnson, Mark Smith and Derek Harper to play for the orange and blue. 

Yates became UC’s head coach in 1983, serving six seasons and winning 70 times in 170 games. 

In 1985, he was inducted into UC’s Athletics Hall of Fame. Yates currently resides in Cincinnati and heads up his Caring for Kids Foundation.

Mike Bass

This Date in Illini History

September 13, 2017
Thirty-seven years ago today—Sept. 13, 1980—new head coach Mike White improved his record to 2-0 with a 20-17 victory over Michigan State at Memorial Stadium. Mike Bass converted on a 38-yard field goal with no time remaining to give the Fighting Illini football team its first two-game winning streak since 1977. Quarterback Dave Wilson passed for 165 yards and Mike Holmes gained 121 yards on the ground to pace Illinois. 

Other Illini moments on this date in history:

• Sept. 13, 1894: Professor Dodge was introduced to the UI faculty as the new director of athletics.

• Sept. 13, 1975: Craig Virgin won his 15th consecutive regular-season cross country race in a varsity record time of 23:47 as Illinois topped Missouri, 18-43.

• Sept. 13, 1975: Scott Studwell returned an interception 29 yards for a touchdown to lead Illinois past Iowa, 27-12, in the season opener at Iowa City.

• Sept. 13, 1990: A crowd of more than 4,000 gathered at the Assembly Hall for the premiere of “Oskee Wow Wow”, Illinois’ football centennial movie produced by Lawrence Miller.

• Sept. 13, 1996: Tracey Marshall had 29 kills and21 digs as the Illinois volleyball team defeated No. 15 Louisville (3-0) at the Louisville Invitational.

• Sept. 13, 1997: Robert Holcombe ran for 165 yards on 40 attempts, but Illinois fell at Louisville, 26-14, behind a 324-yard passing effort by former Illinois recruit Chris Redman.

• Sept. 13, 2003: Illini placekicker John Gockman missed a 43-yard field goal attempt in the closing minute and Illinois dropped a 6-3 decision to host UCLA at the Rose Bowl.

• Sept. 13, 2008: No. 24 Illinois beat Louisiana-Lafayette, 20-17. Daniel Dufrene rushed 19 times for 126 yards and caught a 10-yard touchdown pass.

• Sept. 13, 2008: Several of the greatest players in Illinois basketball history reunited at the Assembly Hall for “A Night of Legends” alumni basketball game. It was a match-up of the 1989 and 2005 Illini teams, plus several other stars.

Joe Corley

Joe Corley

September 11, 2017
Happy 85th Birthday on September 11 to former Fighting Illini NCAA champion Joe Corley. 

A track and field athlete for Coach Leo Johnson, the standout athlete from St. Elmo High School won the 1954 NCAA individual title in the 220-yard hurdles finals with a time of :22.60. Corley and his teammates, including classmate and longtime friend Willie Williams, won eight consecutive Big Ten championships from 1951-54. He served as the Illini captain his senior season. 

Corley was an ROTC student at the University of Illinois and was a member of the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity. Upon earning a degree in economics in 1954, he served in the U.S. Army from 1955-57. He was stationed at a Nike Missile Site in Chicago and continued to compete in track as a soldier. Corley was a 4th Army champion in the 100, 220 hurdles and the long jump and qualified for the 1956 Olympic Trials. 

He returned to Champaign to serve as a fraternity manager and accountant for Bresee-Warner. Corley eventually became a successful real estate broker, manager and appraiser until his retirement in 2014. He immersed himself in a number of volunteer roles, including the C-U Convention & Visitors Bureau, the United Way, the UI Quarterback Club, the Illini Striders, the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon and Meals on Wheels. 

Corley and his wife, Danna, have four children, two stepchildren, 11 grandchildren and six great grandchildren.

Jillian Ellis (far right) & her 1997 Soccer Team

Jillian Ellis

September 6, 2017
Happy Birthday to United States national women’s soccer coach Jillian Ellis. 

Born in the United Kingdom, she was a student-athlete at William & Mary, earning third-team All-America honors. 

Ellis joined the Illini in 1997 after assistant coaching stints at North Carolina State, Maryland and Virginia. That ’97 campaign, Illini soccer’s very first season, began well as Illinois won its first four games, however the Illini skidded to lose 10 of its last 13. 

Ellis’s second team in 1998 fared much better, winning seven of its first nine games and concluding with a 12-8 overall record. 

She then moved on to UCLA, directing the Bruins to six straight Pac-12 titles and eight NCAA Final Four appearances. 

Ellis left Los Angeles to become Development Director for U.S. Soccer. She served as an assistant coach for Pia Sundhage when the U.S. captured the gold medal at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, then became interim coach until Tom Sermanni was hired as the full-time head coach. 

On May 16, 2014, Ellis was appointed head coach on a permanent basis. Her 2015 U.S. women’s team won the World Cup, following a victory over Australia, a tie with Sweden, then consecutive wins over Nigeria, Columbia, China, Germany and Japan.

Mitchell Brookins

Mitchell Brookins

September 4, 2017
Thirty-five years ago today—Sept. 4, 1982—Illini junior running back Mitchell Brookins scored three touchdowns and led Illinois past Northwestern at Memorial Stadium, 49-13. 

Though the former Wendall Phillips High School star was only his team’s fourth-leading rusher against the Wildcats—behind Dwight Beverly, Richard Ryles and Thomas Rooks—nobody reached the end zone more frequently than No. 33 that day. Brookins scored on five-yard runs in both the first and second quarters, then added a third TD early in the fourth quarter on a 15-yard pass from Tony Eason. 

He tallied seven more touchdowns in 1982. 

His best single-game rushing effort was as a freshman in 1980 when Brookins ran for 180 yards in Mike White’s coaching debut. He played his senior season as a wide receiver, averaging a team-best 21.7 yards per catch. 

At the 1984 NFL Draft, the Buffalo Bills used their fourth-round pick to choose Brookins. He didn’t disappoint his new team that year, catching 18 balls for 318 yards, including a 70-yard TD. 

Brookins died in an automobile accident in July of 1993 at the age of 32. He’s buried at Oakridge-Glen Oak Cemetery in Hillside, Ill.

Jim "Chubby" Phillips

Jim "Chubby" Phillips

August 30, 2017
Former Illinois football star Jim “Chubby” Phillips celebrates his 62nd birthday today. 

The product of South Bend, Indiana’s Adams High School won four varsity letters for Coach Bob Blackman’s Fighting Illini from 1973-76 and ended his collegiate career with 2,103 rushing yards, 32 more than the legendary Red Grange. His best single season was in 1974 as a sophomore when he rushed for a team-leading 772 yards and nine touchdowns. 

When his career ended, Phillips’ 24 career TDs were tied for first with Jim Grabowski. He was also an outstanding kick-off returner, accumulating 1,048 career yards for an average of nearly 23 yards per runback. On October 23, 1976 vs. Michigan State, Phillips returned four kickoffs for an average of nearly 33 yards. 

Illinois’ career 100-yard rushing games leaders:

1.  Robert Holcombe, 1994-97 ... 16 
2.  Jim Grabowski, 1963-65 ... 12
     Mikel Leshoure, 2008-10 ... 12    
4.  Rashard Mendenhall, 2005-07 ... 10
5.  Pierre Thomas, 2003-06 ... 9
      John Karras, 1949-51 ... 9
      Rich Johnson, 1966-68 ... 9
8.   Josh Ferguson, 2011-15 ... 8
      Thomas Rooks, 1982-85 ...  8
      Rocky Harvey, 1998-2001 ... 8
      Antoineo Harris, 1999-2002 ... 8

Butch Nowack and Coach Bob Zuppke

Defensive Debuts

August 28, 2017
As a longtime defensive specialist, Fighting Illini head coach Lovie Smith's team put on a defensive show in last season's opener. In its 52-3 victory, Illinois held Murray State to -10 yards rushing, the best mark in the nation. 

In Illinois history, a shutout has only happened three times over the last 50 years in opening games. The last time the Orange & Blue shut out its initial foe was 31 years ago when Mike White’s 1986 Illini blanked Louisville at Memorial Stadium, 23-0. The king of Illini football shutouts in season openers is the immortal Bob Zuppke whose teams goose-egged their first opponent 15 times. 

Here are a few Illini defensive players who sparkled in season lid-lifting shutouts:

•Oct. 1, 1927: Zuppke’s Illini began what would become a national championship season with a 19-0 win versus Bradley. All-America lineman Robert Reisch, Butch Nowack and Russ Crane paced UI’s defensive effort.

•Sept. 25, 1948: The Illini handed visiting Kansas State a 40-0 defeat, the Wildcats’ 27th consecutive loss. Captain Herb Siegert, Dike Eddleman and Jim Valek star on defense for Coach Ray Eliot.

•Sept. 28, 1963: Illinois defensive backs George Donnelly, Mike Dundy and Jimmy Warren held California quarterback Craig Morton to just four completions in 15 attempts for 57 years. UI beat the Bears, 10-0, in Berkley.

•Sept. 14, 1974: Four of Illini linebacker Tom Hicks’ 16 stops halted Indiana runners inside the two-yard line. UI topped the Hoosiers, 16-0, in Champaign.

•Sept. 9, 1978: In one of the most infamous season openers in Illini history—a 0-0 tie with bottom-dweller Northwestern—linebacker John Sullivan racked up 15 tackles as UI limited the “Mildcats” to just 220 total offensive yards.

•Sept. 6, 1986: Junior linebacker Jeff Markland led the Illini to a shutout victory over Louisville with a team-best 10 tackles. He performed at that position for the first five games of the ’86 season, then was moved by coaches to play fullback.

Simeon Rice

Memorable Opening-Game Plays

August 25, 2017
Nothing helps fans enjoy games more than a memorable play, especially in a season opening contest. 

In Illinois’ 2000 opener, a 62-yard run by Rocky Harvey paced the Illini to a convincing 35-6 victory over Middle Tennessee. One season before that, Eugene Wilson’s 65-yard punt return led UI past Arkansas State. And, in Illinois’ 1991 season-opening win vs. East Carolina, Mike Poloskey recorded a record-tying four quarterback sacks. 

Here are some other big plays by the Illini in recent lid-lifters: 

1975: Scott Studwell returned an interception 29 yards for a touchdown as Illinois beat host Iowa, 27-12.

1980: In Mike White’s coaching debut, Illinois took advantage of a 53-yard touchdown run by Mike Holmes to defeat Michigan State.

1984: In the earliest season-opener ever, David Williams' first-quarter 33-yard reception from Jack Trudeau gave Illinois a 7-0 lead. The Illini went on to defeat Northwestern, 24-16.

1989: A tipped-pass reception by Shawn Wax resulted in a 53-yard touchdown, beginning Illinois’ comeback victory on national television vs. Southern California.

1994: It wasn’t a victory, but Simeon Rice had one of his best efforts vs. Washington State, sacking Washington State’s quarterbacks five times.

2001: Brandon Lloyd’s 49-yard TD catch in the second quarter helped Illinois destroy host California in the season opener, 44-17.

2005: It was only a two-yard effort, but Pierre Thomas’ overtime touchdown completed Illinois’ come-from-behind victory vs. Rutgers in Ron Zook’s coaching debut.

2016:  Following a pick by Taylor Barton, Wes Lunt hooked up with Malik Turner on a 68-yard touchdown pass. That strike put the Illini up 14-0, en route to a 52-3 victory over Murray State.

Rich Kreitling

Rich Kreitling

August 23, 2017
Fifty-eight years ago this year, Illinois’ Rich Kreitling made his National Football League debut with the Cleveland Browns. He was chosen as one of the 10 greatest receivers in the history of Memorial Stadium in 2008. 

Kreitling might be Illini football’s most efficient receiver, holding game, season and career records for receiving yards average. His best game at Illinois came as a senior when he averaged 41.5 yards per catch on four grabs against Minnesota in 1958. 

That final year Kreitling averaged nearly 30 yards per catch (23 for 688 yards). His 688 yards accounted for 55 percent of Illinois’ total aerial yards. Career-wise, in two seasons with the Illini, he averaged 25.5 yards per grab. 

The 1958 first-team All-American was the 11th overall pick in the NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns. His career statistics as a pro show Kreitling with 123 catches in 79 games for 1,775 yards and 17 touchdowns. 

The top 11 selections of the 1959 NFL Draft:
1. Green Bay Packers Randy Duncan QB Iowa
2. Los Angeles Rams Dick Bass B Pacific
3. Chicago Cardinals Billy Stacy B Mississippi State
4. Washington Redskins Don Allard QB Boston College
5. San Francisco 49ers Dave Baker QB Oklahoma
6. Detroit Lions Nick Pietrosante B Notre Dame
7. Chicago Bears Don Clark B Ohio State
8. San Francisco 49ers Dan James C Ohio State
9. Los Angeles Rams Paul Dickson T Baylor
10. New York Giants Lee Grosscup QB Utah
11. Cleveland Browns Rich Kreitling E Illinois

Illinois' First Football Team

Illinois' First Football Team

August 18, 2017
The year was 1890. The national population was just shy of 63 million, with Idaho and Wyoming admitted as the 43rd and 44th states. 

And, on the University of Illinois campus, Scott Williams was introducing a new sport to the 519 students and 39 faculty members. In author Linda Young’s book, “Hail to the Orange & Blue”, she wrote about how Williams matriculated to Champaign-Urbana from Normal’s University High School. 

“When I inquired about the football team at the university,” Williams recalled, “an upperclassman gruffly replied, ‘there ain’t no such animal.’ Nothing could better illustrate the absolute disorganization of intercollegiate athletics at that time.” 

Williams rounded up about a dozen men, including an upperclassmen named George Huff, and lectured them about how the game was played. Shortly afterwards, he arranged a game on Oct. 2, 1890 between Illinois and Wesleyan University in Bloomington. 

With Williams serving as coach, captain and quarterback, Illinois’ crew battled valiantly but lost to Wesleyan by a score of 16-0. A month-and-a-half later, Illinois accepted Purdue’s challenge to play football, but the Boilermaker 11 had already been playing the game for three seasons and won decisively, 62-0. 

That first season ended on a high note when Illinois hosted Wesleyan on Nov. 27. Nearly 300 spectators gathered at the Champaign County Fairgrounds in Urbana saw Illinois use a few of the tricks that it learned the week before at Purdue and won its very first game by a margin of 12-6. 

The game ball from the victory 123 years ago still exists, residing in a trophy case at Memorial Stadium.

Neil Rackers

Neil Rackers

August 16, 2017
Former Fighting Illini football star Neil Rackers celebrates his 41st birthday today. He set Illinois football’s season scoring mark as a senior in 1999, connecting on 20-of-25 field goal ties and all 35 extra points for a total of 110 points. Rackers also consistently buried most of his kickoffs deep into the end zone. 

The graduate of Aquinas-Mercy High School in St. Louis earned a bachelor’s degree in speech communications from Illinois. 

During his 12-year NFL career, Rackers' professional statistics showed him making 80 percent of his field goals (264-of-330) and nearly 99 percent of his extra points (372-of-378). 

He and his wife, Rachel, have a son, Jacob, and a daughter, Annabel. Today, Rackers is the special teams and linebackers coach at John Burroughs School in St. Louis, Missouri. He also owns Kick it Promos and is a radio announcer on 101 ESPN in St. Louis.

Rackers’s year-by-year field goal stats as a pro:

Year ... Team ..............FG-FGA Pct.
2000 ... Cincinnati ..... 12-21 .571
2001 ... Cincinnati ..... 17-28 .607
2002 ... Cincinnati ..... 15-18 .833
2003 ... Arizona ........  9-12 .750
2004 ... Arizona ........  22-29 .759
2005 ... Arizona ........  40-42 .952
2006 ... Arizona ........  28-37 .757
2007 ... Arizona ........  21-30 .700
2008 ... Arizona ........  25-28 .893
2009 ... Arizona ........ 16-17 .941
2010 ... Houston ...... 27-30  .900
2011 ... Houston ...... 32-38  .842
Totals ... 12 years .... 264-330 .800

Haley Singer

Musical Illini

August 14, 2017
Forty-eight years ago this week, the legendary Woodstock Music Festival began in New York State. As a tribute to Woodstock, we salute former Fighting Illini athletes who have musical names, such as swimming’s Annette Musick, soccer’s Louis Piano, football’s Charles F. Major and these others:

Kenneth Song, fencing

R.B. Singer, gymnastics

Earl Medley, wrestling

Rachel Bass, track and field

John Horn, football

Lawrence Staff, track and field

John Counts, football

Haley Singer, soccer

Sarah Sharp, basketball

James Minor, football

Dean March, football

J.H. Rapp, track and field

Mark Funk, swimming

Clarence Twist, baseball

Caleb Hummer, cross country

Jon Beutjer

Jon Beutjer

August 11, 2017
Former Fighting Illini quarterback Jon Beutjer celebrates his 37th birthday next week (Aug. 15). 

 Hampered by a rash of injuries throughout his career, he began his college life at the University of Iowa, transferring to Illinois in 2001. From 2002-04, the former Wheaton Warrenville High School star passed for a total of 5,190 yards (6th all-time at Illinois) and 39 touchdowns (3rd all-time). Beutjer had four career games with four touchdown passes, including back-to-back four-TD games against Arkansas State and San Jose State. 

 Beutjer’s top season with the Illini was in 2002 when he led the Big Ten in passing yards with 228.3 yards per game. His 21 TD passes ranked second in the Big Ten only to Heisman Trophy finalist Brad Banks of Iowa. 

Beutjer’s best single-game effort was vs. California in 2003 when he tossed for a Memorial Stadium record 430 yards.

Today he's a physical education teacher at Lyons Township High School in LaGrange, Illinois.

Jim Sheppard

Jim Sheppard's Football Tongue-Twisters

August 8, 2017
Jim Sheppard took over as the University of Illinois’ football public address announcer in 1985, replacing Tom Trent. He became only the sixth man who served in that capacity at Memorial Stadium. For more than 20 seasons behind the Memorial Stadium microphone, Sheppard had more than his share of tongue-twisters. 

Here’s his list of Illini players whose names challenged him the most:

Name ... Pronunciation ... First year lettered at UI
Ade Adeyemo ...  AH-day AH-day-YAH-mo ... 2001
Nana Agyeman ... NAH-nuh ADJ-uh-men ... 2000
Peter Christofilakos ... KRISS-tah-fih-LAH-kos ... 2001
Mike Craciunoiu ... CRASS-ih-noy ... 1999
Rich Gianacakos ... yahn-a-COCK-ose ... 1990
Brian Grzelakowski ... griz-lah-COW-skee ... 2004
Cory Flisakowski ... fliz-uh-COW-skee ...  2001
Kyle Knezetic ... kuh-NEZ-uh-tic ... 2004
Ray Redziniak ... red-ZINN-ee-ack ... 1997
Kyle Schnettgoecke ... shnet-GO-kee ... 2005
Jeff Schwarzentraub ... SHWARTS-en-trob ... 1993
Chris Siambekos ... see-em-BECK-ose ... 1986

Cecil Coleman

Cecil Coleman

July 31, 2017
Forty-five years ago tomorrow—August 1, 1972—Cecil Coleman began his seven-year reign as director of athletics at the University of Illinois. He assumed duties as AD when Gene Vance resigned. 

A native of South Bend, Indiana, Coleman came to Illinois from Wichita State University and served as president of the National Association of Collegiate Director of Athletics (NACDA) during the 1972-73 season, his first at Illinois. 

Though Coleman might not have been one of UI’s most popular athletic directors, he had a hand in numerous history-making decisions, including:

• October, 1973: Coleman headed up a $1.65 capital campaign to upgrade UI’s aging Memorial Stadium with artificial turf and lighting.

• June, 1974: Capping the establishment of UI’s new women’s intercollegiate athletics program, he hired Dr. Karol Kahrs to become UI’s first assistant director for women’s athletics.

• April, 1975: Coleman hired Lou Henson as head basketball coach. Henson went on to accumulate a record of 423-224 in 21 seasons.

• June, 1977: UI’s Memorial Stadium hosted the 1977 NCAA Track & Field Championships. Illinois also served as hosts for the 1979 national meet.

• April, 1979: Despite ultimately being dismissed as UI’s athletic director, Coleman had successfully improved the school’s image with the NCAA and had balanced UI’s athletic budget.

Leo Johnson

Leo Johnson

July 28, 2017
Today represents the 124th anniversary of the birth of Fighting Illini track and field and football coaching legend Leo Johnson. 

The Milliken College athlete and coach led the Big Blue football team to undefeated seasons in both 1928 and ’34. In 1938 Johnson accepted the head coaching job for the Illini track and field squad, staying on the Champaign-Urbana campus for the next 27 seasons. 

His 1944 unit, led by Robert Kelley and Marce Gonzalez, defeated runner-up Notre Dame, 79-43, for the NCAA track and field title, the school’s third such championship. In 1946 and ‘47, Bob Richards, Dike Eddleman and Herb McKenley helped Johnson’s team post back-to-back national championships. Both times the Illini edged out Southern California for first place. Illinois earned NCAA runner-up honors in both 1953 and ’54. 

Altogether, Johnson’s athletes captured 27 individual NCAA titles and 158 Big Ten crowns. Near the end of his career, he served as President of the Track & Field Coaches Association (1963-64). Johnson also is a member of the Drake Relays Hall of Fame and the Millikin University Hall of Fame. 

Many are unaware of Johnson’s talents as a football coach, serving as chief scout for Coach Ray Eliot’s Illinois’ football team. Three times during Johnson’s tenure, the Illini football team upset the nation’s top-ranked team: 1950 vs. Ohio State, 1955 vs. Michigan and 1956 vs. Michigan State. 

