Illinois Public Media News
(With additional reporting from Illinois Public Radio)
Ron Santo was elected to baseball's Hall of Fame on Monday, chosen by the Golden Era committee almost a year after the Chicago Cubs third baseman died hoping for the honor.
Santo drew 15 votes from the 16-member panel. It took 75 percent - 12 votes - to get chosen.
Santo was a nine-time All-Star, hit 342 home runs and won five Gold Gloves. He was a Cubs broadcaster for two decades, eagerly rooting for his favorite team on the air.
Santo received 15 votes from the 16-member panel. Twelve votes are need to make it into the Hall of Fame. Other baseball greats considered included Jim Kaat who received 10 votes, and Gil Hodges and Minnie Minoso who each had nine votes. Minoso went on to play for the Chicago White Sox, and he was the first African-American to wear a major league baseball uniform in Chicago.
Santo joined former Cubs teammates Ernie Banks, Billy Williams and Ferguson Jenkins in the Hall. That famed quartet did most everything at Wrigley Field through the 1960s except reach the World Series.
His longtime teammate, Billy Williams, was among the Hall of Famers on the committee. Williams said Santo's contributions to the community played a role in the decision.
"The numbers are there. Everybody saw the numbers, the Gold Gloves, and I think they looked at it with a different view," Williams said.
Santo will be inducted into Cooperstown on July 22, along with any players elected by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America on Jan. 9. Bernie Williams joins Jack Morris, Barry Larkin and others on that ballot.
Santo never came close to election during his 15 times on the BBWAA ballot, peaking at 43 percent - far short of the needed 75 percent in his last year of eligibility in 1998.
Santo's wife, Vicki, said the honor will carry on his legacy, but she said it's a disappointment Santo wasn't inducted before he died last year.
"When his number was retired at Wrigley Field and he stood in front of 40,000 people and said this is my hall of fame, he truly meant that," she said. "I always believed he was meant to be in the Hall of Fame, but obviously not during his life time."
A star while playing with diabetes, a disease that eventually cost him both legs below the knees, Santo died last December from complications of bladder cancer at age 70.
Santo had come close in previous elections by the Veterans Committee. The panel has been revamped several times in the last decade, aimed at giving a better chance to deserving candidates.
UCLA and Illinois will bring interim coaches into their matchup at the Fight Hunger Bowl.
The Bruins (6-7) and Illini (6-6) accepted their bids Sunday to the Dec. 31 game in San Francisco. Illinois opened the season 6-0 before losing its final six games of the season.
That led to coach Ron Zook being fired and replaced by defensive coordinator Vic Koenning, who is the interim coach.
UCLA fell below .500 Friday night when it lost 49-31 in the Pac-12 title game to Oregon in coach Rick Neuheisel's final game.
The NCAA approved a waiver for the Bruins because they were bowl eligible before the conference championship game. Offensive coordinator Mike Johnson will coach the Bruins in the bowl game.
The University of Illinois' Board of Trustees has unanimously approved a contract with a Chicago-based architectural firm to draft renovation plans on the Urbana campus' Assembly Hall.
The initial phase of project costs more than two million dollars. During Friday's trustees meeting in Springfield, U of I Athletic Director Mike Thomas couldn't lay out a firm timeline for when construction would begin.
"Well, I think it's difficult to say on the construction and final end," Thomas said. "It's really contingent starting today the opportunity to get the architects and engineers involved, knowing that they'll provide us with the documents to go out and sell the project, and then as soon as we raise the money and have a funding model in place, then we can put a hole in the ground, but I would say we could start the renovation project."
One renovation that's been talked about is air conditioning. The Assembly Hall, which was built in the 1960s, isn't used that often during the summer since it lacks air conditioning.
The Archer Daniels Midland Company is asking all non-essential employees who work in the company's Decatur office to work from home on Wednesday, Nov. 30.
The company's trading floor will be open, and all trading floor employees should report to work in the office.
Other ADM employees are being asked to report to the corporate office building only on an as-needed basis.
The NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars have reached an agreement to sell the small-market franchise to Urbana businessman Shahid Khan.
Majority owner Wayne Weaver made the announcement Tuesday, hours after he fired coach Jack Del Rio and gave general manager Gene Smith a three-year contract extension. He said Khan will have 100 percent control of the team. Weaver called Khan "a great American success story'' and said the Pakistan-born entrepreneur plans to keep the team in Jacksonville.
Khan, a University of Illinois alumnus, is the owner and CEO of the Flex-N-Gate Group based in Urbana, Ill. Khan had been a candidate to buy controlling interest in the St. Louis Rams last year. In September, the U of I named an addition to its College of Applied Sciences after Khan and his wife Ann, who donated $10 million to help fund construction of the facility.
The sale of the franchise and the firing of Del Rio are the city's most significant news since the team's inception in 1993.
