Illinois Public Media News
For the first time since 1992, Illinois's volleyball team is heading to a regional final.
The third-seeded Illini won a fierce battle with fellow Big Ten member Ohio State Friday, advancing to Saturday night's regional final in Gainesville, Fla. The Illini will be looking for its third appearance in the national semifinals and first since 1988. The Illini reach the 30-win mark for the 7th time in school history.
The Illini (30-4) reach the 30-win mark for the seventh time in school history, but the first since that 1992 season. Illinois also end a string of three straight years in which their season has ended in the Sweet 16. Illinois wins its seventh straight match overall and eighth straight against Ohio State in the series between the two schools.
The Champaign Unit Four School Board has chosen four finalists for the job of district superintendent.
One of the finalists is already at Unit Four. She's Assistant Superintendent Dr. Judy Wiegand who becomes interim superintendent next month, when current interim Robert Malito's term runs out. The other finalists are Dr. Darryl Taylor, superintendent of a one-school district in Calumet City ... Dr. Johnnie Thomas, an associate superintendent at the Arlington Heights Township high school district ... and Steven Cobb, the Chief Academic Officer for Fort Wayne Community Schools. Taylor and Thomas are African-American.
The finalists were chosen from a field of nine candidates selected by a search firm hired by the district. The school board made their selection after interviewing the nine. Board member Greg Novak says he's looking for a new superintendent who can help move the school district forward.
"It sounds vague", says Novak of that goal, "but we broke that down. We were looking at areas like technology, academic success, experience with building facilities. But again, the goal was we want to take the district to the next step."
School Board President Sue Grey says they chose the four finalists with an eye towards building on the progress Unit Four made under the last superintendent, Arthur Culver.
"We made great strides while we were working through the consent decree process, things with curriculum and equity and achievement and all of our students", said Grey. "And so that was something that was very important to us as a board, that people understood the significance of that, and how we wanted to continue making progress."
The four finalists will be in Champaign next week for interviews with the school board and with an advisory committee made up of community members. The committee includes Nathaniel Banks (a former school board member), Laurie Bonnett, Charles Burton, Joan Dixon, Peter Fox, Ginny Holder, Charles Larenas, Pat Lewis, Rebecca Motley, Prue Runkle,Ryan Searby, Jennifer Shelby, Seth Swartz, Mirelsie Velazques, Scott Walter and Barb Wilson.
The interviews will held be behind closed doors, but the public can email their questions for the candidates, now through Sunday, December 11th, at email@example.com
Board President Grey says a final vote on a new superintendent could be made as soon as the December 19th school board meeting. Unit Four hopes to have a new superintendent hired and ready to begin work by July 1st, 2012.
The previous superintendent, Arthur Culver, left Unit Four earlier this year, and is now the superintendent for the East St. Louis school district. Since then, retired school administrator Robert Malito has served as an interim superintendent on a parttime basis. Judy Wiegand is scheduled to take over as the interim superintendent in January.
Eastern Illinois has hired Baylor assistant coach Dino Babers to take over for longtime head football coach Bob Spoo.
The school announced Babers' hiring on Friday. The longtime assistant coach was a member of Spoo's first staff at Eastern in 1987. The Football Championship Subdivision school plays in the Ohio Valley Conference.
Babers coached Baylor's wide receivers and has been at the school since 2008. The Bears went 9-3 this season and are headed to the Alamo Bowl.
He played at Hawaii and has been an assistant at schools including Pittsburgh, Texas A&M, San Diego State, UCLA, Arizona, Purdue, Northern Arizona and UNLV.
Spoo announced plans to retire before this season. The Panthers finished 2-9. Spoo finished with a career record of 144-131-1.
Former U.S. Senator and New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine told a congressional panel Thursday that he never intended to break rules requiring failed securities firm MF Global to safeguard client funds. He also said he doesn't know what happened to an estimated $1.2 billion that went missing. Among those who questioned Corzine on Capitol Hill was Congressman Tim Johnson (R-Urbana).
(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
The 23rd head football coach in University of Illinois history is Tim Beckman, who hails from the University of Toledo.
Introduced in an afternoon press conference Friday, Beckman calls the job an opportunity of a lifetime. He says the top goal is building a family - an accountable group of players that will set aside personal goals to achieve team goals.