Leo Johnson died in 1982 at the age of 87.

Otto Vogel

Otto Vogel

July 19, 2017
Forty-eight years ago today, former University of Illinois’ baseball star Otto Vogel died at the age of 69. 

Born in Mendota, Illinois, he lettered in 1921 in football for Coach Bob Zuppke, but he was better known for his exploits as an outfielder for Carl Lundgren’s baseball squad, lettering from 1921-23 . Vogel hit .417 as a sophomore, the 15th-best single-season batting average in Fighting Illini history. 

He played for the Chicago Cubs in the 1923 and 1924 seasons. In 111 Major League games, Vogel had 63 hits in 253 at-bats, ending with a .249 batting average. 

He was hired as head baseball coach for the University of Iowa in 1925 and, interrupted by service in World War II, totaled 35 years directing the Hawkeye ‘9’. Vogel compiled an impressive coaching record of 440-382-13, winning Iowa’s first five Big Ten baseball championships. 

Illinois’ top 15 single-season hitters:

Name (Season), Average
1.   Darrin Fletcher (1987), .497
2.   Ben Lewis (1933), .473
3.   Boyd Bartley (1943), .460
        John Toncoff (1933), .460
5.   Jerome Jordan (1926), .447
6.   Jake Stahl (1903), .444
7.   Jake Stahl (1901), .443
8.   Fred Major (1926), .441
9.   Larry Sutton (1991), .434
10.   Russ Steger (1950), .429
11.   Harry McCurdy (1921), .423
12.   Brian McClure (1996), .418
       Tom Sinak (1994), .418
14.   William Fuzak (1931), .417
        Otto Vogel (1921), .417

Neale Stoner

Illini Athletic Directors

July 12, 2017
Twenty-nine years ago today--July 12, 1988--University of Illinois Chancellor Mort Weir announced that Director of Athletics Neale Stoner has tendered his resignation. Stoner served the Fighting Illini as their director for eight years, from 1980-88. 

A complete list of UI athletic directors:

1892-94       Edward K. Hall
1894-95       Fred H. Dodge
1895-98       Henry H. Everett
1898-1901       Jacob K. Shell
1901-36       George A. Huff
1936-41       Wendell S. Wilson
1941-66       Douglas Mills
1966-67       Leslie Bryan (interim)
1967-72       E.E. “Gene” Vance
1972-79       Cecil N. Coleman
1979       Ray Eliot (interim)
1980-88       Neale R. Stoner
1988       Ronald E. Guenther (interim)
1988       Karol A. Kahrs (interim)
1988-91       John Mackovic
1991-92       Robert Todd (interim)
1992-2011       Ronald E. Guenther
2011-16       Mike Thomas
2016-       Josh Whitman

Bob Blackman

Bob Blackman

July 7, 2017
Today marks the 99th anniversary of the birth of Bob Blackman, Illinois’ head football coach from 1971-76. 

Blackman was born in De Soto, Iowa and played football at the University of Southern California, beginning in 1937. He was named a captain of the freshmen team, but stopped playing after being stricken with polio. 

Blackman was named an assistant coach at USC while still an undergraduate student. Following head coaching positions at the San Diego Naval Academy, Pasadena City College, and the University of Denver, he was named head coach at Dartmouth College in 1955. In 16 seasons under Blackman, the Big Green had a record of 104–37–3, including three undefeated seasons. In his final season at Dartmouth in 1970, Blackman received the Walter Camp Coach of the Year Award. 

Blackman’s hiring at Illinois was hoped to be the antidote that would cure the school’s football ills, submerged in the dregs of the infamous “slush fund.” Unfortunately, Blackman’s teams only had one season over the .500 mark, a 6-4-1 record in 1974. 

Despite going 0-12 against the Big Ten’s “Big Two” of Michigan and Ohio State during his Illini career, Blackman’s Illini amassed a cumulative record of 24-11-1 against the other seven Conference opponents. 

He returned to the Ivy League in 1977, where he replaced George Seifert as head coach of Cornell University until 1982. Blackman finished his college coaching career with a record of 168-112-7 and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1987. 

He died at the age of 81 on March 18, 2000 after contracting a bacterial infection during a vacation in Singapore.  

Jeff Innis

Jeff Innis

July 5, 2017
Celebrating his 55th birthday tomorrow is former Fighting Illini baseball star Jeff Innis. 

 Born in Decatur, Ill., his father, Pete, was a star athlete at Millikin University. Jeff was recruited from Eisenhower High School by Illinois coach Tom Dedin. 

Innis led the Illini in earned run average in both 1981 and ’82 with nearly identical 2.31 and 2.34 ERAs. He also paced Illinois in strikeouts each of those seasons. Innis was a 13th-round selection by the New York Mets in the 1983 Major League Baseball Draft. 

The submarine pitcher turned side-armer spent four years in the minors. He made his MLB debut for the Mets on May 16, 1987 against the San Francisco Giants. Ten days later, Mets manager Davey Johnson gave Innis the only starting assignment of his 288-game big league career. His first MLB victory was on June 4th at Shea Stadium versus the Chicago Cubs. 

In 1991, Innis was 0-2 (2.66 ERA) in 69 games, gaining the distinction of becoming the first big league pitcher to appear in 60 or more games with no wins and no saves. The following season he made a Mets-record 76 appearances, posting a 6-9 record with a 2.86 ERA. Innis finished his Mets career with 10 victories in 30 decisions and compiled an impressive 3.05 ERA. 

Today, he resides near Atlanta, Ga. His son, Keenan, plays baseball at Georgia Tech and his daughter, Shannon, is a hurdler for the Yellow Jackets’ track and field squad.

Mike Bellamy & Shawn Wax

Mike Bellamy & Shawn Wax

June 23, 2017
Former Fighting Illini football receivers Mike Bellamy and Shawn Wax both celebrate birthdays on  June 28th. This outstanding duo played on the same team for two seasons (1988 and ’89). Perhaps their most memorable game came in 1988 when they teamed with quarterback Jeff George to register a stirring come-from-behind victory over Indiana. 

Other Bellamy and Wax highlights:  

• 1988: Bellamy and Wax teamed up for 46 catches, good for a total of 737 yards and 5 touchdowns. In the victory over Indiana on November 5th, Illinois trailed the Hoosiers by a score of 20-9 with just over three minutes to play. Wax caught a 21-yard pass from George at the 2:06 mark to narrow IU’s lead to 20-15. One minute and 40 seconds later, Bellamy caught his second TD of the contest for the eventual game winner. Three games earlier vs. Wisconsin, Mike and Shawn combined for seven catches and 185 yards to help the Illini beat the Badgers, 34-6 in Madison.

• 1989: During Illinois’ 10-2 season, Wax and Bellamy starred together on a couple of occasions. In a 14-2 victory at Purdue, they each caught four Jeff George passes for 103 total yards. And in the regular-season finale at Northwestern, they each caught a touchdown to help lead the Illini past the Wildcats, 63-14. Together, their season statistics showed them with 85 receptions for 1,392 yards and 11 touchdowns.  

Today, Shawn Wax serves as Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations at Columbia College in Chicago. Bellamy coaches wide receivers at the University of Toledo.

Rashard Mendenhall

Rashard Mendenhall

June 19, 2017
Former Illini running back Rashard Mendenhall celebrates his 30th birthday today. 

The three-time Illinois letter winner from Skokie enjoyed one of the finest single-season efforts ever in 2007, smashing the school’s rushing record by 351 yards—1,681 to Antoineo Harris’s 1,330 yards in 2002. In Mendenhall’s 13 appearances that season, he rushed for at least 100 yards eight times. His best two efforts were 214 yards at Indiana and 201 yards at Minnesota. 

Mendenhall was named Big Ten football’s Most Valuable Player in 2007, out-balloting Michigan’s Chad Henne and Jake Long, Ohio State’s James Laurinaitis and Vern Gholston, and Illini teammates J Leman and Vontae Davis. 

Mendenhall chose to turn pro after his junior season and was the twenty-third overall pick in the 2008 NFL draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers. He rose to stardom following back-to-back seasons of one thousand yards rushing in 2009 and 2010, then a near-thousand-yard effort in 2011. 

Mendenhall retired from the NFL at age twenty-six in March 2014. He now is a staff writer for the HBO football show "Ballers".

Mendenhall’s 10-best Illini efforts:

214 yards at Indiana, 2007
201 yards at Minnesota, 2007
189 yards vs. Ball State, 2007
161 yards at Penn State, 2006
160 yards vs. Wisconsin, 2007
155 yards vs. Southern California, 2008
150 yards at Syracuse, 2007
139 yards vs. Western Illinois, 2007
124 yards vs. Northwestern, 2007
113 yards at Northwestern, 2006

Karen Brems

June 12, 2017
In 1983-84, University of Illinois women’s gymnast Karen Brems became the first Fighting Illini athlete to be named as the school's Athlete of the Year and the Big Ten Conference Medal of Honor Award winner in the same season. 

As a youngster in Urbana, she idolized gymnasts like Olga Korbut and Nadia Comaneci, dreaming of herself becoming an Olympic competitor one day. Under the tutelage of Coach Bev Mackes at Illinois, Brems qualified for the NCAA Championships as a sophomore in 1982, but eventually realized that she would probably fall short of her aspirations to become an Olympian. 

“I thought I was pretty much done in competitive sports,” she said. 

Brems continued to be a fitness enthusiast, so she took up running and cycling, then competing in triathlons. Cycling turned out to be much kinder to her body and she quickly advanced from regional and national meets to the Tour de France and world championship competition. 

In 2000, Brems accomplished her Olympic dream, competing in the Sydney, Australia games. At the 2016 USA Cycling Cyclocross National Championships in Asheville, N.C., Brems won the Master Women’s 50-54 title, riding for SunPower Racing. 

Celebrating her birthday tomorrow, she now lives in Palo Alto, Calif., working for Hewlett Packard as a software engineer.
Mike Small

Illinois Men's Golf All-Big Ten Honorees

June 7, 2017
Illinois’ All-Big Ten Men’s Golfers On this date in Fighting Illini history, sophomore golfer Joe Burden was selected to the All-Big Ten team, joining Michigan State’s Rick Woulfe and John Vandermeide, Minnesota’s Dave Haberle, Ohio State’s Steve Groves and Ray Sovik, and Purdue’s Bill Hoffer and Don Denger. It was the first of three consecutive times that Burden earned All-Conference honors for the Illini. 

A list of Illinois’ All-Big Ten golfers: 
•John Millikin, 1968
•Joe Burden, 1971-72-73
•Ken Kellaney, 1978
•Marty Schiene, 1979
•Mike Chadwick, 1982
•John Cyboran, 1984
•Steve Stricker, 1986-87-88-89
•Mike Small, 1988
•Trevor Beard, 1990-91
•Kevin Fairfield, 1990
•Ben Bruce, 1991
•Jamie Fairbanks, 1992-93-94
•D.A. Points, 1998, 99
•Larry Nuger 1999
•Geoff Lound 2001, 02
•James Lepp 2002, 03
•Patrick Nagle 2003, 04, 06, 07
•Joe Affrunti 2004
•Garrett Chaussard 2005
•Mark Ogren 2006
•Scott Langley 2009, 10, 11
•Chris DeForest 2009, 10, 11
•Zach Barlow 2010
•Luke Guthrie 2010, 11, 12
•Mason Jacobs 2012
•Thomas Pieters 2012, 13
•Thomas Detry 2013, 14, 15, 16
•Brian Campbell 2013, 14, 15
•Charlie Danielson 2014, 15, 16
•Dylan Meyer 2015, 16, 17
•Nick Hardy 2015, 16, 17
•Michael Feagles 2017
•Edoardo Lipparelli 2017
Commissioner Jim Delany

Illinois' Role in Bringing Penn State to the Big Ten

June 5, 2017
On this date 27 years ago—June 5, 1990—it was announced that Pennsylvania State University had joined the Big Ten Conference.

Just four months into his first term of commissioner of the conference, Jim Delany first seriously entertained the suggestion brought to him by then University of Illinois President Stanley Ikenberry, a Penn State graduate. Delany’s sister had attended Penn State as a graduate student, so he knew of PSU’s reputation as a strong academic institution and its rich history in athletics. 

“The Big Ten hadn’t changed since Michigan State became a member in 1949,” said Delany, “but I thought the opportunity to expand towards the east coast was a no brainer.” 

Following months of study and discussion, the process climaxed with a vote at a meeting in Iowa City. It was unanimous: Penn State was in.

“History has since proven that it was a tremendous fit for both sides,” said Delany. 

Since competition began in September of 1991, Penn State has won 98 Big Ten championships and 30 NCAA titles. 

Illinois’ record vs. PSU in selective sports since 1991:

TEAM ... W-L
Football: 4-15
Volleyball: 9-41
Men’s Basketball: 28-13
Women’s Basketball: 14-33
Baseball: 36-29
Softball: 24-13
Campus acknowledgment of WW II

The University of Illinois's World War II Veterans

May 29, 2017
On this Memorial Day, we remember 53 men who not only earned varsity letters as University of Illinois athletes, but who, most significantly, served in action during World War II:

Alex Agase, FB/WR
Ralph Bassey, FB
Frank Bauman, FB
Paul Behan, TF
Joseph Buscemi, FB
Tony Butkovich, FB
Lyle Button, FB
Arthur Dufelmeier, FB
Dwight Eddleman, FB/BK/TF
Lee Eilbracht, BB
Ray Florek, FB
Willard Franks, FB/TF
Thomas Gallagher, FB
Roy Gatewood, BK
John Genis, FB
Arthur Gerometta, FB
Fred Green, BK
Ray Grierson, FB
Donald Griffin, FB
Robert Hinkle, FB/TF
Frank Hurtte, FB
Donald Janssen, FB
John Kane, FB
Mike Kasap, FB
Herschel Kearney, FB
William Krall, FB
Eugene Kwasniewski, FB
Chuck Leistner, FB
Louis Levanti, FB/TF
John MacArthur, FB
Rudy Macchione, FB
Donald Maechtle, FB
John Martin, TF
Dominic Mattiazza, FB
Max Morris, FB
Ralph Palmer, FB
Alfred Parfitt, FB
Paul Patterson, FB/TF
Andy Phillip, BK/BB
Robert Prymuski, FB
Robert Ruther, TF
Julius Rykovich, FB/BB
Chester Sajnaj, FB
Matthew Smerdel, FB/WR
Charles Smith, FB
Rex Smith, FB 
Ed “Jake” Staab, BK 
Russell “Ruck” Steger, FB/BB 
Emil Tomanek, FB 
Eugene Vance, BK 
Mac Wenskunas, FB 
Robert Wilson, FB 
Claude “Buddy” Young, FB/TF 
Mike Durkin

This Date in Illini History

May 17, 2017
Forty-two years ago today--May 17, 1975--the University of Illinois’ men’s track and field squad edged Indiana, 128 1/2 to 127, to win the Big Ten outdoor title. It marked Illinois’ first Conference track championship since 1960 and was the school’s first league crown outside of fencing since 1963. Captain Mike Durkin completed his career by winning the steeplechase and the 880-yard run for his eighth and ninth individual titles, the most ever for a non-sprinter. Only the great Jesse Owens won titles in more different events than Durkin’s five. 

Here are some other highlights from this date in Illini history: 

• May 17, 1912: Illini track star Jack Case tied the world record in the 120-yard high hurdles (:15.2) in a dual-meet victory over Chicago.

• May 17, 1919: Burt Ingwersen swatted two home runs, one with the bases loaded, as Illinois clobbered Wisconsin, 11-4.

• May 17, 1930: Illini baseball star Jim Lymperopolous scored two runs in his home finale as Illinois beat Michigan, 5-2.

• May 17, 1933: Fred Frink collected a home run and a double and scored four runs as first-place Illinois trimmed Chicago, 20-7.

• May 17, 1993: Lindsey Nimmo concluded her Illini women’s tennis career at the NCAA singles tournament in Gainesville, Fla. She had UI records for season victories (48) and career wins (103).

• May 17, 1996: Josh Klimek slammed his 25th home run of the year as Illinois eliminated Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament, 7-4.
Theresa Grentz

Theresa Grentz

May 15, 2017
Twenty-two years ago today--May 15, 1995--Theresa Grentz was named head coach of the Fighting Illini women’s basketball team. Coming from Rutgers University, where she had compiled a record of 434-150 in 19 seasons, Grentz was appointed to direct an Illinois program that had averaged just nine victories per year in its previous eight seasons. 

Within two years, the former Immaculata star had the Illini on top of the Big Ten standings. 

Her highlights at Illinois:

*First season (1995-96): Illinois defeated 14th-ranked Arkansas and 23rd-ranked Florida, while Ashley Berggren led the Big Ten in scoring.

*Second season (1996-97): The Illini won their first-ever Big Ten title in women’s basketball, shattering the school’s season attendance record.

*Third season (1997-98): Illinois was ranked as high as No. 5 in the polls and qualified for its second straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament.

*Fourth season (1998-99): Illini defeated five ranked opponents and extended their school-record home court winning streak to 18 games in a row.

*Fifth season (1999-2000): UI qualified for its fourth consecutive NCAA appearance and broke the school’s single-season attendance mark.

*Sixth season (2000-01): Coach Grentz notched her 100th win at Illinois, while the team played in its first-ever women’s NIT.

*Seventh season (2001-02): Illinois registered its sixth straight winning record behind a team that ranked tenth nationally in shooting percentage.

*Eighth season (2002-03): The Illini won at Iowa for the first time in 20 years and qualified for the NCAA tournament.

*Ninth season (2003-04): Illinois defeated a ranked team for the eighth straight year, beating No. 20 Ohio State.

*Tenth season (2004-05): Behind first-team All-Big Ten selection Angelina Williams, Illinois compiled a 17-13 overall record.
Don Laz

Fighting Illini Pole Vaulters

May 12, 2017
Don Laz is one of the University of Illinois’ ten greatest all-time pole vaulters . The Aurora, Illinois native earned a silver medal at the 1952 Olympic Games and won an NCAA title in 1951 with a vault of 14-feet-9 3/4-inches. Laz was a five-time Big Ten pole vault champ. 

He died on February 21, 1996 at the age of 66.

Illinois’ Big Ten outdoor pole vault champions since 1947:
• Bob Richards 1947 (13’8”)
• Don Laz 1950 (14’0”) and 1951 (14’10”)
• Richard Coleman 1952 (14’3”)
• Jim Wright 1953 (13’0”) and 1954 (13’8”)
• Dale Foster 1954 (13’8”)
• Ed Halik 1968 (15’0”)
• Doug Laz 1976 (16’6 1/2”) and 1977 (16’8”)
• Lane Lohr 1986 (17’4 3/4”)
• Darren McDonough 1994 (18’5 1/4”)
Paul Prehn

Paul Prehn

May 10, 2017
Forty-four years ago today, former Fighting Illini wrestling coach Paul Prehn died at the age of 80. 

Illinois’ head coach from 1920-28, he led the Orange and Blue to seven Big Ten team championships. From 1922-25, team titles were based on dual meet records. Prehn’s league crowns came in 1920 and ’22, then consecutively from 1924-28. The Illini compiled a 42-5 dual-meet record during that span, a winning percentage of .894. 

Prehn’s most famous individual wrestler was Allie Morrison, who earned a gold medal at the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam. 

Prehn was born in Mason City, Iowa in 1892. His first professional wrestling bout came at age 16 when the 140-pounder pinned his 185-pound opponent. In 1916, Prehn joined the Iowa National Guard and was deployed by the U.S. Army to Brownsville, Tex. There he served as a hand-to-hand combat instructor during the United States-Mexico Border War. At age 27, Prehn competed in the Inter-Allied Games at Stade Pershing Stadium in Paris and won the gold medal in the middleweight division. 

Prehn served on the Illinois State Athletic Commission and was Ring Commissioner for the famous “Long Count” boxing match between Gene Tunney and Jack Dempsey at Soldier Field in September of 1927. As a result of Dempsey’s defeat, Al Capone’s gangsters told Prehn he would be murdered. Prehn admitted that he kept a pistol under his pillow many years afterward. In October of 1928, he was elected President of the National Boxing Association. 

In his later years, he was involved in politics and operated two popular restaurants in Urbana, “Prehn’s on Green” and “Prehn’s on Oregon”. He’s buried in Champaign’s Roselawn Cemetery.
Marcus Liberty

This Date in Illini History

May 8, 2017
Seventeen years ago today (May 8, 2000), the Fighting Illini baseball team pounded out 39 hits in a 32-0 rout of St. Joseph’s at Illinois Field. UI’s Andy Schutzenhofer went six for eight at the plate, scoring five runs, and contributing six RBI. Luke Simmons also was six for eight, collecting two doubles, a triple, three RBI, and scoring five runs. 

Other memorable moments on this date in Illini history:

May 8, 1872: The first athletic contest in UI history was held when a student team defeated the Eagle Baseball Club of Champaign by a score of 2-1.

May 8, 1926: A three-run triple in the ninth inning by Bill Gundlack led Illinois to a come-from-behind victory over host Ohio State, moving the Illini into a first-place tie in the Big Ten standings.

May 8, 1936: Illini pitcher Hale Swanson spread out six Wisconsin hits as Illinois beat the Badgers, 6-3, for its seventh consecutive conference victory.

May 8, 1971: Rick Gross set a UI varsity record in the steeplechase (8:52.3).

May 8, 1987: Gary and Carlotta Bielfeldt pledged $5 million to the University of Illinois for an athletic administration building.

May 8, 1990: Marcus Liberty announced his intention to forego his senior year at Illinois and enter the NBA draft.