(With additional reporting from Illinois Public Media)
Ron Zook's first time addressing the media as the University of Illinois' former football coach was not about what went wrong this season or the future of his career. Instead, he recognized some of the people who backed him over his seven-year stint at the U of I.
In a Sunday afternoon press conference in the U of I football squad room, Zook didn't take questions. Rather, he simply said thank you to many, including former athletic director Ron Guenther for giving him a chance, current AD Mike Thomas, and U of I President Michael Hogan. Zook says sometimes, their jobs include making difficult decisions, and he respects that.
But the now-former coach says there's a lot to look forward to in the football program's future.
"I see our facilities - team - the foundation in place - two terrific bowl trips, and hopefully a third this year," said Zook. "If it falls right, our fifth year seniors will get their third bowl trip. And our players can become the first at our school with two bowl victories. I think our program is very close, I really do. We just didn't quite finish a few games here and there, and I'm proud of how close we are."
If the Illini are selected for a bowl game, it would mark their first back to back bowl appearances since 1991 and 92. Defensive coordinator Vic Koenning will serve as interim coach.
Zook got a bit emotional, pausing when thanking his players, some of them who were in the press conference, calling the team a family. Zook says he wants to make sure the players are ok, and "for that reason, it's not the time to entertain questions, after I've had some time to digest and reflect, I think will be a better time for that, I hope you all understand. Thank you."
With that, Zook left the podium following a 2 and a half minute statement.
U of I Athletic Director Mike Thomas says the search for a new football coach begins immediately. But he wouldn't name specific candidates, or give a timeline for that search. And Thomas says he wouldn't rule out someone without head coaching experience, noting that academics and recruiting are also important.
He says another key factor for coaching at Illinois is success within the Big Ten conference, where the winning percentage was about 30-percent under Zook.
"So I think when you look at us first of all in a conference, are we competitive in a very good football conference?," said Thomas. "But when you're competing at the highest level, as you see with the other teams that are doing that right, that's when your name is in the national picture, they're talking about you for BCS Bowl games, and you're traditionally thought of a Top 25 team."
Thomas says he made the decision to dismiss Zook after Saturday's 27-to-7 defeat at Minnesota. He says it's easy to use the economy as an excuse for lighter attendance at Illini games, but he notes other schools are finding ways to fill the stadium. Thomas says that comes down to the quality of play on the field.
"This program - you need to feel like there's hope around it, and that people are getting excited, and that people are selling tickets," he said. "And when an Ohio State or a Wisconsin shows up, that the stadium is being sold. As a matter of fact, demand exceeds the capacity, and that's not really where we're at right now, but the hope is that someday we get there."
Zook is 34-51 at Illinois. He took the 2007 team to the Rose Bowl and lost to USC. Last season's squad beat Baylor in the Texas Bowl.
Ron Zook talks to the media on Sunday, Nov. 27, 2011 hours after being fired as the University of Illinois' football coach
Ron Zook's run as Illinois football coach is over.
U of I Athletic Director Mike Thomas issued a press release Sunday, announcing that Zook would not be retained as head football coach, ending a sen-year run that saw the Illini qualify for three bowls, including the 2008 Rose Bowl.
The announcement came a day after the Illini ended the season at 6-6, losing six straight to end the season, including Saturday's finale at Minnesota 27-7.
"I assessed the entire program and felt that it was time for a change in leadership," Thomas said. "It is imperative that our program shows some consistency and competes for championships, and I think a change in coaches can help us get there sooner. I wasn't here seven years ago when Ron Zook took over as coach, but it's clear the program is in better shape than what he inherited."
Thomas says new leadership is needed to take the football program to the level to compete for championships on a consistent basis.
Zook was named head coach at Illinois in December, 2004, and compiled a record of 34-51, including 18-38 in Big Ten play during his Illini stint. The six-game losing streak came after starting the 2011 campaign with six consecutive victories and earning at Top 20 ranking. In 2007, Illinois surprised many with a 9-4 record, including a 6-2 mark in Big Ten play to finish in second place.
The Fighting Illini posted a memorable 28-21 vicory over top-ranked Ohio State at Columbus that season to propel them into a Rose Bowl invitation. Following the 2007 season, Zook was named the Liberty Mutual National Coach of the Year and Big Ten Coach of the Year.
Zook is one of only four coaches to win games at Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State, and produced three first-round NFL draft picks in the last four seasons. Illinois' 38-14 victory over Baylor at the 2010 Texas Bowl was Illinois' first bowl victory since 1999.
But, the three seasons of bowl eligibility were also interspersed with two wins in 2005 and 2006, five wins in 2008 and three in 2009. Zook finishes his Illinois tenure with a winning record over just Indiana among conference opponents. Thomas indicated a national search would begin immediately and that he hoped to name a new coach as soon as possible.