"It's very important that each one of these players understands that," said Beckman. "Because throughout my career, throughout my time as a coach's son, I've seen some great, great football teams have excelled on the football field, excelled in the classroom, and excelled in the community because they were successful as being men, and successful as being a family."
In three seasons, Beckman led the Toledo Rockets to a 21-16 record, and two bowl bids. "I was raised in this profession," said Beckman. "There are only certain coaches in college football that can say for every waking minute of my life I've been around football."
Beckman inherited a team that went 3-9 in 2008, improving to 5-7 in 2009 before going 8-5 with a 7-1 record in the Mid-American Conference. Beckman's father, Dave, coached football on all levels, including at Iowa, and worked in the front offices of the Browns and Chargers. He learned under such names as Pat Dye, Urban Meyer, Mike Gundy, and Jim Tressel.
He says his first priority in his new job is recruitment. And he says his players will quickly learn his intense style of play.
"You will see that on every football player's face and every football player's game-type ability that he shows each and every day that he steps out there in this great stadium that we have, or in this great conference that we have in the Big Ten," said Beckman.
"He's a mentor," said U of I Athletic Director Mike Thomas. "And it's not just something that happens in the recruiting process and as these kids are with us for four or five years, but part of their lives when they leave the University of Illinois with their diplomas."
Beckman, 46, is a native of Berea, Ohio. Prior to his three years at Toledo, he held a variety of roles on the staff of teams, including those at Oklahoma State, Ohio State, and Bowling Green Universities. He'll earn a salary of $9-million over 5 years at the U of I. And Beckman confirmed he would only be a spectator at the Illini's appearance in the Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco on New Year's Eve. Vic Koenning will serve as interim coach for that game.
Beckman holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Findlay, and a master's from Auburn University.
Watch Tim Beckman's opening remarks on Friday, December 09, 2011
Champaign residents had the chance Thursday night to hear from the four people vying to become the city's next police chief. The event was organized by groups like the League of Women Voters of Champaign County, the NAACP, and the ACLU.
This was the first time the city of Champaign held public interviews with each of the police chief candidates. They each answered 11 questions based on topics submitted by the public ranging from police community relations to the use of excessive force.
The police force has faced heavy criticism in the last few years over police-community relations. Those concerns have prompted renewed calls for a citizens police review board.
Urbana Assistant Chief of Police Anthony Cobb said he wants to bring credibility back to the Champaign Police Department. Cobb said he was involved in creating Urbana's Civilian Police Review Board, and he acknowledged that it could work in Champaign.
"In order to do it correctly, it's going to take both sides - the citizens and the police - to sit down and truly tackle what are the issues we're trying to address," Cobb said.
But Kim Johnson, who's the police captain in East Lansing Michigan, said he doesn't have a citizens police review board where he works, and it has worked out just fine.
"We've been very transparent in how we do policing in East Lansing," Johnson said. "So, I'm not in favor of the citizen review board."
Johnson said if he becomes Champaign's next police chief, he would try to make the department more transparent. However, if there is still a need for a citizens police review board, he said he would support one.
Another one of the candidates is St. Louis, Missouri Police Lieutenant Colonel Antoinette Filla, who has worked with the same police force for nearly 40 years. She said she likes the idea of that kind of oversight, and she said other police officers shouldn't be discouraged by it.
"I know officers think that as soon as a citizen's review board comes in that everybody's going to get fired, and that's not the case," she said.
The other candidate being considered for the job is Gregory Anderson, who is the police chief in the Chicago suburb of Oak Forrest. He is opened-minded about a citizens police review board, saying if it's done; it needs to be done right.
"But I would hope there's other ways we could do it by the police department being much more open with the public, being transparent, and explaining the police processes in exactly why we do things in a certain way," Anderson said.
All of the candidates said Champaign's police force could have a stronger relationship with the community that is built on transparency and respect.
"We have a situation in Champaign where we have a great police force and a great community, and we need to integrate them," said Mayor Don Gerard. "I think that community-based policing is the way to go."
Champaign City Manager Steve Carter said one of these candidates will likely be offered the job as the city's police chief right after the start of new year, and begin work in February or March.
The Illinois Attorney General says Rod Blagojevich shouldn't collect the $65,000 yearly pension he earned as governor.