May 8, 1994: Jerry Gee made a verbal commitment to play basketball for the Illini.
George Halas

George Halas ... the Baseball Player

May 5, 2017
Ninety-eight years ago this week--May 6, 1919--former Fighting Illini athlete George Stanley Halas made his Major League Baseball debut for the New York Yankees. 

The 24-year-old right-fielder from Chicago’s Crane Tech High School batted leadoff against the Philadelphia Athletics in Manager Miller Huggins’ lineup. Halas delivered a single in four at bats for the Yanks. He singled again in his next game, but then went into a zero-for-14 slump, including a zero-for-five performance against Hall of Fame pitcher Walter Johnson on May 11, 1919. 

Halas played in 12 big league games altogether, winding up his career with two hits in 22 at bats. He struck out eight times. Of course, Halas went on to become a legend in the National Football League as one of its founders and as a Hall of Fame coach for the Chicago Bears. 

Halas and teammate Sammy Vick are the answers to a well-worn baseball trivia question: who did Babe Ruth replace in right field when he joined the Yankees? 

Besides Halas, other prominent major leaguers who made their debuts in 1919:
• Frankie Frisch, 1919-37, 2,311 games, .316 average
• Bucky Harris, 1919-1931, 1,263 games, .264 average
• Lefty O’Doul, 1919-1934, 970 games, .339 average
• George Uhle, 1919-1936, 513 games, 200-166 pitching record
Lucas Johnson

Lucas Johnson

May 3, 2017
When he left the University of Illinois basketball program in 2002, Lucas Johnson didn’t rank among the Fighting Illini’s top scorers or best rebounders. So why is the forward from Maine West High School regarded to be one of the most popular players in Illinois history? It was because of heart and his competitive spirit. 

In 2001-02, his senior season, Johnson became the very first winner of the Matto Award, signifying his all-around hustle and enthusiasm on the floor. The 2002 Illini earned a four-way share of the Big Ten title as Johnson and fellow seniors Cory Bradford and Robert Archibald finished their careers, taking the Illini from an 11th-place finish in the league in 1999 to consecutive Big Ten titles in 2001 and ‘02. 

As loudly as Illini fans cheered him at the Assembly Hall, Johnson was vehemently jeered at opponent venues, rating as a first-class agitator. He particularly got under Arizona coach Lute Olson’s skin during the Illini victory over the seventh-ranked Wildcats on Dec. 16, 2001, prompting the veteran mentor to challenge No. 22’s mental sanity. Responded Johnson’s senior-year coach, Bill Self, “Lucas isn't dirty. Lucas is annoying, and I mean that as a compliment. He gets under people's skin by playing the game the way it's supposed to be played." 

Today--May 3--Johnson celebrates his 37th birthday. 

Players who have worn jersey No. 22 with Johnson:
Van Anderson . . . . . . . . . . . .1948, 1950
John Kerr . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1952-53-54
George BonSalle . . . . . . . . . . . .1955-56
Edward Perry . . . . . . . . . . . .1958-59-60
Jay Lovelace . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1962
Jim Vopicka . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1964-65
Howard Johnson . . . . . . . . . . . .1974-75
Perry Range . . . . . . . . . . .1979-80-81-82
Doug Altenberger . . .1983-84-85-86-87
Kiwane Garris . . . . . . . . .1994-95-96-97
Lucas Johnson . . . . . . .1999-2000-01-02
Steve Holdren . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2008
Jereme Richmond . . . . . . . . . . . . .  2011
Maverick Morgan . . . . . .  2014-15-16-17
Bobby Klaus

Bobby Klaus

May 1, 2017
Fifty-eight years ago today—May 1, 1959—Fighting Illini infielder Bobby Klaus set a Big Ten record with 10 assists vs. Purdue. 

The 5-10, 170-pound second baseman helped Coach Lee Eilbracht’s club lead the conference in fielding two of the three years he lettered from 1957-59. Klaus was impressive with the bat as a collegian, hitting a team-leading .363 as a senior and .317 for his career. He won first-team All-Big Ten honors three times and was the Illini’s Most Valuable Player in 1959.

The Cincinnati Reds signed Klaus as a free agent following the ’59 season, but he didn’t make his Major League debut until April 21, 1964. He briefly replaced Pete Rose, but only batted .183 in 40 games. The New York Mets purchased Klaus’s contract on July 19 and he played 56 games for Casey Stengel’s club, improving his average to .244.

Klaus returned with the Mets in 1965, but struggled at the plate, collecting only 55 hits in 288 at bats (.191). It turned out to be his final big league season, though he did play in the minors for the Pirates and Phillies organizations until 1969.

Klaus played with several notable teammates during his career, including Hall of Famers Frank Robinson and Pete Rose with the Reds, and Yogi Berra and Warren Spahn with the Mets.

Klaus’s older brother, Billy, played 11 Major League seasons and passed away in 2006. Bob Klaus will celebrate his 80th birthday on December 27.
Harry Gill

Harry Gill

April 28, 2017
Forty years ago--April 29, 1977--Illinois’ Harry Gill and Leo Johnson were among six charter inductees into the new Drake Relays Coaches Hall of Fame. 

Gill, a natural born Canadian, brought the University of Illinois to prominence as an American collegiate track power. During a 29-year coaching career at Urbana-Champaign from 1904-29, then again from 1931-33, his Fighting Illini churned out an amazing 19 Big Ten championships—11 titles outdoors and eight indoors. 

On the national scene, Gill’s teams won NCAA titles in 1921 and 1927, plus three Spalding Cups, at an annual invitational meet that attracted the nation’s top colleges. 

The height of Gill’s coaching career came in 1924 when his Illinois athletes—Harold Osborn, Dan Kinsey, and Horatio Fitch—scored more track and field points in the 1924 Summer Olympic Games than any other nation. In addition to those stars, Gill developed all-time greats Avery Brundage, longtime president of the International Olympic Federation, and “Tug” Wilson, former Olympic performer and Big Ten Commissioner. 

In 2017, Gill was announced as a charter class member of the University of Illinois Athletics Hall of Fame.

Gill died in 1956 at the age of 80. The Harry Gill Company, a sporting goods manufacturer specializing in track equipment, remains today in Urbana.

Tauja Catchings

Tauja Catchings

April 26, 2017
On this date 15 years ago, Fighting Illini women’s basketball star Tauja Catchings was named the team’s Most Valuable Player. 

She finished her career in the top 10 of several Illini categories, including first in games played with 122. Catching ranked second in steals (211), third in rebounds (825), third in free throws (371), fourth in assists (342), sixth in blocked shots (74) and seventh in total points (1,502). 

The daughter of former NBA star Harvey Catchings and sister of current WNBA standout Tamika Catchings, Tauja was a third-round pick of the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury. She later played overseas in Sweden. 

Tauja now resides in Indianapolis and serves as Tamika’s personal assistant. She’s also Vice President of her sister’s Catch the Stars Foundation. The mission of the organization is to empower local youth to achieve their dreams by providing goal-setting programs that promote literacy, fitness and mentoring. 

Tauja is also a licensed Realtor/Broker Associate with Highgarden Real Estate. She and her husband, Tim Fry, have two children: Kanon (11) and Kolton (6).

Denny Marcin

Denny Marcin

April 24, 2017
Denny Marcin, a popular assistant football coach at the University of Illinois for nine seasons, celebrates his 75th birthday on Monday (April 24). 

A 1964 graduate and Athletics Hall of Fame member at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, Marcin joined head coach John Mackovic’s Fighting Illini staff in 1988. For nearly a decade, he coached such UI defensive line stars as Moe Gardner, Mel Agee, Sean Streeter and Simeon Rice. 

Prior to his stint at Illinois, Marcin spent 10 years at the University of North Carolina (1978-87) where he sent 24 players to the NFL, including Hall of Fame linebacker Lawrence Taylor. 

Marcin began his coaching career at Miami in 1974, when he served as a defensive coordinator and then assistant head coach. In those four years at Miami, the Redskins won three MAC championships and went an impressive 34-10-2. In his playing days (1961-63), under then-head coach John Pont, Marcin helped Miami capture the 1962 MAC title going 8-2-1 overall and earning a trip to the Tangerine Bowl. 

The New York Giants hired Marcin as their defensive line coach in 1997 and the club became one of the most consistent defenses in the league, led by Michael Strahan, who Marcin coached to four Pro Bowls and an NFL-record 22.5 sacks in 2001. Marcin moved to the New York Jets staff in 2004 as D-line coach and remained in that role until his retirement in 2007. 

Nowadays, Marcin serves as president of the Chapel Hill-based Carolina Baseball Club, an all-volunteer, non-profit organization formed to support competitive youth baseball. 

Jeff George

Illinois' Highest NFL Draft Picks

April 21, 2017
Ranked according to the highest pick, a list of the most sought-after Illini players in the NFL draft:   
Year ... Draft Pick Round ... Name, Team
1990 ... 1st pick, 1st rd ... Jeff George, Indianapolis Colts
1996 ... 2nd pick, 1st rd ... Kevin Hardy, Jacksonville Jaguars
1996 ... 3rd pick, 1st rd ... Simeon Rice, Arizona Cardinals
1965 ... 3rd pick, 1st rd ... Dick Butkus, Chicago Bears
1961 ... 3rd pick, 1st rd ... Joe Rutgens, Washington Redskins
1954 ... 6th pick, 1st rd ... Stan Wallace, Chicago Bears
1966 ... 9th pick, 1st rd ... Jim Grabowski, Green Bay Packers
1959 ... 11th pick, 1st rd ... Rich Kreitling, Cleveland Browns
1944 ... 11th pick, 1st rd ... Tony Butkovich, Los Angeles Rams
1954 ... 12th pick, 1st rd ... John Bauer, Cleveland Browns
1965 ... 13th pick, 1st rd ... George Donnelly, San Francisco 49ers
1992 ... 13th pick, 1st rd ... Brad Hopkins, Houston Oilers
1983 ... 15th pick, 1st rd ... Tony Eason, New England Patriots
2011 ... 18th pick, 1st rd ... Corey Liuget, San Diego Chargers
2008 ... 23rd pick, 1st rd ... Rashard Mendenhall, Pittsburgh Steelers
2009 ... 25th pick, 1st rd ... Vontae Davis, Miami Dolphins
1988 ... 25th pick, 1st rd ... Scott Davis, Los Angeles Raiders
2012 ... 26th pick, 1st rd ... Whitney Mercilus, Houston Texans
1991 ... 26th pick, 1st rd ... Henry Jones Buffalo Bills
2012 ... 30th pick, 1st rd ... A.J. Jenkins, San Francisco 49ers

Lee Sentman

Lee Sentman

April 19, 2017
On this date in Fighting Illini athletics history – Apr. 19, 1930 – hurdler Lee Sentman set a world record in the 120-yard hurdles, competing at the Kansas Relays. 

The son of Lee and Edna Sentman, Lee Jr. was born on Mar. 7, 1910, in Wyoming, Del. The family moved to Decatur, Ill. and Sentman attended Decatur High School. He was recruited to the University of Illinois by Coach Harry Gill, under whom he competed in 1929 and ’31. C.D. Werner was his coach in 1930. 

At one point, Sentman also held world records in the 60- and 75-yard high hurdle events. His :07.4 Illinois record time at 60 yards wasn’t bettered for nearly a quarter of a century. 

In 1930, he was awarded the Big Ten Conference Medal of Honor for achievement in academics and athletics. His son, Lee III, also won the Medal of Honor as a fencer in 1958. They remain as the only father-son duo to have won that prestigious honor. 

During World War II, Sentman, a civil engineering graduate, served as executive officer to the chief of construction at General Dwight D. Eisenhower's headquarters in London. After the war, Sentman became a successful construction executive. He retired in 1978. 

Sentman died on Apr. 5, 1996, at the age of 86 and his funeral Mass was held at St. Matthew Catholic Church in Champaign.

Aron Hiltzik

The Class(es) of Fighting Illini Tennis

April 17, 2017
Happy 21st birthday on April 17th to junior Aron Hiltzik, a key member of Brad Dancer’s Fighting Illini tennis team. 

Through Sunday’s road match against Michigan State, the New Trier High School product has compiled a singles record of 17-4. As a freshman in 2014-15, Hiltzik assembled a 29-7 singles record, including a mark of 8-1 in Big Ten matches. His 29 victories stands third-most by an Illini freshman. 

Illinois singles leaders, by class:

45-5 ... Aleks Vukic, 2014-15
32-17 ... Phil Stoldt, 2000-01
29-7 ... Aron Hiltzik, 2014-15

37-10 ... Mike Kosta, 1999-00
32-10 ... Chris Martin, 2002-03
31-6 ... Ryan Rowe, 2005-06

42-10 ... Ryler DeHeart, 2004-05
40-11 ... Gavin Sontag, 1997-98
36-5 ... Amer Delic, 2002-03

39-8 ... Ryler DeHeart, 2005-06
37-16 ... Oliver Freelove, 1998-99
35-15 ... Jakub Teply, 1998-99

Illlinois Field

Illinois Field Records

April 14, 2017
Twenty-two years ago today, Illinois’ John Oestreich tied an Illinois Field record by striking out 12 Iowa Hawkeye batters en route to an 11-3 Fighting Illini victory. 

 A complete list of single-game offensive records set by Illini players at Illinois Field since it opened 30 years ago:

Individual Hitting:

• Hits: 6, four times; last by Andy Schutzenhofer and Luke Simmons vs. St. Joseph’s (5/8/00) 

• Doubles: 3, three times; last by John Schlichter vs. Illinois College (4/9/08)  

• Triples: 3, by John Schlichter vs. Penn State (4/25/08)

• Home Runs: 4, by Bubba Smith vs. Illinois-Chicago (4/30/91)

• Total Bases: 18, by Bubba Smith vs. Illinois-Chicago (4/30/91)

• Stolen Bases: 4, by Willie Argo vs. Eastern Illinois (4/13/10)

• Walks: 4, by Josh Klimek vs. Chicago State (5/13/96)

David Zeddies

David Zeddies

April 12, 2017
Twenty-eight years ago today, Illinois’ David Zeddies was awarded the Nissen Award, emblematic of the top male collegiate gymnast. 

A native of Union Springs, New York, he became the Illini’s first Nissen Award winner since it was initially presented in 1966. Zeddies combined his marvelous athletic ability with sportsmanship and leadership, and also was an outstanding scholar. He excelled on the rings and the parallel bars, earning 1988 Big Ten Gymnast of the Year honors and helping lead Coach Yoshi Hayasaki’s Illini squad to the 1989 NCAA title. 

Zeddies earned his doctorate at Northwestern University, served at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Massachusetts, and was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Maryland. 

He's now a Senior Scientist at JASCO Applied Sciences in metro Washington D.C. 

Thomas Pieters

Illini at The Masters

April 10, 2017
In the 84-year history of the Masters, former Fighting Illini athletes have placed in the top 10 four times, including a fourth-place tie by Thomas Pieters this past weekend. Tops on the list is a championship effort by Bob Goalby in 1968. A review of Illinois’ three best Masters performances:

BOB GOALBY (1st place, 1968) – Former 1950s Illini football player Bob Goalby wisely turned to the sport of golf in 1952 and became the only University of Illinois athlete to ever win the Masters Tournament. His 1968 performance was one of consistent brilliance. Goalby’s two-under 70 in round one put him two shots behind Billy Casper. He then duplicated that effort in the second round, placing him one shot behind leaders Don January and Gary Player. On Saturday, Goalby assembled a one-under 71, keeping him just a stroke behind Player going into the final 18. Sunday’s conditions were ideal and 11 players were bunched within three shots of the lead. Goalby posted a brilliant round of 66, including a four-foot putt on 18 for what he thought was a tie. As he was walking to the clubhouse, then TV analyst Cary Middlecoff emerged from the tower to meet Goalby. “Hey Bob,” said Middlecoff, “you won the tournament. Roberto (de Vicenzo) screwed up his card.” de Vicenzo’s playing partner Tommy Aaron had inadvertently given him a four instead of a three, but the Argentinian made the mistake of not checking the scorecard before signing it. Instead of facing an 18-hole playoff on Monday, Goalby was rewarded with the green jacket and a first-place prize of $20,000.

THOMAS PIETERS (tie for 4th place, 2017) – At the Masters won by Spaniard Sergio Garcia, the 2012 NCAA medalist from the University of Illinois was particularly impressive on Friday, shooting a four-under par 68 to tie for the two-day lead. A three-over 75 on Saturday took him out of contention for the title, but he bounced back on Sunday with a second round of 68. The final day of his first-ever Masters included six birdies, allowing him to finish in a tie for fourth place with Matt Kuchar at 283. Altogether, the 25-year-old Belgian carded one eagle, 18 birdies and 41 pars over the 72 holes. Pieters earned $484,000 for his performance. 

STEVE STRICKER (tie for 6th place, 2009) – In his 16 Masters appearance, three-time Illini All-American Steve Stricker has had two top ten finishes. His ninth opportunity at the Augusta National Golf Club in ’09 was his best. Stricker led off with an even par 72 on Thursday, a three-under 69 on Friday, and an impressive 68 on Saturday to enter the final round just four strokes behind Angel Cabrera. On Sunday, Stricker shot a solid 71 for a final total of 209, tying for sixth place with Tiger Woods, Steve Flesch and John Merrick. Cabrera won a playoff with Chad Campbell and Kenny Perry on the third hole. It wasn’t all gloom for Stricker as he took home prize money of $242,813.

George Montgomery

George Montgomery

April 7, 2017
Thirty-six years ago--April 8, 1985--George Montgomery signed a national letter of intent to play basketball at the University of Illinois. A graduate of Corliss High School in Chicago, the two-time team MVP averaged 15 points and nine rebounds on a squad that featured future NBA star Darrell Walker. 

"Big George" teamed up with Derek Harper, Anthony Welch, Doug Altenberger, Efrem Winters, Bruce Douglas and Ken Norman as an Illini. As a junior in 1983-84, Montgomery earned second-team All-Big Ten honors, finishing second in the conference with 8.1 rebounds per game. Career-wise, he averaged 7.2 points and 5.6 rebounds, starting 61 of 114 games. Illinois had a winning percentage of .716 overall and .666 in the Big Ten during Montgomery's four seasons from 1981-82 through '84-85. 

He was a second-round choice of the Portland Trail Blazers in the 1985 NBA draft, but he never played in the league. Montgomery was married to two-time NCAA basketball champion Pam McGee. Their son, JaVale McGee, has played in the NBA since 2008 and currently is a member of the Golden State Warriors.

Montgomery has been a coach in Chicago high school basketball since 1999, serving at North Lawndale, Southside Prep, Corliss and Dunbar. He's currently the boy's basketball coach for Gwendolyn Brooks College Prep Academy in Chicago.

WILL Radio's studio

WILL Radio

April 6, 2017
Ninety-five years ago today, WILL-AM Radio—then known as WRM—first signed on, broadcasting from the University of Illinois’ Electrical Engineering Laboratory. Just 18 months before, the first American radio station, KDKA in Pittsburgh, had signed on the air. Using a 400-watt transmitter, WRM (which stood for “We Reach Millions”) possessed the only two vacuum tubes on campus. The tubes were so fragile, it was said “they had to be cooled by blasts of an electric fan to avert disaster.” 

In 1926, the station moved to a site now occupied by the Beckman Center, complete with a 1,000-watt transmitter and tower. Two years later, the call letters were changed to WILL. In 1929, Frank Schooley became the station’s first full-time employee, eventually becoming its director of broadcasting. 

It wasn’t until 1946 that WILL began broadcasting Illini athletic events, just in time for Illinois’ Big Ten football championship and its first appearance in the Rose Bowl. The original WILL radio booth still stands at the top row of Huff Hall where Schooley, Jim Turpin and others used to call Illini games. In 1954, WIUC changed its call letters to WILL-FM and moved to its present frequency, 90.9. A year later, WILL-TV began broadcasting from improvised studios under the stands of Memorial Stadium. Seven years afterwards, it went on the air from Main and Goodwin Streets in Urbana. 

More than 77 years after WILL first went on the air, thanks to a $5 million donation from Robert & Alice Campbell, the University of Illinois dedicated Campbell Hall, Richmond Studio and Swanson Center on Sept. 24, 1999.

Nick Smith

The 2004-05 Fighting Illini: By the Numbers

April 3, 2017
Twelve years ago--April 4, 2005--North Carolina defeated Illinois in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship Game at the Edward R. Jones Dome in St. Louis, 75-70. The Fighting Illini fought back from a 15-point deficit early in the second half to tie the game (70-70), but Deron Williams and Luther Head missing open three-pointers in the last minute of play and the Illini lost only their second game of the season. 

The story of the 2004-05 Illinois basketball team, by the numbers:

1 ... National ranking of Wake Forest when Chris Paul and Co. was beaten by Illinois, 91-73
3 ... The Three Amigos, a nickname given to the trio of Dee Brown, Luther Head and Deron Williams
4 ... Jersey number of second-team All-America guard Luther Head
5 ... Pre-season ranking of the ’04-05 Illini and the jersey number of Deron Williams
5.1 ... Seconds left when Ohio State’s Matt Sylvester hit a three-pointer that ended Illinois’ perfect record (29-1)
11 ... The number that was frequently “popped” by guard Dee Brown
15 ... Consecutive weeks ranked No. 1 in the national polls
21 ... Age of Roger Powell Jr. when he became a licensed minister in the Pentecostal church, just prior to his senior season
25 ... School-record of consecutive Big Ten victories recorded by the ’03-04 and the ’04-05 Illini
37 ... Number of victories assembled by the ’04-05 Illini against only two losses
50 ... Jersey number of Jack Ingram, “The Professor”, hero of game against Wisconsin and Arizona
63 ... Victories amassed by Illinois in Coach Bruce Weber’s first two seasons (against nine losses)
86 ... Height in inches of Illinois’ talent-ever player, Nick Smith
100 ... 2004-05 marked the University of Illinois’ 100th season of men’s basketball
344 ... Record number of three-pointers made by the ’04-05 Illini

Chief Illiniwek, as portrayed by Lester Leutwiler

Lester Leutwiler

March 31, 2017
Today marks the 110th anniversary of the birth of Lester Glenn Leutwiler, the first man chosen to portray Chief Illiniwek at the University of Illinois. The UI sophomore from Urbana was the son of Oscar Leutwiler, longtime head of UI’s Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering. Lester, an Eagle Scout, was interested in Indian lore. 