"Obviously, we have some hiring policies and regulations to follow, and some candidates may be involved with their own teams and bowl preparations, but I expect to move forward quickly," Thomas said.
Defensive coordinator Vic Koenning, was head coach at Wyoming from 2000-02, will serve as interim coach through the expected bowl game appearance.
UPDATE: Hours after he was fired as football coach at Illinois Ron Zook is thanking the university and his players for what he called "seven special years.
Illinois beat Lipscomb 79 to 64 Thursday night, before about 6,000 fans who braved freezing winds to watch the latest installment of the Cancun Challenge at the Assembly Hall.
Lipscomb kept the game close in the first half. Junior forward Tyler Griffey says his team wasn't collecting enough hustle points -- for steals, charges-taken and turnovers -- what's known as the Matto chart after the late Matt Heldman.
"We only had 17 on the Matto, and ended up with 45," said Griffey, "So that (the team) was really stressed at the halftime peptalk. We came out, we had to play harder. Just do the little things. Cut hard, play defense, just get shutouts."
The Illini broke the game open with a 14-0 run, holding the Bison scoreless for nearly six minutes. DJ Richardson and Sam Maniscalco led the Illini with 17 and 15 points, respectively.
Illinois is now 2-0 in the Cancun Challenge. Among the spectators was U of I football player Trulon Henry, who was shot in the hand early Sunday morning when a gunman fired into a crowd at a party at a house on South Lincoln Avenue near campus. Two others were injured, one critically. The gunman remains at large.
Also in the challenge Thursday night, Illinois State beat SIU Edwardsville 68 to 38 for their first game in the tournament. ISU plays Lipscomb tomorrow afternoon. And the 8 participating teams continue play in Cancun, Mexico next Tuesday and Wednesday.
(Photo courtesy of Rob McColley, Smile Politely.com)
(With additional reporting from The Associated Press)
The Chicago Cubs have hired Milwaukee Brewers hitting coach Dale Sveum as their new manager.
The Cubs announced the move Thursday and said he would be introduced at a news conference Friday at Wrigley Field.
Sveum replaces Mike Quade, who was fired after the season by Theo Epstein, the team's new president of baseball operations.
Epstein and Sveum worked briefly together in Boston, when Epstein was the team's general manager and Sveum served as the Red Sox third base coach during the 2004-05 season.
At the time, Sveum was often criticized for an aggressive approach that led to runners being thrown out at the plate. But the coach with the nickname of "Nuts" was part of a championship team and is a believer in the advanced statistical analysis that Chicago's new leadership loves and is counting on to build up the farm system.
"I do my due diligence and video work and prepare as much as anybody," Sveum said before he was hired. "As far as the stats, those are what they are, and we can use them to our advantage. It's a big part of the game now. It's helping us win a lot of ballgames, the stats and the matchups. That's just part of the game now, and you use what you can."
Sveum was also under consideration by the Red Sox for its managerial vacancy and interviewed twice with the team.
Sveum began his pro career as a switch-hitting shortstop for the Brewers and had a 25-homer season before his career was slowed after an outfield collision. In 12 seasons with Milwaukee and six other teams, he batted .236 with 69 home runs and 340 RBIs in 862 games. He was drafted by Milwaukee in the first round (25th overall) in 1982.
Sveum re-joined the Brewers as a coach in 2006 and briefly filled in as the team's interim manager during the end of the 2008 season.
Sveum did well in his limited run as Milwaukee's manager. After Yost was fired following a 3-11 slide in September, Sveum led the Brewers to their first playoff appearance in 26 years, winning six of seven down the stretch and capturing the wild card on the final day of the regular season.
Milwaukee then decided to hire a more experienced manager in the offseason and went with Ken Macha, who lasted two seasons. Sveum stayed on as the hitting coach and oversaw one of the best offenses in the National League last season. With Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder leading the way, the Brewers hit an NL-high 185 homers and were third with a .261 batting average on their way to the NL Central title -- well ahead of the Cubs.
Sveum emerged as the Cubs' leading candidate after an in-depth interview process that included such candidates as Texas Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux and Indians coach Sandy Alomar, Jr., among others.
He'll take over a team that finished last season 71-91 and hasn't won a World Series in 103 seasons.
Illinois coach Ron Zook isn't interested in talking about job security.
Zook told reporters Tuesday that he would end his weekly news conference if anyone asked about his job following four straight losses and a weekend of off-field trouble for his players.
He kept his promise, walking out after he was asked if had talked to his players about handling questions about his future.
The seventh-year Illini coach started the season with six wins, but has now watched his team lose four in a row.
Over the weekend, starting linebacker Trulon Henry was shot in the hand at a party where two other people were shot. In another incident, two other reserve players were arrested following a fight on campus. Zook suspended them.
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