June 11 Bob Asmussen chat

June 11 Bob Asmussen chat

Monday, June 11, 2018 - 10:00am

What players will Illinois bring to the Big Ten football media kickoff? After Dana Howard goes in, who will be the next Illini in the College Football Hall of Fame? What team do you want to see Illinois play in future Chicago games?

For the answers to these questions, and anything else on your mind, check in with our longtime Illinois football beat writer.

Bob Asmussen wrote on June 11, 2018 at 10:06 am
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Welcome back to another Bob Asmussn chat. Hope everyone had a great weekend. I spent most of my time in the office, working on stories for upcoming editions.

I did take a couple minutes out to watch the Belmont Stakes. Justify was awesome. That's the fifth Triple Crown winner in my lifetime and I watched every one of them. I have never been to any of the three races, but it is on my list. Maybe next year.

The Illinois Hall of Fame Gala is coming up on Friday and we will have all sorts of coverage. It is a very nice event.

The Illinois sports season has hit a lull until the fall sports start practice. But I have a feeling there will be plenty going on in the athletic department.

Enough stallling, time to get to your questions. As always, thank you for participating.

Anonymous User wrote on June 11, 2018 at 10:06 am

I saw in a couple of preseason FB magazines that Lovie Smith was a coach on the hot seat? Really? I know the first two years record isn't that good, but there are reasons. Wouldn't you say that the previous coaching regimes left very little talent when Lovie took over? In fact I don't think people realize how bereft of talent the roster was. Also when Lovie was hired he had little time to recruit that first class, instead he had to hold it together. Playing all the young guys show how bad things were I think. I am hoping Josh realizes this and I anthinking why he gace him a six year contract. I think you will see improvement this year in the way of 4-5 wins and alot more competetive team. Am I worrying for nothing or what? What do you think?

Bob Asmussen wrote on June 11, 2018 at 10:06 am
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The magazines that put Lovie Smith on the hot seat don't know what they are doing. You pointed out the contract, which the magazines must not have seen. He has four years left and a very large buyout. He will be given every opportunity to succeed at Illinois. The school showed its commitment with the performance center, which will help recruiting.

This is the year the program should show progress. Maybe not in terms of wins, but in closer games. If the team wins two games again, Lovie Smith will be the coach in 2019. I think the more likely win number is 4-5, which will be a positive step.

Most every new coach comes in with a deficit of talent. If that wasn't the case, the old staff would still be in place. Rememer, Lovie Smith was hired after signing day. He inherited players who were signed by Bill Cubit's staff. Some of those players remain on the team, including Dele Harding, Stanley Green, Keyyon Jackson, Tymir Oliver, Jake Hansen and Doug Kramer. That's a fairly productive group, especially considering the situation at Illinois at the time.

The level of players being recruited for the 2019 class has definitely improved. I think the current staff is gaining more interest from the top players and that is best way to turn the program.

Remember Ron Zook's early years. He aimed high in recruiting and got a lot of hits. And that meant more wins. The same thing can happen with Lovie Smith and his staff.

I have been impressed with the work of the new coaches. They seem to love the recruiting part of the business and that is critical. The recruits I have talked to like what they hear from the staff. That word will get passed to other top players.

I think Illinois will end up with a Top 30 recruiting class.


LifetimeIllini wrote on June 11, 2018 at 10:06 am


When was the last time Illini Football and Basketball had simultaneous "misses" in bowl and NCAA tournament participation for this many years.  Is this the lowest point in the major sports since before Lou Henson?  I appreciate Josh Whitman's optimism but this is a really difficult time to maintain hope as a fan.  If Lovie and Underwood can't turn things around in the next two season, our current "temporary" decline could become status quo.  Thanks for the chats.

Bob Asmussen wrote on June 11, 2018 at 10:06 am
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Lifetime Illini,

The football team hasn't been to a bowl game since after the 2014 season. The basketball team last made the NCAA tournament in 2013. So, the gap for both is approaching five years. I have been here almost 30 and while there some long bowl-less streaks in football (none from 2002-06), basketball has been steady. Since I got here after the 1989 Final Four, the basketball team has made the tournament 17 times. That seems like a lot to me.

If the streak lasts another three or four years, then you might want to put your fret level into overdrive. But I think football will have chance to reach a bowl in 2019 and basketball will be back in the NCAA tournament in 2020.