In his recollection of the final portion of that first performance, Lester wrote, “As the band marched into the formation (spelling out the word “Penn”), the band stopped in the center of the field and played ‘Hail Pennsylvania’ while the Chief saluted the Penn rooters. William Penn, impersonated by George Adams (the Illini drum major), came forward and accepted the gesture of friendship. Together, we smoked the peace pipe and walked arm in arm across the field to the Illinois side, amidst a deafening ovation.” 

Leutwiler’s performance was so well received that he was asked to continue his performances at future Fighting Illini football games. The tradition continued until February of 2007  when Chief Illiniwek was retired by the University.

Tim McCarthy

Tim McCarthy

March 29, 2017
Thirty-six years ago tomorrow--March 30, 1981--former Fighting Illini football player Tim McCarthy became a national hero. McCarthy, serving as a Secret Service agent, stepped in front of a bullet aimed at President Ronald Reagan and was wounded in the abdomen. 

Today, he is the current Chief of Police of Orland Park, Illinois

Here are a few trivia notes about McCarthy:
• McCarthy was born on June 29, 1949.
• He graduated from Chicago Leo High School in 1967.
• McCarthy was a football walk-on for Coach Jim Valek at the University of Illinois, earning letters as a safety in 1969 and ‘70.
• His Illini teammates included former All-Big Ten stars Doug Dieken and Tab Bennett.
• On Oct. 24, 1981, McCarthy was recognized for his heroics at halftime of the Illinois-Wisconsin football game.
• The National Collegiate Athletic Association honored him on Jan. 11, 1982, with its Award of Valor, presented only five times since 1974 to a former varsity athlete who, when confronted with a situation involving personal danger, averted or minimized potential disaster by courageous action or noteworthy bravery.
• In November of 1994, McCarthy became the first winner of the Monsignor Edward J. Duncan Award, an honor presented annually to the Illini football letterman who has displayed exemplary integrity and dedication to his community/state/country/church through public service and citizenship.
• In March 2016, he was awarded the first annual Chief of Police of the Year award by the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police.

Coach Nancy Fahey

Coach Nancy Fahey Among Winningest Coaches

March 27, 2017
So, just how successful has new Fighting Illini coach Nancy Fahey been during her career? Well, when ranked in terms of winning percentage against college men’s and women’s basketball coaches who’ve coached 29 or more seasons, only UConn’s Geno Auriemma has been more productive. Of the 870 total games she’s coached since 1986 when she first began at Washington University, Fahey’s teams have won 84.7 percent of the time, just below Auriemma’s 88.1 percent. Among the fabled veteran coaches Fahey’s winning percentage exceeds include Adolph Rupp, John Wooden, Roy Williams, Jerry Tarkanian, Dean Smith and Mike Krzyzewski.

Ten Winningest College Coaches of All-Time (minimum 29 seasons—through games of 3/24/17)

Winning Pct.   W-L             Coach, most recent school (years)
.881                 989-134      *Geno Auriemma, UConn (32)
.847                 737-133      *NANCY FAHEY, ILLINOIS (31)
.822                 876-190        Adolph Rupp, Kentucky (41)
.815               1011-230      *Tara Vanderveer, Stanford (38)
.804                  664-162        John Wooden, UCLA (29)
.790                  814-216     *Roy Williams, North Carolina (29)
.786                  713-194       Dave Robbins, Virginia Union (31)
.784                  721-201       Jerry Tarkanian, Fresno State (31)
.782                  983-274     *Barbara Stevens, Bentley (40)
.776                  879-254       Dean Smith, North Carolina (36)
*Active coach

Jack Ingram

Most Exciting Illini Game Ever

March 24, 2017
Sunday marks the 12th anniversary of what most Fighting Illini basketball fans refer to as the most exciting game ever. On March 26, 2005, with a berth in the Final Four on the line, top-ranked Illinois and No. 9 Arizona battled in a game for the ages at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont. 

Trailing 75-60 with four minutes left, Illinois staged an improbable 20-5 run, sending the game into overtime. In OT, a combination of two three-pointers by Deron Williams and one two-pointer by both Roger Powell and Luther Head accounted for one point more than Lute Olson’s squad, with the Illini prevailing by a score of 90-89. 

As one sportswriter wrote afterwards, “Keep the bus running, and point it toward St. Louis.” 

The Illini heroes, in no particular order, included:

Roger Powell—scored 16 points, including a huge dunk in overtime.

Luther Head—despite a sore hamstring, he tallied 20 points, including five three-pointers, and made four crucial steals.

Deron Williams—hit a game-tying three-pointer with 38 seconds remaining in regulation, ending with a team-high 22 points and 10 assists.

Jack Ingram—made two game-changing steals, including one that led to Williams’ electrifying game-tying shot.

Dee Brown—among his game statistics were 15 points, seven assists and three steals.

James Augustine—scored only four points, but his defensive play in the middle was a key to the victory.

Rich McBride—hit one of his two three-point tries.

Warren Carter—made both of his free throw attempts and grabbed two rebounds in just three minutes of play.

Coach Leo Johnson

World Record!

March 21, 2017
Seventy years ago today--March 21, 1947--the University of Illinois track medley relay team set a world record of 10:08.3, breaking a seven-year-old mark that was established by Indiana. 

The quartet of Bob Rehberg (1,320 yards, three laps), Herb McKenley (440, one lap), Clarence Dunn (880, two laps) and John Twomey (mile, four laps) ran the 4,000-yard race in that order. These were four members of Coach Leo Johnson’s tremendous 1947 squad, a team that won both the Big Ten indoor and outdoor championships and the NCAA outdoor title. 

Other standout members of Coach Leo Johnson's '47 unit included high jump champ Dike Eddleman, pole vaulter Bob Richards, hurdler George Walker, and sprinters Bill Mathis, Bill Beile and Lee Vranek. 

At the ’47 NCAA meet at Salt Lake City’s Rice Stadium, Illinois far out-distanced Southern California in team points, 59 2/3 to 34 ¼. It was Illinois’ second consecutive national title and its third in four years. 

Since 1947, the Illini have finished second twice (1953 and ’54), fourth once (1948), sixth once (1958), seventh three times (1952, ’77 and ’88), eighth once (1987) and ninth twice (1959 and ’64).

Malcolm Hill

Illinois' NIT Success

March 21, 2017
With its victory last night vs. Boise State, Illinois enters Wednesday night’s game at Central Florida with an all-time record of 10-6 in the NIT. 

Highlights from UI’s 10 NIT victories:

• March 5, 1980: In Illinois’ first-ever NIT game, starters Mark Smith (24 points), Reno Gray (21) and Eddie Johnson (20) and reserve Derek Holcomb (18) combined for 83 of the team’s 105 points in an 18-point victory over Loyola-Chicago.

• March 10, 1980: At the Assembly Hall, Illinois defeated next-door neighbor Illinois State, 75-65, behind 25 points from Eddie Johnson and 20 more from Reno Gray. The Illini held the Redbirds to just 19 points in the first half.

• March 19, 1980: The Fighting Illini basketball team defeated UNLV in the consolation championship game of the National Invitation Tournament. Junior forward Eddie Johnson led the way for Illinois with a game-high 25 points. Mark Smith (16 points) and Neil Bresnahan (11) also scored in double figures. 

• March 13, 1980: Illinois’ third NIT game in eight days saw the Illini hold off visiting Murray State, 65-63, qualifying them for the tournament’s Final Four in New York City. Perry Range and Reno Gray paced Illinois with 16 points apiece.

• March 10, 1982: Building a 65-29 halftime lead, Illinois raced past Long Island at the Assembly Hall, 126-78. Perry Range hit 13-of-16 shots from the field (28 points) to lead six Illini in double figures. UI shot .576 for the game.

• March 17, 2010: Balanced scoring from Mike Davis (17 points), D.J. Richardson (16), Demetri McCamey (16) and Mike Tisdale (15) lifted Illinois past host Stony Brook in New York. The Illini improved their record to 20-14.

• March 22, 2010: Sixteen points and 16 rebounds from Mike Davis launched Illinois to a 75-58 home-court win over Kent State at the Assembly Hall. The Illini shot 58 percent in the second half to pull away from a 31-31 halftime tie.

• March 19, 2014: Illinois overcame a nine-point halftime deficit by shooting 58 percent in the last 20 minutes to beat host Boston University, 66-62. Rayvonte Rice scored a game-high 28 points on 11-of-14 shooting.

• March 14, 2017: Interim coach Jamall Walker, stepping in for the fired John Groce, got 25 points from Malcolm Hill in an easy 82-57 opening-round victory over Valparaiso. Leron Black added a double-double (13 points and 12 rebounds).

• March 20, 2017: Tracy Abrams tallied 18 points, Leron Black notched his second straight double-double, and Malcolm Hill's 13 points moved him into third place on Illinois' all-time scoring list as the Illini pulled away from the Boise State Broncos in the second half for a 71-56 win.

Keith Jones

Keith Jones

March 20, 2017
Happy 51st Birthday on March 20th to former Fighting Illini running back Keith Jones. 

Coach Mike White recruited Jones to Champaign-Urbana from Webster Groves High School in Rock Hill, Mo. where he was named Greater St. Louis’ Player of the Year. 

Jones was a three-way threat for Illinois, running the ball, catching passes out of the backfield and returning kicks. As a senior in 1988 for Coach John Mackovic, he led the team in scoring (10 touchdowns for 60 points), rushing (1,108 yards), and kickoff returns (17.7 yards per return). Jones also completed two-of-three halfback option passes, both for touchdowns. Only quarterback Jeff George had more yards in total offense than Jones that season. 

When he graduated, Jones had the third-best single-season rushing total behind Jim Grabowski and J.C. Caroline, and ranked third on the career rushing list behind Thomas Rooks and Grabowski. The Illini coaches named Jones both their Offensive Player of the Year and overall Most Valuable Player. 

In the 1989 NFL Draft, the New Orleans Saints selected him in the fifth round. Jones played four seasons for the Falcons (1989-92), finishing with 791 rushing yards, 651 receiving yards and six touchdowns. In 2007, Webster Groves High named him to its All-Century Football team.

Mike Tobin

L.M. "Mike" Tobin

March 17, 2017
The greatest of Fighting Illini fans can easily recite the legends of Red Grange and the “Whiz Kids”, but nary a one probably knows L.M. “Mike” Tobin, the man whose diligent work made those athletes household names. 

The Danville, Illinois, native—born March 18, 1879—was the first full-time collegiate athletic publicist in the country, and it was his initial task to spread the word about a red-headed youngster from Wheaton who became the most famous collegiate football player ever—Red Grange. 

For more than 20 years from his tiny office in Huff Gymnasium, Tobin pounded out thousands of stories about the Illini on his manual typewriter. Every sportswriter in the Midwest relied upon Tobin to supply them with information about the nationally prominent University of Illinois athletic program. 

Upon Tobin’s death in 1944 at the age of 64, Bob Zuppke said that Illinois had lost “its most loyal of loyal friends. We owe him more than we ever could have repaid.”

Abe Saperstein

Abe Saperstein

March 15, 2017
Fifty-one years ago today, Abraham M. “Abe” Saperstein died at the age of 63. Though he never played varsity sports, he attended the University of Illinois during the same period of history that George Huff headed the UI athletic department. 

Despite only standing slightly more than five feet tall, the British-born Saperstein competed in baseball, basketball and track as a high school student in Chicago, but was said to have never been given a tryout for Illinois’ basketball team. He later played guard for the Chicago Reds, a semi-pro team, from 1920 to 1925. 

Saperstein began his role as coach and promoter in 1927 when he directed the Savoy Big Five, named after Chicago’s famous Savoy Ballroom. Renamed the Harlem Globetrotters a year later, his all-black barnstorming team initially played serious basketball and dominated games across the country, winning 397 games and losing just 32 in their first three years. When it became increasingly difficult to locate willing opponent, Saperstein conceived the idea of a fancy and comedic style of play. Basketball upheld racial barriers through the end of the 1940s and did not allow blacks to mix with whites, but because the Globetrotters were perceived by the public as entertainers and not athletes, they were able to gain entry into venues heretofore disallowed. The demand for the Globetrotters was enormous in the 1950s and Saperstein eventually fielded three separate units in the United States, plus an all star international squad. 

Saperstein was enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame five years after his death in 1966.

Janet Rayfield

Janet Rayfield

March 13, 2017
Happy Birthday on Wednesday (March 15) to longtime Fighting Illini soccer coach Janet Rayfield. 

Since joining Illinois’ staff in 2002, her teams have won nearly 60 percent of their games (177-114-32) and a pair of Big Ten titles. In Big Ten Conference contests, Rayfield’s 15 Illini clubs have been victorious 56.6 percent of the time (80-59-19). Though the Illini slumped offensively in 2016 with only 16 total goals, her teams averaged more than 40 goals per year from 2011-15. 

Illinois’ top scorers during Rayfield’s time in Champaign-Urbana (2002-16): 

Points ... Player (Goals, Assists) ... Seasons
122 ...  Jannelle Flaws (54 goals, 14 assists) ...   2010-15
108 ... Vanessa DiBernardo (43 goals, 22 assists) ...  2010-13
94 ... Tara Hurless (38 goals, 18 assists) ...   2002-04
74 ... Megan Pawloski (24 goals, 16 assists) ...  2010-13
74 ... Ella Masar (27 goals, 20 assists) ...   2004-07
72 ... Jessica Bayne (30 goals, 12 assists) ...   2003-06
53 ... Chichi Nweke (18 goals, 18 assists) ...   2006-09
39 ... Nicole Breece (8 goals, 16 assists) ...   2012-15

Efrem Winters

This Date in Illini History

March 6, 2017
Twelve years ago today, with just a flick of a wrist, Fighting Illini basketball’s 29-game winning streak came to and end. Illinois led 64-58 after James Augustine’s layup with 3:23 remaining, but host Ohio State was not intimidated. The Buckeyes tallied the next four points on two-point buckets by Terence Dials and Matt Sylvester. Illinois had good looks on its next two possessions, but OSU recovered the ball and called timeout with 12 seconds left. Coach Bruce Weber and his staff pondered what Buckeye mentor Thad Matt’s strategy might be. With the clock winding towards zeroes and the Illini leading by two, Je’Kel Foster inbounded to Brandon Fuss-Cheatham who then passed the ball to Sylvester who was open at the right wing. The Buckeye senior never hesitated, lofting a long three-pointer with five seconds left. It hit the target and the Illini were no longer perfect, losing 65-64. 

Other memorable moments in history on March 6th:

• Mar. 6, 1937: Illinois earned a Big Ten co-championship with Minnesota by defeating Northwestern at Evanston, 32-26.

• Mar. 6, 1954: Individual titles by Willie Williams, Ralph Fessenden, Gene Maynard, Will Thomson, Abe Woodson and Ron Mitchell led Coach Leo Johnson’s track and field team to the Big Ten indoor title at the Armory.

• Mar. 6, 1983: Illinois knocked Indiana out of first place with a 73-61 victory, led by Kendra Gantt’s 28 points.

• Mar. 6, 1986: Host Iowa beat Illinois, 57-53, but senior Efrem Winters breaks Eddie Johnson’s career rebounding record.

•  Mar. 6, 1999: Surprising Illinois, 14-17 overall, forged its way into the Big Ten Tournament championship game with a 79-77 win over No. 11 Ohio State.

Yoshi Hayasaki

Yoshi Hayasaki

March 3, 2017
Yoshi Hayasaki, director of the Fighting Illini men’s gymnastics team from 1974-2009, celebrates his 68th birthday on Saturday (March 4). 

The former two-time NCAA all-around and U.S. national champion performed at the University of Washington as an undergraduate. Yoshi was the first man in Husky athletic history to be named the school’s Athlete of the Year twice. 

His most brilliant moment as Illinois’ coach came in 1989 when the Illini won the NCAA championship. 

Yoshi Hayasaki’s gymnastics career, by the numbers:

3 - Number of Olympians he coached at Illinois (Charles Lakes, Dominick Minicucci and Justin Spring)

3 - Number of times Hayasaki was honored as Big Ten Coach of the Year (1988, 1989 & 2004)

4 - Number of Illini Academic All-Americans coached by Yoshi (Travis Romagnoli-twice, Leo Oka and Bob Rogers)

7 - Number of Illini athletes who won national championships under his tutelege (Dave Stoldt, Lakes, Ramagnoli, Rogers, Justin Spring, Paul Ruggeri & Daniel Ribeiro)

7 - Times Hayasaki won All-America honors as a gymnast at Washington

17 - Number of times Hayasaki’s Illini team has finished among the top ten teams at the NCAA Championship Meet (first once, second twice, and third four times)

47 - Number of individual Big Ten champions Yoshi coached at Illinois

225.250 - Record number of team points Illinois scored at the NCAA Qualifying Round on April 7, 2005

.632 - His teams' winning percentage in dual meets

1999 - Year Hayasaki was honored with an Honorary Varsity “I” for his dedication to Illini athletics

2009 - Won Outstanding Asian American Alumni Award

Tom Michael

Tom Michael

March 1, 2017
Former Fighting Illini basketball star Tom Michael celebrates his 46th birthday today. 

The native of Hoffman, Illinois co-captained Illinois three seasons with Deon Thomas—1992, ’93 and ’94—becoming the first Illini players to ever achieve that feat. 

Michael was a three-point specialist, hitting an all-time record .493 from the field in 1991-92 (75 of 152). For his career, Michael canned nearly 45 percent of his shots from beyond the arc, ranking fourth all-time in that category. 

He was an all-star in the classroom, being named Academic All-Big Ten both his junior and senior seasons. Michael also won the Kenny Battle Award in 1992. He earned his bachelor’s degree in 1993 and his Master’s degree in 1994. 

Following his playing career, Michael joined Illinois’ staff as an academic counselor, then became assistant athletic director for academic services. He was promoted to associate athletic director in 2008, overseeing academics, equipment, sports medicine, and strength and conditioning. 

Today, Michael is Director of Athletics at Eastern Illinois University.

Huff Gym

Huff Gym

February 27, 2017
Eighty years ago today--Feb. 27, 1937--the University of Illinois Board of Trustees named the UI’s new gymnasium in honor of George Huff, the Father of Fighting Illini Athletics. 

Huff served as Illinois’ athletic director from 1901 to 1935, during a span when the Illini program was among the NCAA’s best. He also was UI’s football coach from 1895-99 and coach of the baseball team from 1896 to 1919. 

Trivia about Huff Gym, now known as Huff Hall:

• Constructed in 1925 at a coast of $772,000.

• Served as home to the Illini basketball team from 1926 to 1963. Illinois compiled a record of 339 victories against only 79 losses at Huff, a winning percentage of .811. Illini squads earned eight Big Ten titles and two NCAA Final Four appearances.

• Huff Gym was the longtime venue for the Illinois State High School Association’s basketball tournament.

• Huff Hall has been the home for Illini volleyball for 10 years, during which time Illinois has won 75 percent of its matches.

Simeon Rice

Simeon Rice

February 24, 2017
One of the greatest defensive players in University of Illinois football history celebrates his 43rd birthday today. Simeon Rice ended his Fighting Illini career as the school’s single-season and career leader for quarterback sacks and tackles for loss. 

No. 97 was a three-time first-team All-Big Ten selection and a two-time All-American, lettering from 1992-95. He was the conference’s Freshman of the Year in 1992 and its Lineman of the Year in 1994. 

Rice was the No. 3 pick in the first round of the 1996 National Football League, chosen by the Arizona Cardinals. At the time, only 15 other Illini players had been first-round NFL selections. 

Rice played 12 seasons in the NFL, playing for the Cardinals (1996-2000), the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2001-06),  and the Denver Broncos (2007) and the Indianapolis Colts (2007). He ranks high on the NFL’s all-time list for QB sacks with 122. 

1. Simeon Rice, 1992-95 ...  69 for 385 yards
2. Moe Gardner, 1987-90 ... 57 for 226 yards
3. Jonathan Brown, 2010-13 ... 45.5 for 155 yards
4. Fred Wakefield, 1997-2000 ... 42 for 158 yards
5. Don Thorp, 1980-83 ...  40 for 191 yards
6. J Leman, 2004-07 ... 38.5 for 113 yards
7. Kevin Hardy, 1992-95 ... 38 for 220 yards
8T. Scott Davis, 1985-87 ...  35 for 206 yards
8T. Danny Clark, 1996-99 ...  35 for 146 yards
10T. Jerry Schumacher, 1999-02 ... 33 for 110 yards
10T. Brit Miller, 2005-08 ... 33 for 116 yards

Ed Halik

This Date in Illini History

February 22, 2017
Seventy years ago today, Illinois’ “Whiz Kids” beat Northwestern, 52-51, at Chicago Stadium. Gene Vance scored the winning basket in the last minute of play, leading the Fighting Illini with 15 points. Teammate Andy Phillip scored only five points against the Wildcats, but that was enough to break the Big Ten’s four-year-old single-season scoring record, set in 1943 by Wisconsin’s Johnny Kotz. 