The Thursday opinion comes a day after Blagojevich was sentenced to 14 years for corruption including that he tried to sell or trade an appointment to the Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama.
The General Assembly Retirement System board moved last month to block payments to newly convicted ex-officials. Blagojevich turns 55 Saturday.
In her opinion, Attorney General Lisa Madigan says the convictions arose in connection with his service to Illinois and that the former governor repeatedly misused his position for personal benefit.
The opinion has been sent to the board, which makes the final decision.
Blagojevich is eligible for a $15,000 annual pension he earned during his six years in Congress.
Chicago will soon be home to another corporate headquarters. Sara Lee announced Thursday it will relocate from the western suburbs to downtown Chicago.
Sara Lee is in the midst of some big changes as a company.
It's scheduled to split into two next year - one company will focus on meats, the other on drinks.
It's the meats company that will call Chicago's West Loop neighborhood home in 2013.
"We would need, as a smaller, more entrepreneurial company, we need to create a lot of buzz and it's very difficult to get that buzz and energy in an area where it's very quiet, so I think we need that environment of Chicago," said Jan Bennink, the executive chairman of Sara Lee.
Bennink said about 500 employees will be shifted from Downers Grove to Chicago.
Meanwhile, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the city will give up to 6.5 million dollars to Sara Lee for moving downtown. Emanuel said he's not in a battle with the suburbs to persuade businesses to move to the city - but he did say - "We won."
(AP Photo/M. Spencer Green, file)
Bond has been set at $500,000 for a Fithian man arrested in connection with the stabbing of a University of Illinois law professor.
Joshua Scaggs, 23, faces attempted murder and aggravated battery charges in connection with the attack of Dhammika Dharmapala, 41, of Champaign. The incident occurred shortly before 6 AM on Wednesday in the Amtrak waiting area of the Illinois Terminal Building.
According to a witness account given to Champaign Police, both Dharmapala and the suspect were sitting in the Amtrak waiting area, when the suspect jumped up and shouted that this was his country. He then attacked Dharmapala, grabbing him around the neck. The witness then intervened, pulling the suspect away, and discovering he had stabbed his victim in the neck with a utility knife. Champaign County State's Attorney Julie Rietz said other witnesses stepped forward to keep the situation under control until police arrived.
Dharmapala was taken to Carle Hospital in Urbana, but no information was available on his condition as of Thursday morning. At Scaggs' arraignment in Champaign County Court Thursday afternoon, he appeared via video conference, surrounded by correctional officers.
Scaggs' attorney, Baku Patel of Urbana, has requested that his client undergo mental and physical evaluations. Authorities say he's locked in isolation at the county's satellite jail.
University of Illinois President Michael Hogan wrote in an email to faculty and students said that university was "deeply saddened" by the stabbing, and expressed gratitude for those who intervened.
Champaign Police had originally included hate crime charges in their arrest of Scaggs. But Champaign County State's Attorney Julia Rietz said they would not prosecute him on that charge. She said the attempted murder and aggravated battery charges actually carry stiffer penalties than the hate crime charge. However, Rietz noted that "the underlying motive for the offense will be taken into account as the case moves forward."
Meanwhile, the Council on American-Islamic Relations called for federal civil rights charges to be filed against Scaggs. In a news release, the organization stated that Dharmapala is not Muslim, but was singled out due to his perceived ethnicity. CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper stated, "our society must begin to address the rising level of anti-Muslim sentiment that can lead to such disturbing incidents."
Scaggs is due back in court on Dec. 15th.
Three-time NL MVP Albert Pujols agreed Thursday to a $254 million, 10-year contract with the Los Angeles Angels.
Pujols' contract, which is subject to a physical, is the second-highest in baseball history and only the third to break the $200 million barrier, following Alex Rodriguez's $252 million, 10-year deal with Texas before the 2001 season and A-Rod's $275 million, 10-year contract with the Yankees before the 2008 season.
The Angels announced Thursday they were signing Pujols away from the St. Louis Cardinals.
Pujols, who led St. Louis to a World Series title this fall, had been pursued by the Miami Marlins, but they dropped out Wednesday after agreeing to a deal with former Chicago White Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle. ESPN first reported the Pujols deal.
The Angels have also reportedly signed former Texas Rangers pitcher C.J. Wilson.
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