Illinois Public Media News
Jolette Law has been released as the University of Illinois' Women's Basketball Coach.
Law finished with a record of 69-93 in five seasons, including 11-19 in the just completed 2011-2012 campaign. The season ended Thursday with a 68-53 loss to Michigan in the first found of the Big Ten Tournament.
Law's Big Ten Record in five seasons was 27-59, with a highest conference finish of 8th place in 2009.
"Really, we need to be at a point where we're competing at a high level - the same expectations I have for the other 18 sports," U of I Athletic Director Mike Thomas said in an afternoon press conference. "And at the end of the day from a competitive standpoint, I just didn't feel that we were trending that way. Not having a history of winning in recent times or at a high level certainly affects other things with the program."
Thomas says the decision was difficult based on the fact that she's a 'terrific person, and tremendous role model for her students.'
He says a national search will begin for Law's replacement. She had two years remaining on her contract, and will receive a $620,000 buyout over that time.
Thomas says the criteria for a replacement won't necessarily mean someone who's held the same job elsewhere.
"I don't think I want to go into a situation and paint myself into a corner," he said. "I think certainly having head coaching experience is attractive in a lot of ways, but I certainly wouldn't restrict it to those who are head coaches only."
"I would like to thank (former athletic director) Ron Guenther and the Illini Family for the opportunity to represent the people of the state of Illinois as their Head Women's Basketball Coach," Law said in a statement released today. "I have found great joy in coaching, teaching, and guiding a group of remarkable young women. We have laid a good foundation for great things to happen in the near future. I wish nothing but the best for Mr. Thomas, the program, the University, and of course my student-athletes."
In her first season, she guided the Illini to a 20-15 record, including an historic run in the 2008 Big Ten Tournament, winning three games and advancing to the championship game before losing to Purdue on a buzzer-beater. After earning at WNIT bid, Law led the Illini to the third round in the tournament. But none of her teams had a winning record in the Big Ten and none made it to the NCAA tournament.
In 2011, the Illini fell back to 9-23 overall, finishing last in the Big Ten with a 2-14 mark.
Law came to Illinois from Rutgers, where she was an assistant under C. Vivian Stringer for 12 years. That included a trip to the 2007 NCAA title game.
Illinois hasn't made the NCAA tournament since 2003 and hasn't been ranked since 2000.
Illinois and new football coach Tim Beckman will close all but a couple of spring practices to fans and news media. The school has asked reporters not to provide updates via social media when they are allowed access.
Sports information director Kent Brown said Wednesday that the school might further restrict access for all media if a reporter doesn't comply but "hope it doesn't come to that.''
Spring practices start March 7. The spring game is April 14. Only two of the 14 practices and scrimmages are open to news media and fans.
Beckman has said he would restrict access to try to maintain some degree of secrecy about the schemes his team will run.
Beckman was hired in December to replace the fired Ron Zook.
An exploratory committee is forming with hopes of learning in about a year whether Champaign can support a minor league baseball team. A former minor league owner, sports enthusiasts, and someone who helped lure a collegiate team to town in the 90's were among the 15 people at the group's initial meeting Monday night.
Illinois Public Media's Jeff Bossert talked with committee chair Tony Johnston, who was tapped by Champaign Mayor Don Gerard to lead the group.
The Chicago Bears have hired Kansas City Chiefs director of college scouting Phil Emery as their new general manager.
Emery was an area scout for the Bears from 1998-2004. He replaces Jerry Angelo, who was fired after an injury-riddled 8-8 season.
Emery and New England Patriots director of pro personnel Jason Licht were finalists and both interviewed twice.
The Bears also interviewed San Diego Chargers director of player personnel Jimmy Raye, New York Giants director of college scouting Marc Ross, and current director of player personnel Tim Ruskell.
Illinois Senator Shane Cultra says the State High School Association needs to be more flexible in allowing student athletes to play football.
A bill sponsored by the Onarga Republican opposes IHSA rules, mandating that a student participate in a minimum of 12 practices before they can play in a game, even if that student was away for military training. The Senator's bill would provide a waiver to those students who recently completed basic training.
Cultra's bill was filed after a senior at Paxton-Buckley-Loda High School, Eddie Nuss, was declared ineligible to play his season opener for that reason. Cultra understands the IHSA's concerns about health risks, but says his measure would have safeguards.
"Let the staff of the school examine the student athlete when they come back," he said. "And if they're in great shape, and they think they're probably able to play without the required number of practices, then they're going to make a recommendation to the school board, who would then give them a waiver for how many practices they missed."
IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman says research shows military training doesn't necessarily mean a student is acclimated to play football - citing 5 students who died in practice in the US around the country last year due to heat-related illness. He says schools boards aren't medically qualified to make such a call.
"There's quite a bit of research that indicates regardless of the condition a kid comes to the football practice, that they need to be acclimated to play football," Hickman said. "That takes time. Our physicians, our trainers, that our sports medicine advisory committee says that takes at least 12 days."
Physicians on the IHSA's sports medicine advisory committee say it takes 12 to 14 days of practice before a student is ready to play football. Hickman expects those doctors to bring testimony to Springfield if the bill is debated this year.
Illinois' Basketball team has now lost two straight, including an upset at home Sunday at the hands of the Wisconsin Badgers.
The 67-63 loss also breaks a 14-game home winning streak dating back into last season. Meyers Leonard led Illinois with 16 points and 11 rebounds, followed by Joseph Bertrand with 15 points.