Other memorable moments on this date in Illinois athletics history:

Feb. 22, 1954: Jim Wright hit a pair of free throws with only two seconds left to help Illinois top Wisconsin, 66-64.

Feb. 22, 1969: Ed Halik became the first Illini pole vaulter to get over the 16-foot mark and Ken Howse’s two-mile time of 8:59.7 both set Illinois varsity records.

Feb. 22, 1972: Illini wrestling legend Harold “Hek” Kenney died at the age of 69.

Feb. 22, 1975: Mike Washington scored 26 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to lead Illinois past Ohio State. The 83-78 victory broke the Illini’s six-game losing streak.

Feb. 22, 1995: Illinois beat No. 22 Minnesota in overtime as Robert Bennett scored a career-high 24 points.

Feb. 22, 1998: Seniors Jerry Hester, Kevin Turner, Matt Heldman, Brian Johnson and Jarrod Gee played their final game at the Assembly Hall and beat Iowa.

Feb. 22, 2000: The United States Professional Tennis Registry named Illinois coach Craig Tiley its Coach of the Year.

Feb. 22, 2000: Cory Bradford scored 26 points as Illinois dismantled 16th-ranked Indiana, 87-63. It was the Illini’s largest winning margin over the Hoosiers since 1956. 

Feb. 22, 2003: No. 20 Illinois gets a career-best 20 points from Roger Powell and beat Northwestern at the United Center.

Feb. 22, 2009: Led by Mike Davis's 22 points and 58 percent team shooting from the field, Illinois topped host Ohio State, 70-68.

Bob Richards

Bob Richards

February 20, 2017
Today marks the 91st birthday of Bob Richards, one of the most celebrated pole vaulters in the history of University of Illinois track and field. 

Born Feb. 20, 1926, in Champaign, he lettered for the Fighting Illini in 1946 and ‘47 and earned a B.A. in philosophy and an M.A. in sociology. 

Richards won the gold medal in the 1952 and 1956 Olympic Games, and earned his greatest fame as a “Wheaties” spokesperson. 

Today, he resides in Texas. 

Illinois’ all-time NCAA champions in the pole vault event and their winning efforts:
• Vern McDermot, 1931, 13’-9 7/8”
• Robert Phelps, 1944, 13’-6”
• Robert Phelps, 1945, 11’-6”
• Bob Richards, 1947, 14’-0”
• Don Laz, 1951, 14’-9 3/4”
• Dick Coleman, 1952, 13’-9”

Steve Marianetti

Steve Marianetti

February 17, 2017
Steve Marianetti, one of the University of Illinois’ all-time greatest wrestlers, celebrates his 45th birthday today. The 150-pound dynamo, along with teammate Ernest Benion, helped catapult Coach Mark Johnson’s Fighting Illini into national prominence in 1995 when the twosome captured individual NCAA crowns. Marianetti’s stunning 13-10 victory over Iowa’s two-time defending champion Lincoln McIlravy that year helped Illinois to a top-ten finish (ninth) for the first time since 1958. It was the first time since 1938 that two Illini wrestlers won national titles in the same year. 

A listing of Illinois wrestling’s career victory leaders (through 2015-16 season):

1. 128 - Alex Tirapelle, 157 lbs., 2002-06
2. 127 - Adam Tirapelle, 149 lbs., 1997-2001
3. 125 - Pete Friedl, 174/184 lbs., 2002-06
4. 124 - Jimmy Kennedy, 133 lbs., 2006-11
5. 122 - John Lockhart, heavyweight, 1998-2002
6. 121 - Ernest Benion, 158 lbs., 1994-97
7. 120 - Matt Lackey, 165 lbs., 1999-2003
8. 118 - Steve Marianetti, 134/150 lbs., 1992-95
9. 116 - Brian Glynn, 174/184 lbs., 2001-05
10. 115 - Jordan Blanton, 174 lbs., 2008-13

Dan Hartleb

Dan Hartleb

February 15, 2017
University of Illinois baseball coach Dan Hartleb celebrates his 51st birthday today. He soon will begin his twelfth season as head coach and his 27th year on the Fighting Illini coaching staff. Hartleb has guided the Illini to the Big Ten Tournament in each of his first three years at the helm. He is only the 10th coach in 136 years of Illinois baseball. 

The complete list of Illini head baseball coaches:
1892-94       E.K. Hall
1896-1919  George Huff
1920            George “Potsy” Clark
1920-34       Carl Lundgren
1935-51       Wally Roettger
1952-78        Lee Eilbracht
1979-87        Tom Dedin
1988-90        Augie Garrido
1991-2005    Richard “Itch” Jones
2006-present Dan Hartleb

Bill Ridley

This Date in Illini History

February 13, 2017
Sixty-seven years ago today--Feb. 13, 1950--Illinois’ basketball team lost its first game at Huff Gym in two years, an 83-72 decision to Indiana. It was the Hoosiers’ first victory in Champaign in 10 years. 

Other highlights: 

• Feb. 13, 1937: Lou Boudreau dished out six assists and Harry Combes scored 19 points as Illinois won at Chicago, 34-26.

• Feb. 13, 1943: The Whiz Kids boosted their record to 8-0 with a 56-35 victory over Minnesota.

• Feb. 13, 1954: Paul Judson scored six of Illinois’ last seven points in overtime as the Illini beat Wisconsin, 70-64.

• Feb. 13, 1956: Bill Ridley and George BonSalle scored 25 points apiece as Illinois beat Michigan for the tenth straight time.

• Feb. 13, 1971: Terry Webb set an Illini high jump record with a leap of 6-feet-10 1/4-inches.

• Feb. 13, 1980: John Blair was named Illini volleyball coach.

• Feb. 13, 1986: Ken Norman scored a game-high 19 points and Illinois improved its Big Ten record to 7-5 with a 75-52 victory at Northwestern.

• Feb. 13, 1993: Greg Landry was named Illinois football’s offensive coordinator.

Bill Hapac

Bill Hapac

February 10, 2017
Seventy-six years ago today, Illinois defeated Minnesota, 60-31, at Huff Gym as the Illini’s Bill Hapac broke the Big Ten single-game scoring record with 34 points. Scoring 13 field goals and eight free throws, he eclipsed the previous mark of 30 points by Indiana’s Ernie Andres (1938). 

Hapac’s record-breaking points came on a 35-foot bank shot. More than 100 of Hapac’s fellow townsmen from Cicero were in the crowd of 5,402. 

Sequence of the Big Ten men’s basketball single-game scoring marks since 1938: 

• 30 points,  Ernie Andres, Indiana, 1938

• 34 points,  Bill Hapac, Illinois, 1940

• 40 points,  Andy Phillip, Illinois, 1943

• 48 points,  Jerry Lucas, Ohio State, 1960

• 52 points,  Terry Dischinger, Purdue, 1961

• 56 points,  Jimmy Rayl, Indiana, 1962

• 57 points,  Dave Schellhase, Purdue, 1966

• 61 points,  Rick Mount, Purdue, 1970

Brian Cook

Brian Cook

February 8, 2017
Nineteen years ago today, Lincoln’s Brian Cook verbally committed to play basketball at the University of Illinois. As a freshman in 1999-2000, he started off with a bang, being named Big Ten Co-Freshman of the Year. In 2001 and ’02, Cook earned second-team All-Big Ten honors his sophomore and junior seasons, then won the Chicago Tribune’s Silver Basketball Award his senior year by averaging a conference-leading 20 points and 7.6 rebounds per game. 

Brian Cook’s top ten scoring efforts as an Illini:

•31 pts vs. Wisconsin (1/11/03)
•30 pts vs. Michigan (1/29/03)
•26 pts at Michigan (3/1/03)
•25 pts at Wisconsin (3/5/03)
•25 pts vs. Indiana (3/15/03)
•25 pts vs. Temple (12/14/02)
•25 pts at Minnesota (1/7/03)
•25 pts vs. Missouri (12/21/01)
•23 pts at Seton Hall (2/16/02)

Augie Garrido

Augie Garrido: By the Numbers

February 6, 2017
Former University of Illinois baseball coach Augie Garrido celebrates his 78th birthday today. From 1988 through 1990, he led the Fighting Illini to two Big Ten championships, including the school’s first Conference title in 26 seasons. In those three seasons, Garrido compiled a record of 111-67, and twice led the Illini to the NCAA Tournament. 

A look at Garrido’s baseball career, by the numbers:

• 3:  National Players of the Year he has tutored (Tim Wallach, Phil Nevin, Mark Kotsay)

• 4:  NCAA championships (1979, 1984, 1995, 2002) • 20: Conference championships

• 36:  Number of seasons he’s coached college baseball

• 38:  All-America players who have played for Augie

• 64:  Number of players he’s coached who have played pro baseball

• 1,486:  NCAA-record number of victories he’s coached

• 1969:  Augie’s first season as a head coach, at San Francisco State

Andy Kaufmann: "The Shot"

Andy Kaufmann: By the Numbers

February 4, 2017
Andy Kaufmann scored 1,533 points during his Fighting Illini basketball career, but none made more of an impact than the last three that he scored against Iowa 24 years ago today. With 0:01.5 left on the Assembly Hall clock and Illinois trailing by two points to the eighth-ranked Hawkeyes, T.J. Wheeler took the ball out of bounds for the Illini at the north end of the court and hurled a 60-foot pass to Kaufmann. When Illinois’ No. 34 caught the ball, he spun, planted his left foot and lofted a 25-foot bomb that hit nothing but net. The delirious throng of Illini fans swept onto the court, and the celebration lasted long into the night. Final score: Illinois 78, Iowa 77. 

Andy Kaufmann’s basketball career by the numbers:

• 4       Kaufmann’s standing on Illinois’ all-time scoring chart at the conclusion of his career, trailing only Eddie Johnson, Mark Smith and Deon Thomas

• 7       His Illini record number of three-point field goals vs. Missouri in 1990

• 21.3   His team-leading scoring average during the 1990-91 season

• 32     Number of consecutive free throws he made during the 1990-91 Illini campaign

• 46     Kaufmann’s career-high single-game scoring effort vs. Wisconsin-Milwaukee on Dec. 3, 1990

• 73     The number of consecutive games he scored 20 points or more as a prep at Jacksonville High School

• 105   Kaufmann’s number of career three-point field goals, a total second only to Tom Michael’s 119 

• 918   Number of free throws he made as a prep, a state and national high school record

Joe Sternaman

Joe Sternaman

February 1, 2017
Born 116 years ago today--February 1, 1901--was Joseph Theodore Sternaman , a 1920s Fighting Illini football letter winner who eventually became the first-ever quarterback of the Chicago Bears. 

He and his older brother, Edward—better known as “Dutch”—both played for Bob Zuppke at Illinois, then for George Halas with the Bears. Dutch Sternaman and Halas were hired to run the Decatur Staleys in 1920 and the franchise was moved to Chicago the following year. The Chicago Staleys finished first in the league and captured their first league championship. 

“Joey” Sternaman and his brother accumulated 73 of the 123 points the team scored. In 1922, the team’s name was changed to the Bears to reflect baseball's Chicago Cubs, the team's host at Wrigley Field. 

Extremely strong and powerful for a man who weighed just 135 pounds, Joey also was a runner and drop-kicker. In a story written about Sternaman in 1980 by Jeff Lyon of the Chicago Tribune, it is said he originated the bootleg play. 

“The man he faked to the most was Red Grange, whose reputation as a broken-field runner at Illinois so preceded him that the other teams keyed on (Grange) like a swarm of bees. That left Sternaman with an open field.”

 Joey played for and coached the Duluth (Minn.) Kelleys in 1923, then came back to the Bears the following season. In 1924, he led the NFL in scoring with 75 points. In 1926 he played for and was a part owner of a new team, the Chicago Bulls, in a new league, the American Football League. The league folded after one season and Joe again returned to the Bears. 

After an eight-year career in professional football, he owned and operated the Sternaman Cast Iron Smoke Pipe Company, which made and installed pipe for incinerators and furnaces. Sternaman died on March 10, 1988.

Gary Wieneke

Gary Wieneke

January 25, 2017
Forty-three years ago on this date in Illini history--January 25, 1974--Gary Wieneke made his debut as the University of Illinois’ men’s track and field coach. Wieneke’s Illini claimed the team title at the Illini Invitational, winning nine of the 15 events. 

Here’s a list of Coach Wieneke’s nine greatest seasons at Illinois: 
• 1977 - 1st Big Ten Indoors, 1st Big Ten Outdoors

•1987 - 1st Big Ten Indoors, 1st Big Ten Outdoors

•1988 - 1st Big Ten Indoors, 1st Big Ten Outdoors

• 1989 - 1st Big Ten Indoors, 1st Big Ten Outdoors 

•1975 - 2nd Big Ten Indoors, 1st Big Ten Outdoors

• 1981 - 1st Big Ten Indoors, 3rd Big Ten Outdoors

• 1994 - 3rd Big Ten Indoors, 1st Big Ten Outdoors

• 1986 - 2nd Big Ten Indoors, 2nd Big Ten Outdoors

• 1991 - 2nd Big Ten Indoors, 2nd Big Ten Outdoors

Jack Squirek

Jack Squirek

January 23, 2017
Thirty-three years ago today, former Fighting Illini star Jack Squirek scored a touchdown on a five-yard interception as the Los Angeles Raiders beat the Washington Redskins, 38-9, in Super Bowl XVIII. 

At that point, just three years into his pro career, Squirek only saw spot duty as a reserve linebacker. Raiders linebacker coach Charlie Sumner substituted the athletic Squirek for Matt Millen with just seconds remaining in the first half and Washington at its own 12-yard line. Instead of running the clock out, Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann decided to throw an ill-fated screen pass. Squirek stepped in front of halfback Joe Washington and went into the end zone untouched for a TD.

His game-turning play earned him the spotlight on Sports Illustrated’s Jan. 30, 1984 issue. 

In a retrospective article written by SI’s Jeff Pearlman, Squirek remembered his day in the sun. "It was all very amazing," he told Pearlman. "I was staying at the LAX Hilton at the time, and I came down to the magazine stand in the lobby and saw the cover. It blew me away."

Eventually, injuries shortened Squirek’s career and his playing time ended in 1986. 

Today, the Valley View, Ohio native, now 59 years old, resides in Cleveland and operates a floor and carpet maintenance operation called Squirek Services.

Nick Anderson

Nick Anderson

January 20, 2017
Former Fighting Illini basketball star Nick Anderson celebrates his 49th birthday today.

Anderson sparkled during his 13 seasons as a player in the National Basketball Association, playing 10 years for the Orlando Magic, two with the Sacramento Kings, and one with the Memphis Grizzlies.

A glimpse of his career, by the numbers:

• 1: The round in which he was picked by the Magic in 1989 (11th pick overall). He was the team’s first-ever draft pick.

• 12: The number of three-point field goals he attempted in Game 3 of the 1995 NBA Finals, a league record.

• 12 1/2: His shoe size (Nike).

• 15: His career-high game for rebounds (vs. Nets, 11/8/95).

• 16.9: Nick’s points-per-game average in 69 Illini games.

• 25: His uniform number at Illinois and in the pros, worn in memory of his childhood friend and Simeon High School teammate Ben Wilson.

• 50: His career-high game for points (vs. Nets, 4/23/93).

• 228: Number of pounds he carries on his 6-foot-6-inch frame.

•1,055: NBA three-pointers he hit during his career, currently ranking No. 83 on that list.

• 11,529: The number of points Nick has scored during his NBA career in 800 regular-season contests (14.4 ppg).

George Halas

George Halas Enlists for Service

January 18, 2017
On January 18, 1918, University of Illinois senior George Halas fulfilled his patriotic aspirations and enlisted for service in World War I at the Great Lakes Naval Training Station as a Carpenter’s Mate Second Class. 

Unbeknownst to Halas, two other collegiate stars of that time—Notre Dame’s Charlie Bachman and Northwestern’s John “Paddy” Driscoll—also entered Officer Candidate School at the same time. They worked together and, three months later, were commissioned as ensigns. 

They all expected to be sent into battle against the German navy, but Halas was instead assigned to become Great Lakes’ recreation officer and a member of GL’s 1918 football team. It was a talented squad, one that also featured Driscoll and Washington University’s Jimmy Conzelman, both future Pro Football Hall of Famers. Great Lakes rolled to six regular-season victories, including a 7-0 win over eventual Big Ten champion Illinois, and a pair of ties against Northwestern and Notre Dame. Two week before its last game, the Great War ended in Europe. Great Lakes continued to play and its biggest game came on Jan. 1, 1919, when it was invited to play the Mare Island Marines in the Rose Bowl. GL went on to win, 17-0, and Halas was named the game’s Most Valuable Player. It would be his final football game as a player. 

Altogether, Halas spent 14 months of active duty and was discharged from Great Lakes in February. Later that month, upon an invitation from the New York Yankees, he reported to spring training in Jacksonville, Fla. He won a spot on the Yankees’ roster and headed north for the 1919 baseball season. 

(NOTE: Despite Halas leaving the University with four months of classes remaining, the U of I remained true to its promise and presented him with his bachelor’s degree.)

Wayne McClain

Wayne McClain & Longest Serving Assistant Coaches

January 16, 2017
Yesterday (January 15) would have been former Fighting Illini assistant basketball coach Wayne McClain’s 62nd birthday. 

He joined Illinois’s staff following a seven-year career at Peoria’s Manual High School where he directed the Rams to Class AA state championships in 1995, ’96 and ’97. Then Illini coach Bill Self initially hired McClain at Illinois in 2001. He stayed with the Illini when Bruce Weber succeeded Self for the 2003-04 season and continued as Weber’s assistant through the 2011-12 campaign. During McClain’s 11 seasons on the bench, the Illini won 261 of their 378 games, a winning percentage of .690. 

He died in October of 2014.

The longest-serving Illini assistant basketball coaches:

31 years - Howie Braun, 1937-67
17 years - Dick Nagy, 1980-96
15 years - Jim Wright, 1958-72
13 years - Jimmy Collins, 1984-96
13 years - Wally Roettger, 1937-49
11 years - Wayne McClain, 2002-12
9 years - Tony Yates, 1975-83
9 years - Mark Coomes, 1986-94
9 years - Jay Price, 2004-12
7 years - Dick Campbell, 1968-74

Sergio McClain

This Date in Illini History

January 13, 2017
Seventeen years ago today, Illinois basketball’s Sergio McClain tallied a triple-double in the Fighting Illini’s 80-51 victory over Michigan. McClain scored 10 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and handed out 11 assists, joining Mark Smith as the only Illini player in history to register double-figures in three different statistical categories. No. 7 Illinois also got 17 points and Brian Cook and 15 points from Cory Bradford. 

Other memorable moments on this date in Illini history:

• Jan. 13, 1923: Nine of Wally Roettger’s 15 points came via free throws and captain Swede Hellstrom added 10 points as Illinois defeated visiting Indiana, 31-22.

• Jan. 13, 1930: Illinois held Michigan to just four field goals en route to a 24-18 basketball victory at Ann Arbor.

• Jan. 13, 1944: Longtime Illinois sports information director L.M. “Mike” Tobin died at the age of 64.

• Jan. 13, 1968: Dave Scholz capped a spectacular 26-point performance by drilling a 20-foot jumper with just five seconds left as Illinois topped host Minnesota, 61-60.

• Jan. 13, 1973: Jed Foster sank two free throws with just 11 seconds left to help Illinois defeat Iowa, 80-78.

•Jan. 13, 1979: Ohio State handed Illinois’ men’s basketball team its first loss in 16 games, 69-66 in overtime, denying the Illini of a probable No. 1 ranking. Just two days earlier, Illinois beat top-ranked Michigan State at the Assembly Hall.

• Jan. 13, 1981: NCAA members vote to begin holding women’s championship meets.

• Jan. 13, 2001: Three Illini women’s track standouts broke school records in a meet at UI’s Armory. Perdita Felicien set a new mark in the 60-meter hurdles, Angela Hilgers broke Illinois’ pole vault record, and Adeoti Oshinowo broke the school record in the 20-pound weight throw.

President Andrew Sloan Draper

This Date in Illini History

January 11, 2017
January 11th has been an historic date in Fighting Illini athletic history, as 122 years ago today--Jan. 11,1895--University of Illinois president Andrew Sloan Draper met with presidents of Chicago, Michigan, Northwestern, Wisconsin and Purdue to produce an agreement that formed the Big Ten Conference. 

Other noteworthy events on this day in Illini history:
•Jan. 11, 1937: Harry Combes’ 16 points and Lou Boudreau’s 11 helped Illinois hand Indiana its first loss of the season.

•Jan. 11, 1954: Johnny “Red” Kerr scored a near-record 38 points as Illinois beat Ohio State at Huff Gym.

•Jan. 11, 1960: Despite 43 points by Purdue’s Terry Dischinger, Illinois beat the Boilermakers to improve its record to 9-2. 

•Jan. 11, 1972: Illinois swam against Purdue in the first event ever to be held at the IMPE Pool. 

•Jan. 11, 1975: Otho Tucker’s Assembly Hall record-tying 15 free throws helped Gene Bartow win his first Big Ten game as Illini coach.

•Jan. 11, 1979: Before the largest Assembly Hall crowd ever, UI’s Eddie Johnson canned an 18-foot jumper from the corner to lead the Illini past No. 1 ranked Michigan State.

•Jan. 11, 1995: Simeon Rice announced that he will play his senior season at Illinois.

