Ads attack Cantor; UI chief backs chancellor

CHAMPAIGN - A Chief Illiniwek supporter is buying billboards that call for Chancellor Nancy Cantor to be fired.

Champaign attorney John Gadau, a lifetime Illini fan, says he's paying for thousands of buttons and the four billboards to tell the University of Illinois to dismiss Cantor, who he believes is anti-Chief.

?The chancellor's office has plans to retire the Chief this spring. By that time, the football tickets and scholarships will be a done deal,? Gadau said.

UI President James Stukel met with The News-Gazette editorial board Tuesday afternoon to stand up for Cantor, his employee.

He called the campaign unfair, overly personal and not about the Chief.

Stukel said he met with Gadau, who told him an ?impeccable source? revealed Cantor's moves to diminish or eliminate Chief Illiniwek.

The president said there is no such plan.

?I have an impeccable source - me,? he said.

Stukel said only the UI Board of Trustees can remove Chief Illiniwek as a revered symbol of the university. And the board is unlikely to take any action for or against the Chief any time soon, he said, particularly because Gov. Rod Blagojevich has only begun to look at his nominees for the board.

The president called Gadau's plans to erect billboards with the slogan ?Restore The Chief, Remove Cantor? a wrong message to send to out-of-town visitors, who might assume that there is a large following out to get the chancellor.

Roger Huddleston, a leader in the Honor The Chief organization, said he has talked with Gadau and elected not to join in the movement against Cantor.

?Absolutely not,? he said. ?We became aware of his intent early on, and we respect his right to propose whatever he'd like. But we cordially made it clear that we would not support him. This is not a Chief Illiniwek issue, this is a personal thing, and it's not what we're about.?

He said he had heard ?some speculation? about action involving the Chief.

?As far as we're concerned, the chancellor has never even issued a statement about the Chief,? Huddleston said. ?She has a First Amendment right to feel, think or say anything she wants to.?

UI spokesman Bill Murphy said Cantor did not want to enter the debate.

Stukel said Cantor may very well dislike the Chief. ?That's her business,? he added.

He added that the university may not have been able to attract or retain some faculty members because of the symbol, which some consider a racist mascot.

Gadau said he intended to go forward with his campaign unless there is a promise to permanently retain the Chief. Stukel said that was not his promise to make.

Gadau, an attorney who graduated from the UI law school in 1967 and parks his 1966 Illini-blue Catalina outside Memorial Stadium at games, said he doesn't mind going it alone for now, but expects support to gather around him.

?To this point, I have not received any reimbursement. Several people have indicated they'll help defray costs,? he said.

He wouldn't say how much the billboards will cost, except that he's spent ?more than I'd like to admit to (wife) Sherrie.?

The T-shirts and sweatshirts are sold at Te Shurt, 711 S. Wright St., C.

Stukel said the First Amendment supports Gadau's right to post slogans on shirts and billboards, even though he believes the message is unfair and unfounded. The UI is not seeking legal remedies, he said.

?There's no way to protect Nancy. It's a free country,? Stukel said.

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