With the amount of revenue the school receives every year and the facility upgrades going on, there are no reasons for Illinois fans to accept a long-term down period. It should never be considered a permanent condition. History in college sports shows that every program can win with the right people in charge. Take Kansas State football for instance. Some suggested it could never win and Bill Snyder proved them wrong.

I know this is a big ask, but you have to be patient. Football in particular is hard to fix in a hurry.

Illini Football Fan wrote on June 11, 2018 at 10:06 am

Bob -

What's happening with Mizzou and Minny seemingly gain momentum over the Illini with the current recruiting battles? Should we worry? Or is there something to be learned from this? Does it mean, like basketball coaches under Underwood, the football coaches over-estimating their abilities to close out the recruits sooner or later?

Can you help with recruiting somehow? Maybe some honest but glorious artcles on how great the Illini will be in a few years in all sports, including the future great hockey team?   


Bob Asmussen wrote on June 11, 2018 at 11:06 am
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Illini Football Fan,

Minnesota is currently ranked in the Top 20 according to Rivals for its 2019 class. But it is because of quantity, not quality. The 15 recruits average 2.7 stars and none getting more than 3. Illinois has two with 4 or better in a much smaller class. Yes, Minnesota is dipping into Illinois, where P.J. Fleck went to school, but we don't know how much Illinois wanted those players.

Missouri has just three commitments, though one of them is a player Illinois wanted. Luther North offfensive tackle Jack Buford picked the Tigers last week. Right now, Missouri is behind Illinois in the 2019 class. They figure to compete for a lot of the same players, especially in St. Louis.

On your last question, my paycheck is signed by The News-Gazette. My job is to write what I see and know. If Illinois plays well in football and other sports, the stories will be positive. If the teams struggle, then I will let our readers know about it with an objective voice.

As I wrote last week, I think adding hockey will be a very good thing for Illinois athletics.


james pfetzing wrote on June 11, 2018 at 11:06 am

Bob: Do u remember the Stampley football recruit announced recently ? A Centennial footballer a couple years ago. Your thoughts. Who is the U. of I. coach that u have the closest relationship with? Will u continue the Monday afternoon shows from the Esquire during this summer? Thx as always for your insiteful chats.

Bob Asmussen wrote on June 11, 2018 at 11:06 am
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I think adding Dominic Stampley to the offense is a good thing. He had solid offers and is apparently a very fast guy. Illinois needs playmakers on offense, so if he can add a couple long catches it will open up the rest of the field.

Dominic has a high level of confidence. That is a good thing. And I think playing at home will serve as motivation. Plus, he will have a great support system. That he has three years of eligibility is a bonus.

I get along with all of the Illinois coaches, but I had an instant rapport with new offensive coordinator Rod Smith. The rest of the guys are very good people and easy to talk to. Of course, I have known Luke Butkus a long time and had a very good relationship with him during his playing days. His family means a lot to Illinois.

We are doing the show in the studio for the bulk of the summer, though we might have a couple shows off campus before we return to the Esquire. Unlike previous years, we are  going to have a Labor Day show at a location to be determined Illinois opens the season two days before that and we want to talk about it right away.

Thanks for the kind words about the chats. I enjoy doing them.


james pfetzing wrote on June 11, 2018 at 11:06 am

Bob: Do u have any info on where or what Rocky Harvey is doing these days. He certainly was one of the most exciting players in the recent history.

Bob Asmussen wrote on June 11, 2018 at 11:06 am
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Rocky is on my list of all-time favorite Illini to deal with from a reporter perspective.

Quick story, when Illinois went to the Micronpc.com Bowl in 1999, I had the bright idea to take Miami native Jameel Cook back to his home neighborhood for a story. Jameel asked if his buddy Rocky could come along and of course we said yes. Great move. We were standing near a body of water close to Jameel's home and Jameel told Rocky he saw an alligator. He was joking, but Rocky acted like he was scared. We were with the players most of the day and it was one of my favorite all-time stories.

The last time I talked to Rocky was after Josh Whitman was hired as AD. He was strongly in favor of it. I will reach out to Rocky and report back in a future chat.


Bob Asmussen wrote on June 11, 2018 at 11:06 am
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I am going to cut the chat off for today. Thanks for all of your great questions.

I will not have a chat next week because I am going on a trip with my family, I will be back on June 25. If you have any questions between now and then, feel free to email me at asmussen@news-gazette.com.

Have a great week everyone.