•Jan. 11, 2003: Tenth-ranked Illinois (12-1) beat visiting Wisconsin, 69-63, as Brian Cook scored 24 of his career-high 31 points in the second half.

•Jan. 11, 2003: Basketball alum Jerry Colangelo presented the University with a $1.25 million endowment for five basketball scholarships.

D.J. Richardson

This Date in Illini History

January 9, 2017
Twenty-four  years ago today, the Fighting Illini men’s basketball team held host Michigan State to just 39 points, the fewest by a Big Ten opponent in nearly 45 years. Illinois’ defense held the Spartans to just 31% shooting and only 17 points in the second half. 

Other memorable moments on this date in Illini history:

• 1933: The Illini basketball team held Michigan to only two points in the second half in a 22-17 victory.

• 1939: Illinois made just eight of its 64 field goal attempts in a one-point loss at home against Indiana. It was the Illini’s first defeat in eight games. 1943: The Whiz Kids jumped out to a 34-6 lead and cruise to a 47-34 victory over Michigan in the Big Ten opener. Andy Phillip led the Illini with 19 points.

• 1956: George BonSalle and Bill Ridley combined for 51 points as host Illinois beat Wisconsin, 96-77, at Huff Gym. UI remained unbeaten in Big Ten play.

• 1971: Illinois’ Rick Howat scored 21 points to lead the Illini past Michigan State, improving UI’s Big Ten record to 3-0.

• 1979: Perry Graves, one of Illinois’ first football All-Americans, died at the age of 89.

• 1996: Nicole Vassey scored 27 points and Ashley Berggren added 26 as Illinois’ women’s basketball team crushed 14th-ranked Arkansas by 24 points at Huff Hall.

• 2010: The Illini defeated Indiana in Bloomington in consecutive seasons, this time by a score of 66-60. D.J. Richardson's 17-foot jumper with 1:10 to go gave Illinois is first lead in 36+ minutes. Mike Tisdale scored 27 points.

Potsy Clark

George "Potsy" Clark

January 6, 2017
Ninety-six years ago today, former Fighting Illini athlete George “Potsy” Clark returned to his alma mater to assume duties as head coach of Illinois’ baseball team. 

Born in Carthage, Ill., on March 20, 1894, Clark achieved fame in a variety of capacities from 1912 through 1953, but it was as a professional football coach that he is best remembered. 

In 1914, he first came to Champaign, playing quarterback for Coach Bob Zuppke. In his two seasons as a letter winner, Clark and teammates Perry Graves, Ralph Chapman, Bart Macomber and Harold Pogue compiled a nearly perfect 12-0-2 record. Later, Zuppke included Clark, Pogue and Red Grange as his three greatest backs. 

Clark also starred on the Illini baseball team as a shortstop, and was good enough to be offered pro contracts by Hall of Fame managers John McGraw and Clark Griffith. Instead, Clark chose coaching as his future profession. His first job was as an assistant at Kansas in 1916, but service in World War I interrupted his career. 

Clark returned to Champaign when the conflict ended in 1919, joining Zuppke’s football staff, and later assumed head coaching duties with the Illini baseball team. 

In the fall of 1920, he was named head football coach and assistant baseball coach at Michigan State, but stayed in East Lansing for only two seasons. He moved back to Kansas for a five-year stint as the Jayhawks’ football coach, spent one season at Minnesota as an assistant, then accepted responsibilities as athletic director and head football coach at Butler University. 

By 1930, Clark was out of coaching, having begun a successful business in Indianapolis as an insurance broker. 

He returned to football when he was offered a position as coach for the NFL’s Portsmouth Spartans. The franchise was moved to Detroit in 1934 and a year later, with Dutch Clark and Buddy Parker in the backfield, Potsy’s Lions won the world championship. Though posting a creditable 8-4 record in 1936, Clark was fired by the Lions. Shortly afterwards, the NFL’s Brooklyn Dodgers hired him, but he was let go following the 1939 season. Detroit re-hired Clark in 1940, but resigned after that season to leave his 10-year stint as a head coach at 64-42-12. At the time, only three men, including George Halas and Curly Lambeau, had accumulated more pro victories. 

Clark was lured back into the game by the University of Grand Rapids, and his first hire was a former University of Michigan star named Gerald Ford. 

The patriotic Clark served in the U.S. Naval Reserves during World War II, then became athletic director at Nebraska and later at California Western. In 1956, Potsy left sports to enter a brokerage firm in La Jolla, Calif. 

He retired in 1968 and died four years later at the age of 78. 

Buddy Young

Claude "Buddy" Young

January 5, 2017
Claude “Buddy” Young was the University of Illinois’ first nationally famous African-American athlete and he was born on this date in 1926. 

Though he stood only five feet, four inches tall, the legacy he established in football and track and field at the University of Illinois during the 1940s was immeasurable. Enduring the prejudice of that era, Young was fortunate to have the moral support of his head coach, Ray Eliot. 

Buddy Young’s career story, by the numbers:

6.1 - His world indoor record-tying time in the 60-yard dash.

8 - Number of siblings he grew up with during his childhood in Chicago.

13 - Touchdowns Young scored for the Illini in 1944, tying Red Grange’s single-season record.

22 - The jersey number wore during his years with the Baltimore Colts. He became the first Colts player to have his number retired.

57 - His age when he died (Sept. 4) in an automobile accident in Texas.

66 - The number Young wore at the University of Illinois.

104 - Record number of yards he returned a kickoff for the Colts in a 1953 game.

172 - Pounds Young carried upon his five-foot, four-inch frame.

1945 - Year he was drafted by the U.S. Navy.

1947 - Year he won Most Valuable Player honors for Illinois in the ’47 Rose Bowl (103 yards on 20 carries, 2 touchdowns).

1966 - The year he joined the NFL staff as administrative assistant to the commissioner. He later became Director of Player Relations.

5,438 - Number of yards he accumulated as a pro runner and receiver in 10 seasons.

Darryl Usher

This Date in Illini History

January 3, 2017
Today would have been former Fighting Illini receiver Darryl Usher’s 51st birthday. He died on Feb. 24, 1990 in a double homicide in Phoenix, Ariz. at the age of 26. Recruited by Coach White to the University of Illinois in 1983 from San Mateo, Calif., the 5-8, 168-pound speed-burner starred in both football and as a sprinter on the track team. Usher played sparingly on UI’s ’83 Big Ten champs, but his strong work ethic helped him attain second-team All-Big Ten honors as a senior in 1987. That season, he led the Illini in receiving (43 for 723 yards and four touchdowns), kickoff returns (15 for 445 yards, 29.7 yards per return) and punt returns (37 for 308 yards, 8.3 ypr). His production earned him Illini Most Valuable Player honors. 

Other memorable events on this date in Illinois history:

• Jan. 3, 1942: In their first game together, Illinois’ “Whiz Kids” stunned defending national champion Wisconsin, 55-40, at Madison.

• Jan. 3, 1987: Ken Norman and Glynn Blackwell combined for 57 of Illinois’ 95 points in an 11-point victory over Michigan.

• Jan. 3, 1998: Kevin Turner’s career-high 35 points, including 20 in the first half, led the Illini past Indiana. They went on to win the Big Ten title.

• Jan. 3, 2001: At the Assembly Hall, Illinois started the Big Ten season with an 80-64 win versus 12-1 Minnesota. 

• Jan. 3, 2010: Karisma Penn’s lay-up as time expired lifted the Illini past Wisconsin, improving UI’s record to 10-3.

Ryan Schau

Illini Football Twins

December 30, 2016
Ryan and Tom Schau, who earned varsity letters in football from 1995-98 for the University of Illinois, celebrate their 41st birthday today. The former Bloomington, Illinois High School standouts came to Lou Tepper’s football program together, though only Ryan originally came to Champaign-Urbana with a scholarship in hand. Tom, a walk-on, ultimately earned a scholarship, too. Ryan eventually played in the NFL for the Philadelphia Eagles, Houston Texans and St. Louis Rams, while Tom played for the Green Bay Packers and Buffalo Bills. 

A list of Illinois football’s letter-winning twins:

•Alfred (1930-31-32) and Stanley (1930) Bodman, Bement, Illinois
•James (1934) and John (1935) Theodore, Spring Valley, Illinois
•Greg (1978-80-81) and Leroy (1977-78-79-80) Boeke, Winnebago, Illinois
•Kerry (1980-82-83) and Kurt (1981-83) Krueger, St. Louis, Missouri
•Tom (1986-87) and Todd (1986) Schertz, Tiskilwa, Illinois
•Ryan (1995-96-97-98) and Tom (1995-96-97-98) Schau, Bloomington, Illinois

Darrick Brownlow

Darrick Brownlow

December 28, 2016
Former three-time All-Big Ten linebacker Darrick Brownlow celebrates his 48th birthday today. 

Generally regarded as one of the top ten individuals who ever played linebacker at Illinois, Brownlow helped lead the Fighting Illini to three consecutive bowl games from 1988-90. He ended his collegiate career as the school’s No. 2 tackler of all time with 483 stops. 

Brownlow just missed being one of the Butkus Award’s three finalists his senior year. He  currently ranks third on Illinois' career tackles list and holds two of the four best single-season tackles totals. 

Brownlow was a fifth-round pick by the Dallas Cowboys in the 1991 NFL Draft and enjoyed a seven-year NFL career. 

Illinois’ top ten career tacklers (entering the 2008 season):

CAREER TACKLES (through 2015 season)
1. Dana Howard, 1991-94 ... 595
2. John Sullivan, 1974-78 ... 501
3. Darrick Brownlow, 1987-90 ... 483
4. John Gillen, 1977-80 ... 441
5. John Holecek, 1991-94 ... 436
6. J Leman, 2004-07 ... 407
7. Mason Monheim, 2012-15 ... 392
8. Danny Clark, 1996-99 ... 381
9. Dick Butkus, 1962-64 ... 374
10. Steve Glasson, 1986-89 ... 371

Tom Porter

Tom Porter

December 26, 2016
A longtime member of the University of Illinois staff, Tom Porter celebrates his 75th birthday on Dec. 26. He wrestled as an undergrad at Illinois, then at Indiana State where he eventually received bachelor’s and master’s degrees. 

Porter began his coaching career in 1965 at Mount Prospect High School and moved on to John Hersey High School in Arlington Heights where he guided the Huskies to state championships in 1971 and ’72. After four seasons at Hersey, Porter took a $4,000 cut in pay to become head coach of the Fighting Illin, replacing Jack Robinson. Two of his most successful wrestlers at Illinois were Kevin Puebla and Kevin Pancratz. Porter also served as an assistant football coach for the Illini. 

In 1978, athletic director Cecil Coleman transitioned Porter into administrative work at the UI, most prominently in summer camps, promotions and marketing. It was Porter who turned “Tailgreat” into a nationally prominent promotion and introduced UI logo merchandise as a revenue stream for the athletic department. Other ideas of Porter’s that flourished were the “Go Illini Card”, the “Illini Pride” student support organization and “Hometown Heroes”. 

He retired from his fulltime position at Illinois in 1999, but continued to serve A.D. Ron Guenther in a number of part-time roles. In 2002 and ’03, Porter returned to coaching in Mahomet and guided the Bulldogs to a 44-7 dual meet record in 2002 and ’03. Porter was inducted into the Illinois Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2012. Porter is currently in his first season as the head coach at Unity High School, re-joining his sons Rob (Naperville Central) and Brett (Mattoon) in the prep ranks. 

He and his wife, Pat, have been married for 51 years.

Dan Beaver

Dan Beaver

December 24, 2016
Dan Beaver, who celebrates his 62nd birthday on Christmas Day, rates as one of University of Illinois football’s greatest place kickers. Coach Bob Blackman recruited Beaver to Champaign from Westminster Brethren High School in Long Beach, California, where Dan played six-man football. Beaver’s father was a Christian missionary, and Dan spent ages 0-4, 6-8 and 12-15 in the Central African Republic. 

 From 1973-76, he set numerous Illini kicking records, including the longest field goal (57 yards vs. Purdue in 1975), most career field goals (38), most career extra points (84) and most total points (198). That latter accomplishment broke the 51-year-old career scoring record of Red Grange. 

Beaver followed in his father’s footsteps, and he and his wife, Tori, currently serve with First Love International in the Philippines. Dan is the athletic director at Faith Academy and also heads a sports evangelism outreach for churches and various ministries, while Tori ministers at a local international school. 

Jeff Brohm

Famous Illini Assistant Coaches

December 19, 2016
On December 5, former Fighting Illini assistant coach Jeff Brohm was named head coach of the Purdue Boilermakers. He become the 24th Illinois assistant who has gone on to become a head coach at either the collegiate or professional level. 

In alphabetical order, the list includes:

•Dee Andros (assistant to UI head coach Pete Elliott) – Oregon State
•Jeff Brohm (assistant to Ron Zook) - Purdue
•Bill Callahan (assistant to Mike White) – Oakland Raiders & Nebraska
•Lloyd Carr (assistant to Gary Moeller) –Michigan
•Brad Childress (assistant to White) – Minnesota Vikings 
•Ray Eliot (assistant to Bob Zuppke) – Illinois
•Walt Harris (assistant to White) -- Stanford
•Bert Ingwersen (assistant to Zuppke) – Iowa 
•Tim Kish (assistant to Ron Turner) – Arizona (interim)
•Mike Locksley (assistant to Turner) – New Mexico & Maryland (interim)
•Dick MacPherson (assistant to Ray Eliot) – UMass, Syracuse & New England Patriots
•Glen Mason (assistant to Moeller) – Kent State, Kansas & Minnesota
•Joe Novak (assistant to Moeller) – Northern Illinois
•Sean Payton (assistant to Lou Tepper) – New Orleans Saints
•Ellis Rainsberger (assistant to Jim Valek & Bob Blackman) – Kansas State
•Scott Shafer (assistant to Turner) - Syracuse
•Paul Schudel (assistant to Tepper) – Central Connecticut
•Bob Smith (assistant to Bob Blackman and Moeller) – Southern Illinois
•Chuck Studley (assistant to Eliot) – Houston Oilers (interim)
•Bob Sutton (assistant to Moeller) – Army
•Buddy Teevens (assistant to Turner) – Stanford & Dartmouth
•Lou Tepper (assistant to John Mackovic) -- Illinois
•Jim Valek (assistant to Eliot and Elliott) – Illinois
•Rick Venturi (assistant to Moeller) – Northwestern, Indianapolis Colts (interim) & New Orleans Saints (interim)
•Shawn Watson (assistant to White) – Southern Illinois

Cory Bradford

Cory Bradford

December 16, 2016
Sixteen years ago today, fifth-ranked Illinois defeated seventh-ranked Arizona, 81-73, in a battle royale at Chicago’s United Center. Five near skirmishes between the Illini and the Wildcats resulted in 53 total fouls. A crowd of 19,533 saw Cory Bradford break the NCAA record for consecutive games with a three-pointer. His trey late in the first half was his 74th in 74 career games, breaking Wally Lancaster’s 14-year-old record. 

Bradford would go on to sink three-point field goals in 14 more games, setting a record that still stands today. 

A review of his “trey-mendous” streak:

• First game with a “three”: Nov. 11, 1998 vs. Wake Forest
• Last game with a “three”: Feb. 10, 2001 vs. Purdue
• Game in which his streak ended: Feb. 13, 2001 vs. Wisconsin
• When his first “three” came in overtime: Dec. 9, 2000 vs. Seton Hall
• Game in which the NCAA record was tied: Dec. 9, 2000 vs. Seton Hall
• Game in which the NCAA record was broken: Dec. 16, 2000 vs. Arizona

Alex Agase

Chicago Tribune's Silver Football Award

December 14, 2016
Seventy years ago today, the University of Illinois’ Alex Agase was named winner of the Chicago Tribune’s Silver Football Award as the Big Ten Conference’s Most Valuable Player. He was the first lineman to be so honored since Minnesota’s Clarence “Biggie” Munn in 1931. 

Agase was the first Illini to win the award since Red Grange in 1924, the Tribune’s very first honoree. It wasn’t until 13 years after Agase’s selection that another Illini would win the trophy, that being Bill Burrell in 1959. Illinois’ Dick Butkus (1963) and Jim Grabowski (1965) won the award shortly after Burrell. 

Over the last 32 years, two other Illini players have been named Big Ten MVP: Don Thorp (1983) and Rashard Mendenhall (2007). 

Penn State running back Saquan Barkley and Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett won 2016 honors last week. 

 Big Ten schools, ranked according to total Silver Football Trophy winners:
•Ohio State (19)
•Michigan (17)
•Iowa (10) 
•Wisconsin (9)
•Indiana (7)
•Minnesota (6)
•Purdue (6)
•Northwestern (5)
•Penn State (4)
•Michigan State (3)
•Chicago (2)  

Deon Thomas

Deon Thomas

December 12, 2016
Twenty-three years ago--December 11, 1993--Deon Thomas became the University of Illinois men’s basketball’s all-time leading scorer. With 5:28 to go in the first half of the Illini’s 108-84 win vs. American University, UI’s No. 25 took a feed from teammate Jerry Hester on the baseline. He flipped up a feathery-soft shot that curled around the rim before dropping through the cords. 

The two-pointer gave him 1,693 points, eclipsing the record held for a dozen years by Eddie Johnson. Thomas would end his career later that season with 2,129 points, 437 more than Johnson. Thomas’s mark continues as the Illini standard. 

Other leading scorers at Big Ten universities:

• Illinois - 2,129 pts, Deon Thomas (1991-94)
•Indiana – 2,613 pts, Calbert Cheaney (1990-93)
• Iowa - 2,116 pts, Roy Marble (1986-89)
•Maryland – 2,269 pts, Juan Dixon (1998-02)
•Michigan – 2,442 pts, Glen Rice (1986-89)
•Michigan State – 2,531 pts, Shawn Respert (1991-95)
•Minnesota – 1,992 pts, Mychal Thompson (1975-78)
•Nebraska – 2,167 pts, Dave Hoppen (1983-86)
•Northwestern – 2,038 pts, John Shurna (2009-12)
•Ohio State – 2,096 pts, Dennis Hopson (1984-87)
•Penn State – 2,213 pts, Talor Battle (2008-11)
•Purdue – 2,323 pts, Rick Mount (1968-70)
• Rutgers – 2,399 pts, Phil Sellers (1973-76)
•Wisconsin – 2,217 pts, Alando Tucker (2003-07)

Marcus Griffin

This Date in Illini History

December 9, 2016
Sixteen years ago today, Illinois’ ninth-ranked men’s basketball team fought back from a 21-point deficit to beat No. 10 Seton Hall in overtime, 87-79. Marcus Griffin tied his career high with 24 points and grabbed a career-best 13 rebounds, while Frank Williams had 21 points, seven rebounds and five assists. 

Other highlights on this date in Fighting Illini athletics history:

•Dec. 9, 1925: Boston for another in the long line of professional exhibition games, showed his displeasure after someone suggested that he had already made a fortune. Said Grange, “A fortune? I haven’t seen a dollar of real money yet! Would you call if fun going all over the country, no sleep, playing every day? People asking you a lot of fool questions? I never realized what an awful job pro football is. I’m sick of it already, I tell you!”

•Dec. 9, 1966: Illinois and Illinois-Chicago Circle met each other in gymnastics, the first athletic event ever played between the sister institutions.

•Dec. 9, 1967: Elvin Hayes scored 25 points to lead highly ranked Houston past Illinois, 83-51, in Coach Harv Schmidt’s Assembly Hall debut. 

•Dec. 9, 1994: Dana Howard won the Butkus Award as college football’s best linebacker.

•Dec. 9, 1995: Kevin Hardy made its two Butkus Awards in a row for Illinois by winning the honor in Orlando, Florida.

Red Grange doll

This Date in Illini History

December 7, 2016
Ninety-one years ago today, former University of Illinois football star Red Grange signed a motion picture contract with Arrow Pictures of New York. He received a guaranteed $300,000 for his first screen appearances. The signing with Arrow president W.E. Shallenberger was held at the Hotel Astor. Earlier in the day, Grange also signed endorsement deals for a sweater ($12,000), a doll ($10,000), shoes ($5,000), a cap ($2,500), a football ($2,000) and posed for a picture for a cigarette company ($1,000). Red didn’t even smoke. 

Other memorable moments on this date in Fighting Illini history:

•Dec. 7, 1937: Doug Mills made his Illini coaching debut, leading Illinois past Carroll College, 48-25.

•Dec. 7, 1946: Illinois’ Alex Agase finished second to Notre Dame George Connor in balloting for the Outland Trophy.

•Dec. 7, 1951: UI’s Al Brosky was chosen as a first-team All-American by the Associated Press.

•Dec. 7, 1971: Nick Weatherspoon scored 26 points and grabbed 14 rebounds as Illinois crushed South Dakota, 96-56.

•Dec. 7, 1981: Tony Eason was named offensive MVP as Illinois’ football banquet.

•Dec. 7, 1991: Illinois’ basketball team won its 13th consecutive Illini Classic as Deon Thomas, Rennie Clemons and Tommy Michael were all named to the all-tournament team.

•Dec. 7, 1995: Theresa Grentz collected her first Huff Hall victory, a 72-54 win over Missouri.

•Dec. 7, 2002: No. 25 Illinois stayed undefeated (5-0) with a 62-58 victory over Arkansas in Little Rock. Brian Cook led the Illini with 18 points.

Monica Cundiff

Monica Cundiff

December 4, 2016
Happy birthday to former Illini basketball letter-winner Monica Cundiff. A three-sport star and 1988 graduate of Spalding Institute/Academy of Our Lady in Peoria, she was recruited to the University of Illinois by coach Laura Golden. Cundiff also lettered two seasons for coach Kathy Lindsey.

