Mike Thomas will take the helm of the University of Illinois' athletic department before the season's first football game on Sept. 3.
The 51-year-old Thomas is currently the athletic director at the University of Cincinnati, and before that he had the same position at the University of Akron.
During his tenure in Cincinnati, Thomas is credited with boosting UC's athletic program to national prominence, while raising money for the department's budget by $7 million dollars. He also lowered the annual operating deficit by more than $6 million. Thomas said fundraising will be one of his top priorities at the U of I.
"We need to get out there, and probably raise more money," Thomas said. "With tuition going up every year, it's almost gone up seven percent this year. You know, I think that's going to be key. I think that's a pressing issue, but it always will be."
Thomas added that the U of I's sports teams need to be branded better nationally.
"I think we need to be the king of the state," he said. "If we're doing things the right way, if we're winning at a high level, if we're working with integrity, and our kids continue to get it done in the classroom, our goal is to be a national brand, identifiable from coast to coast."
Thomas replaces long-time U of I athletics director Ron Guenther, who retired this summer after nearly 20 years on the job.
Among the many issues facing Thomas at the U of I are plans to expand Assembly Hall. University President Michael Hogan said that project is still on track to move forward.
"We have hired an architectural engineering firm to evaluate Assembly Hall, and to give us some options on what we might do and what we can afford," Hogan explained. "When Mike gets here, that will be one of his very first assignments."
Thomas' appointment comes one day after the university announced Phyllis Wise would become the next chancellor and vice president of the Urbana campus. Wise is expected to officially start her job Oct. 1, pending approval by the university's Board of Trustees
Former University of Illinois basketball player Jereme Richmond faces battery and weapons charges.
The (Arlington Heights) Daily Herald reports Richmond, of Waukegan, was arrested Monday after police say he shoved a 17-year-old girlfriend and threatened to shoot her outside her house. Police drove up as 19-year-old Richmond searched for something in a car while another man waited. Police found a gun in the car.
Richmond is charged with aggravated battery, aggravated unlawful use of weapons, domestic battery and other charges. Lake County court officials say he hasn't entered a plea and doesn't yet have an attorney.
Richmond was heavily recruited but spent one season at Illinois. He played sparingly and was benched for off-court issues before leaving for the NBA draft. He wasn't drafted.
The association that oversees Illinois high school sports has announced it will continue testing athletes for performance enhancing drugs.
The Illinois High School Association said Monday its board voted to continue the testing that started in the 2008-09 school year. Illinois is one of three states that test high school athletes for performance enhancers such as steroids.
The association said it tested 747 athletes last school year and had four positive tests. Two of those were cleared by medical review and two were found to be true positives.
IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman said critics might consider the low number of positive test results a reason to stop testing. But he said the program is meant to be a deterrent rather than to catch all offenders.
Illinois will be joined by West Virginia in a stop at an American air base on its upcoming trip to Italy.
The university says the Illini and Mountaineers will be at Aviano Air Base on Aug. 17.
The teams will face each other on base in a short scrimmage.They'll also conduct a clinic for children of troops stationed at the base north of Venice. The teams will also hold a dunk contest and scrimmage against some of the troops.
Illinois coach Bruce Weber says the event required an NCAA waiver. He says he's looking forward to the visit.
The Illini leave for Italy on Aug. 10 and return ten days later. They'll play Italian pro squads and other teams while abroad.
(With additional reporting from The Associated Press)
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn continues to meet with those who have an interest in gaming legislation lawmakers approved earlier this year.
Quinn said he is listening to both critics and supporters of a plan to add 5 new casinos in the state, including one in Chicago, Danville, Rockford, Lake County and Chicago's south suburbs. The measure would also allow slot machines at Chicago airports and at horse tracks, including the State Fairgrounds in Springfield.
"Last Friday I saw the Rockford people," Quinn said. "This Friday I am seeing the horsemen and people involved in raising horses. There are others who are interested in the bill, both pro and con. I think there are some strong critics of the bill that are on our schedule. I want to make sure everyone gets their voice heard."
Quinn has been critical of the gaming expansion, saying it is "top heavy." However, he has said he is willing to consider a Chicago casino if it is done properly.
Supporters say the gaming legislation will bring a revenue windfall to the state. But opponents warn it lacks regulatory safeguards and should be rejected.
The Chicago Crime Commission has criticized the legislation, calling it "flawed" and saying it will lead to corruption. The watchdog group said Wednesday that Quinn shouldn't sign the law because it cannot be successfully implemented.
Lawmakers passed the legislation in May, but Illinois Senate President John Cullerton has a legislative "hold'' on it so lawmakers can try to work out a deal. With that hold in place, Quinn cannot act on the bill.
"The senate president continues to talk to the governor about what specific concerns he there might be, if there is a need to go back in and tighten up various language," Cullerton spokesman John Patterson said.
But sources say Cullerton will send the bill to Quinn's desk by the end of the month, regardless of a possible veto from Quinn.
If Quinn vetoes or changes the bill, the General Assembly will need to pass it again. The veto session starts the last week in October.
Concussions experts are working to raise awareness about brain injury symptoms ahead of new Illinois legislation aimed at preventing affected student athletes from resuming play too soon.
About 100 coaches, trainers and athletic directors from around Illinois gathered at an awareness-raising symposium Wednesday at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Doctors there urged them to spread the word about concussion symptoms to parents and players involved in contact sports.
Gov. Pat Quinn is expected to sign legislation Thursday requiring student athletes with concussions to get medical approval before resuming play.
Hall of Famer Dan Hampton told the forum that times have changed from his football days, when in his words, "the more barbaric it was, the better.'' He says he embraces the law, and that young athletes should, too.
New Jersey Nets point guard and former Fighting Illini standout Deron Williams says on Twitter that he has officially signed with Turkey's Besiktas.
The All-Star guard has posted a picture of Friday's agreement with Besiktas bearing his signature on his Twitter account. Williams says on Twitter: "just made it official, headed to Turkey...signed with Besiktas.''
Williams averaged 20.1 points and 10.3 assists for the Nets and the Utah Jazz last season.
Hall of Fame slugger Hank Greenberg was known for more than his intimidating figure and prodigious home runs. The Detroit Tiger favorite also became a hero for those of the same faith. Illinois Public Media's Jeff Bossert talks to author Mark Kurlansky about the complicated life of the Jewish sports star.
LIFE ON ROUTE 150: Racing Tradition Kept Alive in Farmer City
Traveling along Route 150, you've got to obey the rules of the road, but at one popular hangout in Farmer City, those same rules don't apply. Illinois Public Media's Sean Powers took a trip there for the wild and fast world of dirt late model racing as part of the series "Life on Route 150."
Danville's new minor league hockey team will take the name of an old one. The Danville Dashers will become the westernmost team in the Federal Hockey League, when it begins play this coming fall. Home games will be played at the David S. Palmer Arena. That same arena hosted the old Danville Dashers, playing in the Continental Hockey League in the 1980s.
The Palmer Arena will also host a new indoor football team, beginning in 2012. The Ultimate Indoor Football League announced Tuesday that it's launching an expansion team in Danville, with play to begin next March.The team will mark indoor football's return to Danville for the first time since the Danville Demolition played one season for the American Indoor Football Association in 2007. The UIFL is holding a contest to choose a name for the new team.