Let's start with the sad news first, shall we? This is not intended to get all Iowa fans fired up, but anytime Illinois loses to Iowa in anything it breaks my heart. Going to Iowa City to watch the men's basketball team roll over had me asking for Rolaids when the game ended. Then, to add icing on the cake, Iowa fans were yelling the ILL-INI chant any time they saw an Illini fan. The football game I knew better, but I still had hope. We all know how that turned out.
In April the sad news was that the Illini men's basketball team lost another coach (not because it was Bill Self, trust me). The timing of his departure was sad because Charlie Villanueva was coming to town. I was really okay with Self's decision, but what I wasn't okay with was Self not telling the kids he recruited that he was leaving them. Bad man Santa.
Going back to the football season, I would have never guessed this team would win only ONE football game. Most fans think Illinois is just a basketball school. I say to most, "I beg to differ; just ask Dick Butkus, Kurt Kittner, Brandon Lloyd, and oh yea that cat from Play U, better know as Simeon Rice." Having said that, another coach loses his job in the football program. Ron Turner decided to let his defensive coordinator go, looking to solve the 427 yards a game the Illini gave up.
Next up is the good old Shaun Livingston saga. This should have been #1 on my list because in all my years of following, covering and supporting the Illini, never was I so sure on something as I was on Livingston coming to Illinois. I received a phone call from a loyal Duke journalist telling me, "Kedric, it's over. He's coming to Duke." Mind you, I received this call on Monday afternoon. I told him he was crazy because I spoke with Papa Livingston and he said no way. As a matter of fact, Papa Livingston was giving me the 411 on basketball drills that same day to help my own son. Then to top that off I heard about the Brian Cook jersey from papa, but was told, "Ked, don't read too much into that." I didn't, but maybe I should have. For my son who bought a $30.00 hat the last time Livingston came to Assembly Hall and got it autographed - it's now for sale!
Next on my list is when I found out the people I love so dearly (Illini fans) had written nasty e-mails to our new basketball coach, Bruce Weber. How on earth could "my people" do such a thing? The man had only coached 4 games. I know he's a Division I basketball coach and makes a pretty good living, but that still doesn't gives any of us the right to send hate mail, does it? The last thing we want to do is make ourselves look like our friends from Hawkeye-land. I know we don't want that, now do we?
Okay, enough of that. How about some good news? Our first men's Tennis National Championship. What about goalkeeper Leisha Alcia who became the first Illini to be named first team AA in soccer, voted by the coaches.
The Illini also won its first men's Big Ten Tournament Basketball Championship in the Windy City. Another "good news" day was the day Shaun Pruitt gave a verbal to Weber. This was great news because the Illini went head-to-head with one of the best coaches and teams in the collegiate game today, and won!
Now, Mr. Claus, for my Christmas wish list:
1. The Illini to hire a defensive coordinator that is good and will help them get to another bowl game so Ron Turner can rest easy at night. My pick would be Mike Singletary.
2. Bruce Weber to win the Big Ten out-right and then the Big Ten Tournament. Something Bill Self has yet to do in the same season. Oh, and one more thing Santa, please don't let Mr. Weber get any more nasty letters.
3. For the State's best athletes to stay home and give their state school good luck. I don't just mean basketball either - every sport from soccer to tennis, softball to track.
4. My final wish, Mr. Santa, is to sit down one day with the best Athletic Director in college athletics (Ron Guenther) face-to-face for an interview.
Mr. Claus, I know I've asked a lot of from you this year, but if the Illini fans are really good next year, do you think you can get my back?