She briefly served as a color commentator for Illini women’s basketball games after her graduation, then was marketing director for Champaign’s Sagamore Publishing.

Cundiff has been a member of the University of Notre Dame’s athletics department staff since 1997 and is in her fifth season as assistant athletics director for event management. She’s also events manager for Notre Dame’s Joyce Center and oversees game operations during Irish home football weekends.

Cundiff additionally works as sport administrator for Notre Dame’s softball team and coordinates the university’s partnership with NBC Sports.

Bill Rucks

Standing Tall

December 2, 2016
Since 1940, 26 Fighting Illini basketball players have measured 6-10 or taller, including the late Bill Rucks, who today would have celebrated his 63rd birthday. However, at seven feet tall, big Bill was still two inches shorter than former Illini player Nick Smith. A list of the tallest Illini cagers:

7’2” Nick Smith (2002-05)
7'1" Meyers Leonard (2011-12)
7'1" Mike Tisdale (2008-11)
7’0” Bill Rucks (1974-75)
7’0” Jens Kujawa (1986-88)
7’0” Olaf Blab (1986-87)
6'11" Mike Thorne, Jr. (2016-present)
6'11" Nnanna Egwu (2012-15)
6'11" Brian Carlwell (2007)
6’11” Robert Archibald (1999-02)
6’11” Brett Robisch (1994-95)
6’11” Derek Holcolmb (1979-81)
6'10" Michael Finke (2016-present)
6'10" Maverick Morgan (2014-present)
6'10" Richard Semrau (2008-10)
6'10" Shaun Pruitt (2005-08)
6'10" James Augustine (2003-06)
6'10" Jack Ingram (2004-05)
6’10” Brian Cook (2000-03)
6’10” Fess Hawkins (1998-99)
6’10” Steve Roth (1992-95)
6’10” Scott Meents (1983-86)
6’10” Bryan Leonard (1981-82)
6’10” James Griffin (1979-82)
6’10” Jim DeDecker (1971-72)

Chris Babyar

Chris Babyar

November 30, 2016
Thirty-three years ago today, Fighting Illini offensive guard Chris Babyar and five of his teammates were named to the 1983 All-Big Ten first-team. Joining Babyar as offensive first-teamers were fellow lineman Jim Juriga and running back Dwight Beverly. 

Coach Mike White called Babyar “the team’s best offensive lineman at the end of the ’83 season.” As a fifth-year senior in 1984, Babyar repeated his all-conference honors, then played East-West Shrine game, the Blue-Gray game and the Senior Bowl post-season all-star games. No. 59, who blocked for Tony Eason and Jack Trudeau at Illinois, was a quarterback himself at Roselle’s Lake Park High School. 

He was a 10th-round pick of the Buffalo Bills in the 1985 NFL Draft. After two successful seasons in Buffalo, Babyar was traded to the Denver Broncos and blocked for Hall of Fame QB John Elway. Unfortunately, he suffered an on-field injury, shattering his left ankle and cutting his NFL career short. 

Babyar returned to Lake Park High as the Lancers’ offensive and defensive line coach, serving there for 18 seasons. In 2008, he founded Red Zone Blocking Clinics. 

Besides his work as a clinician, Babyar is Vice President of Hayes Industries in Elgin, a company he’s served since 1987.
Abe Saperstein

Abe Saperstein & the 3-Pointer

November 28, 2016
Did you know that a former University of Illinois student had a direct connection to instituting the three-point field goal into the game of basketball? Abe Saperstein, born in England but a nearly lifelong resident of Chicago, was a nine-sport participant at Lake View High School. He originally attended the U of I, but dropped out of school in 1922 to help support his family. Instead of following in his father’s footsteps of becoming a tailor, Saperstein pursued an administrative career in sports. In the late ‘20s, he formed his own team, the Harlem Globetrotters and his career is most closely associated with them. Saperstein started the American Basketball League in 1961, but to differentiate his ABL from the more established NBA, he introduced the three-point shot. Though his league only survived for a year-and-a-half, the three-point field goal has endured for more than half a century.

The three-pointer has been especially important to the Fighting Illini women’s basketball team over the years, particularly during the era of Coach Matt Bollant. In each of the last four seasons, Bollant’s Illinois teams have established records for shooting beyond the 20-feet-9-inch arc. Not only have the Illini women been shooting three-pointers more frequently since 2012-13, they’ve also been shooting the ball more accurately. Last season, Illinois attempted a record 693 treys, converting a record 224 for a percentage of 32.3.

UI’s top nine single-season efforts for three-point field goals:

     3-Pt FG Made   Season   Games    Pct.
1.   224                   2015-16     30        .323
2.   205                   2014-15     30        .316
3.   202                   2013-14     30        .312
4.   184                   2012-13     33        .290
5.   181                   2007-08     35        .335
6.   171                   2002-03     29        .337
7.   163                   2006-07     31        .348
8.   142                   1996-97     32        .339
9.   139                   2005-06     31        .342
Dick Butkus

Dick Butkus and the
1963 All-America Team

November 25, 2016
Fifty-three years ago today, Fighting Illini linebacker Dick Butkus was named to the American Football Coaches Association’s All-America Football Team. 

No. 50’s 145 tackles that season stood as the school’s single-season record until 1976. Later in the ’63 season, the junior from Chicago was awarded the Silver Football Award as the Big Ten’s Most Valuable player. 

Others joining Butkus as first-team All-Americans in 1963 included:
End Vern Burke, Oregon State
End Lawrence Elkins, Baylor
Tackle Scott Appleton, Texas
Tackle Carl Eller, Minnesota
Guard Bob Brown, Nebraska
Guard Rick Redman, Washington
Back Roger Staubach, Navy
Back Gayle Sayers, Kansas
Back Sherman Lewis, Michigan State
Back Jim Grisham, Oklahoma
Fred Green (left)

Judge Fred Green

November 23, 2016
Born on this date 93 years ago was four-time Fighting Illini basketball letter winner and longtime State of Illinois judge Fred Green. 

A Doug Mills recruit in 1942 from Urbana High School, he won all-state honors on the Tigers’ undefeated football team and similar kudos for the basketball team that finished second in the 1941 state tournament. Later in life, Green became a charter member of Urbana High’s Athletics Hall of Fame and also was inducted into the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame for his skills as a player. 

The 6-foot-7-inch center enlisted for Army service in World War II, despite being legally too tall. Green served for 27 months in the South Pacific, engaging in the battles of both Bougainville and Luzon. He won a Bronze Star for heroism in the Philippines. 

Upon conclusion of the war, Green enrolled at the University of Illinois and won varsity letters from 1946-49. He manned the post during the reunion year of the Whiz Kids in 1946-47, playing with Andy Phillip, Gene Vance, Jack Smiley and Ken Menke. 

In 1948-49, he, Dike Eddleman and Don Sunderlage led Coach Harry Combes’ squad to the Big Ten championship. 

Green graduated from UI’s College of Law in 1951 and was elected as a county judge in 1956. He became a Circuit Judge in 1964 and, ten years later, was elected Appellate Judge. Green retired in 1998 after 42 years of service. Local attorney Steve Beckett considered Judge Green as the fairest of judges, referring to him as a “judge for the people.” 

A regular attendee at Illini basketball games, Green died on Oct. 10, 2008 at the age of 84. 
Sergio McClain

This Date in Illini History

November 21, 2016
Forty years ago yesterday, Bob Blackman coached his final game at the University of Illinois. The Fighting Illini dominated Northwestern, 48-6, as a number of players excelled. Tailback Chubby Phillips rushed for 118 yards while Dan Beaver kicked a pair of field goals and six PATs. Senior tight ends Marty Friel and Frank Johnson had their best Illini efforts, catching a total of three touchdown passes from quarterback Kurt Steger. 

Other memorable events in Illinois sports history:

• Nov. 20, 1897: UI football played its first-ever night game, losing to the Carlisle Indians at the Chicago Coliseum, 25-6.

• Nov. 20, 1915: A 10-0 win over Chicago allowed Illinois to tie Minnesota for the Big Ten title.

• Nov. 20, 1920: At UI’s first-ever Dad’s Day, Ohio State topped Illinois in a showdown for the conference title, 9-0.

• Nov. 20, 1946: Big Ten and Pacific Coast Conference representatives signed a five-year contract to pit each league’s winners against each other in the Rose Bowl. Illinois would become the first Big Ten competitor.

• Nov. 20, 1979: Illini athletics director Neale Stoner fired Gary Moeller as head football coach.

• Nov. 20, 1998: Sergio McClain scored a career-high 24 points in Illinois’ 70-65 triumph over St. Louis.

• Nov. 20, 1999: Illinois ended the regular season on a three-game winning streak with a 29-7 win over Northwestern at Memorial Stadium. QB Kurt Kittner ended with 22 touchdown passes and just four interceptions.

• Nov. 20, 2004: In the NCAA Round of 16, the Illini beat visiting Nebraska, 2-1, on Sarah Brown’s penalty kick.

• Nov. 20, 2010: The Illini defeated Northwestern, 48-27, at Wrigley Field. Going in one direction because of safety concerns, UI’s Mikel Leshoure set a school record with 330 rushing yards.
John Groce

Illini Basketball's Biggest Rebounds

November 17, 2016
Yes, Illini men’s basketball fans, last year’s team didn’t measure up to your expectations. It’s true that an overall record of 15-19 and a Big Ten mark of 5-13 were understandably disappointing, but what would you expect to result from a brutal string of injuries that caused Tracy Abrams and six other Illini players to miss a total of 101 games. Wait until next year, sighed the fandom.

Well, next year is here. Twelve letter winners return in 2016-17, including about three-fourths of last season’s minutes, points and rebounds. How that experience equates into actual success, of course, remains to be seen, but improvement seems nearly certain.

Here are the biggest positive advancements from an Illini losing season to a winning season in men’s basketball history:

+23 games from 1906-07 (1-10) to 1907-08 (20-6)
+17 games from 2007-08 (16-19) to 2008-09 (24-10)
+16 games from 1998-99 (14-18) to 1999-00 (22-10)
+16 games from 1967-68 (11-13) to 1968-69 (19-5)
+13 games from 1960-61 (9-15) to 1961-62 (15-8)
+11 games from 1974-75 (8-18) to 1975-76 (14-13)
+10 games from 1927-28 (5-12) to 1928-29 (10-7)
+9 games from 1977-78 (13-14) to 1978-79 (19-11)
+8 games from 1991-92 (13-15) to 1992-93 (19-13)
+7 games from 1918-19 (6-8) to 1919-20 (9-4)
+5 games from 1970-71 (11-12) to 1971-72 (14-10)
Meyers Leonard

This Date in Illini History

November 11, 2016
Ninety-one years ago today, admirers of Harold “Red” Grange circulated petitions in Chicago to put the 22-year-old star’s name on the ballot as a candidate for the Republican nomination for congressman at large. However, section two of article one of the federal constitution provided that “no person shall be a representative who shall not have attained the age of 25 years.” 

 Other memorable events on this date in Illini history:

•Nov. 11, 1922: UI knocked host Wisconsin out of the conference title race with a 3-0 victory. Rune Clark’s drop kick from the 15-yard line was the game winner before a record crowd of 28,000.

•Nov. 11, 1933: Illinois won at Northwestern for the first time in five years, thanks to a 20-yard field goal by Dave Cook.

•Nov. 11, 1950: UI’s Al Brosky began his remarkable streak by intercepting a pass against Iowa, the first of 15 consecutive games with an interception.

•Nov. 11, 1963: Illini cross country star Allen Carius won his second consecutive Big Ten title, edging out Michigan State’s Dick Sharkey by less than four seconds.

•Nov. 11, 1972: UI’s Lonnie Perrin broke the Big Ten record for yards per play in a single game, rushing 12 times for 142 yards and completing two passes for 94 yards, as the Illini topped Indiana, 37-20. Perrin and George Uremovich also combined for a school-record 97-yard kickoff return.

•Nov. 11, 1998: The Illini basketball team won its season opener against Georgetown, 65-50, at New York’s Madison Square Garden, as freshman Cory Bradford led Illinois with 19 points.

•Nov. 11, 2000: Ohio State’s Dan Stulz kicked a 34-yard field goal as time expired to beat Illinois, 24-21.

•Nov. 11, 2005: In the first round of the NCAA Tournament, Illinois’ soccer team topped 20th –ranked Florida, 2-0. Netminder Rachel Frank, playing in only her fourth game, registered the shutout.

•Nov. 11, 2011: Meyers Leonard scored 15 points and blocked six shots as Illinois beat Loyola in the season opener, 67-49.

Craig Virgin

Illinois' Big Ten Cross Country Champions

November 9, 2016
Forty-two years ago on this date--November 9, 1974--Illinois’ Craig Virgin captured his second of a record four-consecutive Big Ten cross country individual titles. Even though the sophomore from Lebanon, Illinois, placed first in a time of 29:11.4, Coach Gary Wieneke’s Fighting Illini team placed third behind host Michigan and runner-up Wisconsin. 

Here’s the entire list of Illinois’ individual Conference cross country champions:  

•David Abbott, 1928

•Victor Twomey, 1945

•Allen Carius, 1962

•Allen Carius, 1963

•Craig Virgin, 1973

•Craig Virgin, 1974

•Craig Virgin, 1975

•Craig Virgin, 1976

Rich "John Quincy" Adams

Presidential Illini

November 7, 2016
Following what seems to have been an interminable campaign, Election Day 2016 is now just two days away. Though current University of Illinois football player Gimel President’s name certainly fits today’s theme, he’s not included on this list of former Fighting Illini athletes whose surname matches a former American commander in chief:

■ Rich “John Quincy” Adams, basketball (1975-78)
■ Erin “James” Buchanan, gymnastics (2014-16)
■ Laura “George W.” Bush, volleyball (1987-90)
■ Archie “Jimmy” Carter, football (1982-83)
■ Clarence “Grover” Cleveland, cross-country (1937)
■ Anita “Bill” Clinton, basketball (1993-94)
■ Marshall “Calvin” Coolidge, football (1925)
■ Dustin “Gerald” Ford, basketball coach
■ Marvin “James” Garfield, tennis (1949)
■ African “Ulysses S.” Grant, football (1985-87)
■ Dele “Warren” Harding, football (2016 freshman)
■ Jodie “William Henry” Harrison, basketball (1968-69)
■ Bannon “Rutherford B.” Hayes, track and field (1986-89)
■ Harold “Herbert” Hoover, track and field (1899)
■ Mannie “Andrew” Jackson, basketball (1958-60)
■ Harry “Thomas” Jefferson, football (1954-56)
■ Eddie “Lyndon B.” Johnson, basketball (1978-81)
■ Dan “John F.” Kennedy, fencing (1963-64)
■ Alex “Abraham” Lincoln, baseball (2012-13)
■ George “William” McKinley, football (1901-02)
■ Scott “Franklin” Pierce, basketball (1991-92)
■ Jonelle “James” Polk, basketball (1984-87)
■ Rita “Theodore” Roosevelt, basketball (1977)
■ Kymbriona “Zachary” Taylor, track and field (2013-16)
■ Beverly “George” Washington, track and field (1975-78)
■ Wendell “Woodrow” Wilson, football (1925-26)

Mike Bellamy

This Date in Illini History

November 5, 2016
Fifty-six years ago--Nov. 5, 1960--brothers Pete and Bump Elliott lined up against each other as head coaches. Bump’s Michigan Wolverines beat Pete’s Fighting Illini, 8-7, at Ann Arbor. Illinois placekicker Gerry Wood missed three field-goal attempts. Exactly six years later, Pete’s Illinois club beat Michigan at Ann Arbor, 28-21. 

Other highlights on this date in Illini history: 

• Nov. 5, 1910: Illinois’ football team beat Indiana, 3-0, as Otto Seiler drop-kicked a 48-yard field goal. It was the only three points surrendered by the Hoosier defense that season.

• Nov. 5, 1940: Former Illini star Lou Boudreau finished fifth in the American League MVP voting behind Tiger slugger Hank Greenberg.

• Nov. 5, 1955: Illinois upset No. 1-ranked Michigan, 25-6, as Bobby Mitchell rushed for 173 yards on just 10 attempts.

• Nov. 5, 1979: Neale Stoner began his duties as Illinois’ athletic director.

• Nov. 5, 1983: Quarterback Jack Trudeau passed for 342 yards, including 11 catches by David Williams for 188 yards, as UI beat Minnesota, 50-23, for its eighth consecutive Big Ten victory.

• Nov. 5, 1988: Illinois rallied from a 20-9 deficit with less than four minutes left, beating Indiana, 21-20. Jeff George’s touchdown pass to Mike Bellamy with just 26 seconds left was the game winner.

• Nov. 5, 1994: Ty Douthard scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns and Illinois came from behind to win at Minnesota, 21-17.

Adam Lingner

Adam Lingner

November 2, 2016
Adam Linger, former Fighting Illini center, celebrates his 56th birthday today. 

A four-year letter winner from 1979-82 for coaches Gary Moeller and Mike White, he went on to a stellar career as a long-snapper in the National Football League. 

Lingner was a ninth-round pick of Kansas City in the 1983 NFL draft and played for the Chiefs from 1983-86 and then again in 1988. He was traded to Buffalo in 1987, also playing for the Bills from 1989-95. Lingner snapped the ball to field-goal kickers such as Nick Lowery, Scott Norwood and Steve Christie. He was on the field at Super Bowl XXV (1991) in Tampa when Scott Norwood’s potential game-winning field goal against the New York Giants sailed wide right. 

After his retirement from pro football, Linger worked in the Bills’ marketing department as manager of community affairs. 

A member of Rock Island Alleman High School’s Hall of Fame, Lingner is the founder of Voters Direct Inc., a nonpartisan, not-for-profit political organization that seeks to create a more responsive government and a more effective election process by facilitating a direct line of communication between voters, their elected officials and candidates for political office. 

He currently resides in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Red Grange (upper right)

A Ghost Appears in Philly on Halloween 1925

October 31, 2016
Historians typically refer to the 1924 game versus Michigan as Red Grange’s greatest game, but others make a strong case for his performance on October 31, 1925 against Pennsylvania. 

On this cold and rainy day in Philadelphia, Penn fans had no doubt that the 5-0 Quakers wouldn’t stop Illinois’ great No. 77. The slippery footing, they thought, would contain Grange. They were wrong. 

Lon Eubanks, author of “The Fighting Illini”, a book published in 1976, wrote about The Galloping Ghost’s magnificent effort 79 years ago. “Before the game was five minutes old, Grange had scored,” Eubanks wrote, “romping 55 yards around end with his feet spewing water into the air as he ran. Soon afterward he was off again, this time gathering in a Penn punt and escaping for 55 yards to set up an Illini touchdown. Grange finished with 363 yards gained in 36 carries, a performance that left the gaggle of Eastern sportswriters agog. 

“Some tell the story about how Laurence Stallings, author of What Price Glory?, had been sent to the game to do a color story. He was so shocked by Grange’s performance that day that he reportedly struggled for an hour at the typewriter, groping to find words to describe Grange’s feats, and finally—crest-fallen—he tore up what he had written and exclaimed, ‘I can’t write it. It’s too big.’” 

“The cocky little bantam rooster of a writer, Damon Runyon, had no such hesitation, however. He wrote, ‘This man Red Grange of Illinois is three or four men and a horse rolled into one. He is Jack Dempsey, Babe Ruth, Al Jolson, Paavo Nurmi, and Man O’War. Put them altogether and they spell Grange.” 

Sue Nucci

This Date in Fighting Illini History

October 28, 2016
Forty-nine years ago today, Davis Jackson’s one-yard plunge with 34 seconds left helped Illinois beat Ohio State, 17-13, in Columbus. The 2-4 Fighting Illini won its second game in a row over the Buckeyes. Davis rushed 19 times for 78 yards and quarterback Dean Volkman connected on 12 of 20 passes for 170 yards. 

Other memorable moments on this date in Illini history:

Oct. 28, 1929: Illinois beat Michigan, 14-0, as UI campus celebrated Homecoming.

Oct. 28, 1944: Buddy Young’s 74-yard run gave Illinois an early lead at home against Notre Dame, but the Illini eventually fell to the Fighting Irish, 13-7.

Oct. 28, 1950: Illinois shut out Indiana, 20-0, as Johnny Karras topped 100 yards rushing for the second straight week.

Oct. 28, 1978: A museum honoring the achievements of Red Grange was dedicated in Wheaton, Ill.

Oct. 28, 1989: Illinois topped Wisconsin, 32-9, behind Jeff George, Howard Griffith and Moe Gardner. Wisconsin ran back the opening kickoff for a 96-yard touchdown. On the Badgers’ extra-point attempt, UI blocked the kick and Quintin Parker scored an NCAA-record 100-yard safety.

Oct. 28, 1991: Sue Nucci earned Big Ten Volleyball’s Player of the Week honors after recording a career-high 15 kills vs. Notre Dame and a career-best eight blocks against Michigan State.

Oct. 28, 1992: Simeon Rice was named to USA Today’s “Fabulous Freshman” team.

Ray Eliot (left)

Ray Eliot's Greatest Victories

October 26, 2016
Seventy years ago today—Oct. 26, 1946—Sam Zatkoff and Paul Patterson each scored touchdowns for Coach Ray Eliot’s Fighting Illini as they defeated Michigan, 13-9. It was UI’s first win versus the Wolverines since 1939.

Other big wins for the man called “Mr. Illini” included the following:

Sept. 26, 1942—Tony Butkovich scored two touchdowns as Illinois defeated South Dakota, 46-0, in Ray Eliot’s head coach debut.