The team has to wait until Saturday to try and get back on the winning track, taking on the Golden Gophers in Minnesota. Leonard dismissed notions of being too tired in a game that relied little on the Illini bench.
"Between me, D.J. (Richardson), Joe (Bertrand), and Brandon (Paul), we played a lot of minutes," Leonard said. "Obviously, you'll get a little fatigued with your legs and the contant pounding throughout the game, but I wouldn't say that. We're all really good athletes and able to play that many minutes. Those couple plays that made a difference - we didn't make them and they did. And we just have to get better, and make sure next time that happens, we make them."
Jordan Taylor had 19 points in Wisconsin's fourth straight win. Badgers Coach Bo Ryan says his team has to do the little things to succeed.
"We don't strike fear in a whole lot of hearts when we show up on the court, even though Jordan (Taylor) probably doesn't realize it," Ryan said. "But there's a lot of good players out there on every team that we play. But hustle opportunities are things should be trying to get, and every team should play off of. That's the way the game should be played."
Sunday's Assembly Hall crowd of over 16-thousand 600 was also the first sellout of the 2011-2012 season.
Former Penn State Coach Joe Paterno Dies
Joe Paterno, who racked up more wins than anyone else in major college football but was fired from Penn State amid a child sex abuse scandal has died. He was 85.
Tim Frazier hit a floater in the lane with 8 seconds left and Jermaine Marshall blocked Sam Maniscalco's layup at the buzzer to give Penn State a 54-52 upset of No. 22 Illinois on Thursday night.
Frazier finished with 12 points and nine assists for the Nittany Lions (10-10, 2-5 Big Ten), who ended a three-game losing skid.
Off a timeout, Frazier drove at the top of the key before Jon Graham's pick freed him from hounding defender Brandon Paul.
The Illini (15-4, 4-2) lost for the first time since re-entering the AP Top 25 this week. They had a short stay atop the Big Ten as the league's lone one-loss team in conference play.
Paul had 20 points to pace the Illini, while Meyers Leonard added 15.
At a ceremony at the White House Tuesday, the St. Louis Cardinals were called the "greatest comeback team in the history of baseball."
President Barack Obama made the declaration as he honored the Cardinals for their World Series Championship last year. Despite being a White Sox fan, the President thanked the Cardinals for an amazing season.
"And I also want to thank them for visiting Walter Reed this morning, spending time with our wounded warriors over there," Obama said. "That's what this organization's all about. It represents baseball at its best and I wish them all the best this season. Congratulations."
The team presented President and Mrs. Obama with World Series bats and Cardinal jerseys with the number 44 on their backs (Obama is the 44th President of the United States.)
The President said he was impressed with the team's ability to make up a 10 1/2 game deficit.
"Through skills and guts and -- I think the team would agree -- just a little bit of luck, just a touch, this team made the playoffs," Obama said. "Even though they trailed in each of the series that followed, they somehow had the spirit and the determination and the resolve to survive."
Two important members of last year's team were missing Tuesday: retired manager Tony LaRussa, who had a prior engagement, and former first baseman Albert Pujols - now with the Anaheim Angels -- who declined the invitation.
(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
The new head coach of the St. Louis Rams says he's up for the challenge of turning around a football team that has won just ten games over its last three seasons.
The Rams officially announced Jeff Fisher as the team's coach at a press conference at Rams Park in Earth City today. Fisher replaces Steve Spagnuolo, who was fired a day after the 2011 regular season ended. News of Fisher's move leaked out last week.
Fisher is an "experienced, confident head coach who has been in a lot of different situations," said Rams owner Stan Kronke as he introduced Fisher today. "His teams are tough. I've sat and watched them, we've had occasion to experience them. He's a great coach, he's a great teacher, he's a great leader."
Fisher was until last year the head coach of the Tennessee Titans, where he went 142 and 120 over 17 seasons, losing to the Rams in Super Bowl XXXIV. He said he'd always intended to take the year off to refresh, and St. Louis and the Miami Dolphins were the two top contenders for his services.
"My decision was very, very simple," Fisher said. "It was based on a collective vision as far as the future of this franchise. More specifically, it's restoring this franchise to a place of significance. It's an opportunity to take another trip as champions to the White House." (Fisher's official introduction came the same day the St. Louis Cardinals were honored at the White House for their 2011 world championship.)
The Rams, Fisher said, played hard all last season, despite winning just two games. He acknowledged the team has some holes, but says he has faith in third-year quarterback Sam Bradford.
"I think you have to look back at his success and his production in his first year," Fisher said. "This year was difficult for a lot of reasons - the lock-out, the lack of time together in the offense."
The Rams must still find a replacement for general manager Billy Devaney, who was fired along with Spagnuolo. Team vice president Kevin Demoff -- whose father is Fisher's agent -- says Fisher will be part of that search.
The deal Fisher signed just before his introduction is reportedly worth about $7 million a year over five years. As Kroenke put it, "it'll keep him here for a while." But Kroenke sidestepped a question as to whether the Rams will remain in St. Louis for the entire length of Fisher's deal.
"There's a team in place that deals with all that so we'll see how that process sorts itself out. It's a thing that takes place over time," he said.
A clause in the team's lease of the Edward Jones Dome would allow it to leave the city as soon as 2015 if major upgrades aren't made to the Dome. The city must present its proposal for those upgrades by Feb. 1.
(AP Photo/Wade Payne)
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