Nov. 16, 1946—UI 16, No. 13 Ohio State 7: Julius Rykovich’s 98-yard TD run following an interception clinches the 1947 Rose Bowl berth for the Illini.

Jan. 1, 1947—UI 45, UCLA 14: A crowd of 93,083 sees Illinois dominate the Bruins in the first Pasadena match-up between Big Ten and PAC Eight teams.

Nov. 18, 1950—UI 14, No. 1 Ohio State 7: Eliot’s Illini knock off the top-ranked Buckeyes at Memorial Stadium. 

Nov. 3, 1951—UI 7, No. 15 Michigan 0: Illinois marches 84 yards in a howling snowstorm for the game-winning TD.

Nov. 24, 1951—UI 3, Northwestern 0: Sam Rebecca’s field goal helps the Illini land a spot in the 1952 Rose Bowl.

Jan. 1, 1952—UI 40, Stanford 7: Eliot’s Illini win their second Rose Bowl game in six years.

Oct. 10, 1953—UI 41, No. 3 Ohio State 20: J.C. Caroline and Mickey Bates combine for 344 yards as Illinois crushes the Buckeyes.  

Nov. 21, 1953--UI 39, Northwestern 14: The Illini beat the host Wildcats to win a share of the Big Ten title, but Big Ten athletic directors select Michigan State to play in the Rose Bowl.

Oct. 27, 1956—UI 20, No. 1 Michigan State 13: Abe Woodson runs for three TDs as Illinois stuns the top-ranked Spartans.

Nov. 21, 1959—UI 28, Northwestern 0: The Illini give Ray Eliot a victory in his final game as coach.

Jack Chamblin

Jack Chamblin

October 24, 2016
Fighting Illini fans of recent generations may not recognize the Jack Chamblin’s name, but he has held an instrumental role over several years at the University of Illinois. 

Six decades ago, in 1953 and ‘54, despite his 5-11, 191-pound frame, Chamblin became a star center for Coach Ray Eliot. Though he was a native of Robinson, Ill., the Illini weren’t his original first choice. Chamblin was initially recruited to the United States Military Academy. As a 19-year-old, The West Point cadet got caught up in a massive cheating scandal. Chamblin was innocent, but he was aware of situation and had discussed incidents with other class members. Army officials demanded that he and others name the guilty cadets, but he chose to take the Fifth and ultimately was one of 90 men to be dismissed from West Point. 

Chamblin returned home, then transferred to Illinois where he sat out the ’51 and ’52 seasons. He played with J.C. Caroline, Abe Woodson and others for UI’s Big Ten co-champions in ’53, then was chosen as the Illini’s Most Valuable Player the following year. 

The geology major joined his father’s Robinson-based business, Bradford Supply Company, in 1962. Chamblin became the company’s president in 1968, ultimately turning over control to his sons in 2011. 

He’s been extremely loyal to his community as well, playing a pivotal role in bringing a correctional center to the community, securing funds for the Lincoln Trail College and initiating efforts to bring a PGA Tournament to Robinson. Chamblin has consistently dug into his own pockets, funding scholarships at Robinson High School, and contributing to the UI Foundation and the Illinois State Historical Society. He’s also donated land to several non-profit organizations and has served as chair for the local Boy Scout Drive. 

Chamblin celebrates his 85th birthday on Thursday, Oct. 27. 

Frank Williams

Frank Williams: By the Numbers

October 21, 2016
Nineteen years ago today, Peoria Manual High School’s Frank Williams committed to play basketball for the University of Illinois. He joined former prep teammates Sergio McClain and Marcus Griffin, then helped lead the Fighting Illini to three sensational seasons from 1999-2000 through 2001-02. 

The basketball career of Frank Williams, by the numbers:

2 -  Number of times Williams was named Illini MVP

4 - Ended his UI career in fourth place with 212 steals

5 - Illinois’ fifth player to win the Big Ten Conference’s Silver Basketball Trophy

11 - With 1,440 total points, he finished in 11th place on the Illini’s career scoring list

14.3 - His points-per-game average at Illinois

20 - One of 20 players named to Illinois All-Century Team

25 - Williams was the No. 25 pick in the first round of the 2002 NBA Draft

30 - Williams’ jersey number at Illinois

75 - Illinois’ total victories during Frank’s three seasons

432 - Total number of assists Williams had for Illini

Red Grange

The Galloping Ghost

October 19, 2016
Red Grange: Poetry in Motion

Seventy-three years ago today--Oct. 19, 1924--New York Herald Tribune sports writer Grantland Rice, penned one of the most famous poems ever. The day before, the subject of his poem--Harold “Red” Grange of Illinois--had single-handedly dismantled top-ranked Michigan, 39-14. During the first 12 minutes of the game, the Galloping Ghost scored touchdowns the first four times he touched the ball, on runs of 95, 67, 56 and 44 yards. 

Here’s how Rice’s game story began the next day:  

A streak of fire, a breath of flame,
Eluding all who reach and clutch.
A gray ghost thrown into the game, 
That rival hands may never touch.
A rubber, bounding, blasting soul
Whose destination is the goal-- Red Grange of Illinois.

Bob Trumpy

Bob Trumpy

October 17, 2016
Forty-six years ago today, the Fighting Illini football team won only its second game ever at the University of Minnesota’s Memorial Stadium, behind the trio of Dick Butkus, Jim Grabowski and Bob Trumpy. Butkus registered 16 tackles, Grabowski ran for 98 yards and the 6-6, 228-pound Trumpy scored on a touchdown reception. 

Few fans realize that the former NFL tight end and notable broadcaster was once an Illini. Trumpy was recruited to Illinois out of Springfield by Coach Pete Elliott where earned all-state football and basketball honors for the Senators, and was a state long jump champion in the spring of his senior year (1963). 

He transferred to the University of Utah after his sophomore year. He played well for the Utes and was drafted in the 12th round by the Cincinnati Bengals, coached by the immortal Paul Brown. Despite being a high-round pick, Trumpy played his way into the starting lineup and had a sensational rookie season. He caught 37 passes for 639 yards and three touchdowns, earning a spot on the AFL Western Division All-Star Team. The following year, Trumpy had the best season of his career, catching 37 passes for 835 yards (a franchise record 22.6 yards per catch average) and nine touchdowns. In a game against the Houston Oilers, Trumpy became the first Bengals tight end ever to record three touchdown receptions in a single game. He played 128 NFL games over 10 seasons, catching 298 passes for 4,600 yards and 35 TDs. 

As successful a player as he was, Trumpy became even more noted as a broadcaster. He served as a popular color analyst on television with Jim Simpson, Don Criqui, Bob Costas, Dick Enberg, Tom Hammond and Charlie Jones. Now based in the Cincinnati suburb of Glendale, Ohio, the 71-year-old Trumpy currently works an analyst for CBS Radio Sports/Westwood One. 

Aaron Moorehead

Today in Illini History

October 14, 2016
At the University of Illinois 90th Homecoming, Coach Ron Turner’s football team treated a Memorial Stadium crowd of 62,639 to a 31-0 victory over Iowa. It was Illinois’ first Big Ten shutout in 10 years. Mondrian Long’s 75-yard touchdown return of an interception in the fourth quarter marked UI’s first defensive touchdown since 1998. The Illini’s offensive stars include Rocky Harvey (14 rushing attempts for 104 yards), Kurt Kittner (248 yards passing and three TDs), and Aaron Moorehead (125 yards receiving and two TDs. 

Other memorable events on this date include:

*Oct. 14, 1916: Colgate beat Illinois, 15-3, at Illinois Field. It marked the first Illini football loss since 1913. 

  *Oct. 14, 1933: Les Lindberg’s 75-yard touchdown run keyed Illinois’ 21-0 Homecoming victory over Wisconsin.

*Oct. 14, 1944: Buddy Young scored touchdowns the first two times he touched the ball (64 and 30 yards) as Illinois crushed Iowa, 40-6, at Memorial Stadium.

*Oct. 14, 1978: Quarterback Rich Weiss rushed for 106 yards and passed for 71 yards as Illinois tied previously unbeaten Wisconsin, 20-20.

*Oct. 14, 1989: Jeff George made a triumphant return to Purdue, leading UI to a 14-2 victory over the Boilermakers. George had begun his collegiate career in West Lafayette.

*Oct. 14, 1989: The day before Illinois’ first basketball practice, the university announced that Deon Thomas would be withheld from practice until the NCAA concludes its investigation.

Tommy Stewart

Tommy Stewart

October 12, 2016
It’s accurate to say that Thomas C. “Tommy” Stewart had a personal and positive impact on more Champaign youngsters than nearly anyone.

During his 31 years of coaching football at Champaign High School and Central High, the former Fighting Illini star was a consistent standard for honesty and integrity. 

Stewart, a native of Gary, Ind., enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1944, serving two years, primarily at Pearl Harbor. Upon his discharge in 1946, he chose to attend Illinois over Notre Dame and became an outstanding player for Coach Ray Eliot. Stewart was a freshman defensive back and backup quarterback for the 1946 Big Ten titlists and 1947 Rose Bowl champions. As a junior QB in 1948, he completed 20-of-39 passes for 306 yards and a touchdown. Altogether, Stewart lettered four times for the Illini. 

He became Bement High School’s head football coach in 1951, then two seasons later became an assistant to Fred Majors at Champaign High. When Majors was sidelined by health issues midway through the 1953 season, Stewart took over as head coach. Some of the players he coached from 1953-83 included Jeff Trigger, Stu Clark, Billy Stahl, Skip Ohl, Rich Callaghan and scores of others. Including a pair of undefeated teams in 1956 and ’66, Stewart retired as the state’s winningest active coach, compiling 207 victories. He also served as Central head baseball coach for five seasons. 

Stewart served a variety of roles at University of Illinois football games, including as the official timekeeper. 

He died in March of 2012 at the age of 86. Last Sunday marked the 91st anniversary of his birth in 1925.

Matt Heldman

Today in Illini History

October 10, 2016
Twenty-four years ago today—Oct. 10, 1992—Illinois’ Jeff Arneson, celebrating his 22nd birthday, returned an Ohio State fumble 96 yards, and led the Fighting Illini to an 18-16 victory at Columbus. Late in the game, quarterback Jeff Kinney directed the UI offense on a 15-play, 86-yard, 8:29 drive that ended with a game-winning field goal by Chris Richardson. It was Illinois’ third straight victory at Ohio Stadium and its fifth overall against the Buckeyes. 

Other Illini highlights on this date:

1914: Illinois handed Indiana its worst loss ever, a 51 to nothing drubbing at Illinois Field. 

1942: The Fighting Illini football team broke defending national champion Minnesota’s 18-game winning streak with a 20-13 victory as lineman Alex Agase scored a pair of touchdowns.

1953: J.C. Caroline rushed for 192 yards and Mickey Bates added 152 more yards, including four touchdowns, as Illinois upset powerful Ohio State by a score of 41-20.

1965: Former Illini basketball star Ray Woods died at the age of 70.

1975: Former Sports Information Director Chuck Flynn resigned from the University of Illinois to become editor and general manager of the Champaign News-Gazette.

1999: Former Illini basketball star Matt Heldman, his father, and two others were killed in an automobile accident in Libertyville, Illinois.

Ron Guenther

Ron Guenther

October 7, 2016
Ron Guenther, the University of Illinois’ longtime athletic director, celebrated his 71st birthday on Oct. 3. Here’s a timeline of his life, his career and his accomplishments:

1945: Born approximately two months after the end of World War II

1963: Graduated from York High School in Elmhurst, Illinois

1966: Selected as Illinois football’s Most Valuable Player

1967: Earned Bachelor of Sciences degree from UI 

1968: Awarded Master’s degree from UI; began duties as teacher and coach for Evanston Township and Glenbard High School systems

1971: Named offensive line coach at Boston College

1975: Began eight years of service at North Central College

1983: Named UI assistant athletic director for Chicago operations

1988: Named UI’s Interim Director of Athletics for External Operations

1992: Named Director of Athletics for University of Illinois

1996: $7.2 million Bielfeldt Athletic Administration Building opens

1997: Women’s basketball team wins first-ever Big Ten title; women’s soccer makes its varsity debut; Irwin Academic Services Center opens

1998: $5.5 million Richard T. Ubben Basketball Practice Facility opens

2000: $12.5 million Irwin Indoor Football Practice Facility opens; women’s softball makes its varsity debut

2001: Illinois’ football team wins Big Ten Championship, plays in Sugar Bowl; Guenther selected as NACDA’s Central Region Athletic Director of the Year; $2 million Eichelberger Softball Field opens

2002: NFL’s Chicago Bears play 2002 regular-season schedule at UI’s Memorial Stadium

2003: Illini men’s tennis team wins NCAA championship

2005: Illini men’s basketball team plays in National Championship Final; Guenther inducted into Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame

2007: $5.1 million Demirjian Golf Practice Facility opens

2008: Illini football team plays in Rose Bowl; $116 million Memorial Stadium renovation project completed

2009: Illini athletic program finished 20th in NACDA Director’s Cup competition; Khan Outdoor Tennis Complex opens

2011: Guenther retired on July 1.

Scott Weaver

Scott Weaver

October 5, 2016
Twenty years ago today—October 5, 1996—University of Illinois quarterback Scott Weaver passed for four touchdowns as the Fighting Illini beat Indiana, 46-43, in the first-ever overtime game in Big Ten football history. In the extra session, Illinois and Indiana both scored TDs on their first possessions. After an Illini defensive stand, Weaver then hit Jason Dulick with his career-best fourth TD of the game for the victory. 

A native of Beaver Falls, Pa., Weaver went on to enjoy a fine collegiate football career at Illinois where he was a four-year starter at quarterback, finishing as the seventh-best passer in school history. Weaver was the ABC Player of the Game versus Michigan in 1994 and in 1996 he was named the recipient of the George Huff Scholar-Athlete Award at Illinois. He completed his bachelor’s degree in speech communications at Illinois in 1996 and earned a master’s degree in business administration in 1998. 

Weaver coached for years as an assistant at Eastern Michigan University (2004-08) after spending the previous four seasons as an assistant football coach under Lou Tepper at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. Prior to his Edinboro experience, Weaver was the quarterbacks coach at Tiffin University in 1998 and 1999. He left coaching in 2009 to become a pharmaceutical representative in Detroit and then Grand Rapids. Weaver and his wife, Kimberly, have two daughters.

Ken Menke

Ken Menke

October 3, 2016
Yesterday was the 96th anniversary of the birth of former University of Illinois Whiz Kids star Ken Menke. 

Born in East Dundee on Oct. 2, 1922, he was a multi-sport star at Dundee High School. Illini coach Doug Mills lured him to play for the Orange & Blue where the 6-foot-3-inch Menke teamed with Gene Vance, Art Mathisen, Andy Phillip and Jack Smiley to form one of Illinois’ greatest teams. 

The Whiz Kids won back-to-back Big Ten Conference titles in 1942 and ’43. As a sophomore in ’42, Menke was second to Phillip in scoring and 10th in the conference, and earned second-team All-Big Ten honors. He was injured midway through the ‘43 season but still finished third in team scoring. 

Military service as a field artillery soldier during World War II stalled Menke’s basketball career, but he rejoined his teammates at Illinois for the 1946-47 campaign. 

Menke played professionally for Fort Wayne in 1948 and for Waterloo in 1950. He coached at Galesburg High School for four seasons and helped the Silver Streaks win a regional championship. Menke joined with his brother and father in the family’s construction business, then later worked as a court bailiff. 

He died on Sept. 2, 2002, just a month shy of his 80th birthday. Menke is buried at Elgin’s Lakewood Memorial Park.

John Mackovic

John Mackovic

September 30, 2016
Tomorrow marks the 73rd birthday of former Fighting Illini football coach John Mackovic. Illinois’ 19th head coach was named to that post on February 3, 1988 by athletic director Neil Stoner. Each of Mackovic’s four teams he directed earned bids to Bowl games, and his 1990 club shared the Big Ten title. He became the first man to earn Conference Coach of the Year honors in each of his first two seasons. Less than 11 months after he was named head coach, Mackovic also became the school’s athletic director. He resigned both positions in December of 1991 to become head coach at the University of Texas. Mackovic’s 10 most memorable victories at Illinois:

Oct. 1, 1988: Mackovic celebrated his 45th birthday with a victory at Ohio State, Illinois’ first triumph in Columbus in 21 years.

Nov. 5, 1988: Trailing 20-9 with less than four minutes remaining, quarterback Jeff George threw dramatic TD passes to Shawn Wax and Mike Bellamy. The Illini win, 21-20.

Sept. 4, 1989: Two touchdowns in the final six minutes help Illinois beat highly ranked Southern California on Labor Day night at the Coliseum.

Oct. 7, 1989: Howard Griffith (117 yards rushing) and Jason Verduzco (126 yards passing) led Illinois past Ohio State, 34-14, in Champaign.

Jan. 1, 1990: Illinois ended season at 10-2 with a 31-21 Citrus Bowl victory vs. Virginia.

Sept. 15, 1990: The Illini handed eventual co-national champion Colorado its only loss of the season.

Sept. 22, 1990: Howard Griffith scored an NCAA-record eight touchdowns in Illinois’ 56-21 victory over Southern Illinois.

Oct. 6, 1990: Illinois beat Ohio State for the third consecutive season, 31-20, at Columbus.

Oct. 20, 1990: Doug Higgins’ record-tying five field goals, including a game-winning 48-yarder in the last minute, helped Illinois defeat MSU, 15-13.

Oct. 12, 1991: Chris Richardson kicked a 41-yard field goal with only 37 seconds left to lead Illinois past Ohio State, 10-7.
Avery Brundage

Avery Brundage

September 28, 2016
Longtime International Olympic Committee (IOC) President and 1909 University of Illinois graduate Avery Brundage was born on this date 129 years ago today. He progressed from being an Illini athlete to a being an Olympic competitor, then from being a highly successful leader in the corporate world to becoming involved in amateur athletic administration. Brundage first governed America’s Olympic efforts, then rose to his post as the IOC’s top man in 1952. A timeline of his remarkable career:

1905: Graduated from Chicago Crane Tech High School.

1909: Received honors degree in civil engineering from U of I.

1912: Participated in the Summer Olympic Games (sixth in pentathlon & 16th in decathlon).

1928: Elected President of the American Olympic Association, American Olympic Committee and American Athletic Union.

July 30, 1936: Became member of the IOC.

1946: Named First Vice President of the IOC.

Aug. 15, 1952: Became President of the IOC.

1960: His personal fortune is estimated at $25 million.

Sept. 11, 1972: Retired from the IOC.

May 8, 1975: Died at the age of 87, leaving the U of I his papers and memorabilia
Bill Burwell

Bill Burwell

September 26, 2016
Though the borough of Brooklyn, N.Y. is best known as the longtime home of professional baseball’s Dodgers, its most prolific contribution has traditionally come from the sport of high school basketball. Brooklyn’s Boys High School, located in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, has produced an amazing collection of prep stars who went on to become world famous, including Hall of Famers Connie Hawkins and Lenny Wilkens. 

Bill Burwell, another standout player from Boys High, became a prominent member of the University of Illinois’ 1963 Big Ten champions. At 6-8, 235 pounds, Burwell was by far the biggest Illini player on Coach Harry Combes’ squad. In three seasons—1960-61, ’61-62 and ’62-63—he averaged 15.3 points per game. In fact, when Burwell graduated, he ranked as UI’s third-leading scorer of all-time with 1,119 points. His top single-game scoring effort ironically came at New York’s Madison Square Garden (26 points). Perhaps Burwell’s most important role with the Illini came as a rugged rebounder. He averaged nearly 10 boards per game, second only to teammate Dave Downey. 

Today, his 9.6 rebounds per game average is sixth-best in Illinois’ record book, trailing only Nick Weatherspoon (11.3), Skip Thoren (11.2), Downey (11.0), Don Freeman (10.3) and Dave Scholz (9.7). Burwell’s 21 rebounds versus Wisconsin on Feb. 19, 1962 once tied for the school record. The team’s overall record during Burwell’s last two seasons was a respectable 35-14. Today marks his 76th birthday.
Kurt Kittner

This Date in Fighting Illini History

September 23, 2016
  Twenty-seven years ago today, Coach John Mackovic’s Fighting Illini football team defeated Utah State, 41-2, in the school’s home opener at Memorial Stadium. Defensive coordinator Lou Tepper directed an Illinois defense that held USU to just three first downs and 82 yards of total offense. The Illini offense racked up 507 yards as Illinois improved its record to 2-1. The 1989 squad would ultimately finish with a 10-2 record and was ranked 10th in the final polls. 

Other memorable Illini moments on this date:
  Sept. 23, 1898: Dr. Jacob Shell of Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania was appointed as UI’s athletic director.
  Sept. 23, 1944: Paul Patterson rushed for 108 yards and a touchdown in Illinois’ 26-18 win versus Indiana.
  Sept. 23, 1967: New head coach Jim Valek lost his debut at Illinois, falling to Florida by a score of 14-0.
  Sept. 23, 1972: Top-ranked Southern California topped host Illinois, 55-20. In his first start at quarterback, UI’s Tom McCartney directed scoring drives of 45, 85 and 78 yards.
  Sept. 23, 1995: Volleyball’s Erin Borske shattered UI’s record for kills with 44 in 92 swings, but the Illini fell in a near upset of sixth-ranked Penn State. Sept. 23, 1995: Duane Lyle intercepted three passes as Illinois nipped East Carolina, 7-0.
  Sept. 23, 2000: No. 10 Michigan defeated 17th-ranked Illinois, 35-31, before a sellout crowd of 72,524 at Memorial Stadium. Illini quarterback Kurt Kittner threw for 352 yards in the loss.


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