Bob's Blitz

Bob's Blitz

Columnist Loren Tate sat down with Ron Guenther to talk about the athletic department's fiscal health. To see what the UI AD said, click here.

Down and distance

WHAT I'M THINKING

– Reading between the lines of the Cincinnati contract, it sure seems the Illinois-Missouri series has a time limit.

Cincinnati will return the game to Illinois in 2013. The Illini already have a home game scheduled that year against Washington. It is difficult to imagine the school playing consecutive games against Missouri, Cincinnati and Washington to open the season.

More likely, the Illinois-Missouri series will be allowed to run out after the 2010 season. That will give both schools a chance to find a home opponent for Labor Day weekend starting in 2011.

Illinois has the rest of its nonconference schedule set for that season, with home games against South Dakota State and Western Michigan and a trip to Arizona State. Expect the Illini to find a non-BCS opponent for the opener. The Illini have games against the MAC in 2010 (Northern Illinois) and 2011, so look to the Sun Belt or Conference USA for the 2011 game.

– Congratulations to VINCE OKRUCH, the former Illinois defensive coordinator who is returning to the field. Okruch is the new linebackers coach at Akron.

"Obviously, I am pleased to add yet another high-caliber coach to our staff," Akron coach J.D. BROOKHART said. "He has been a defensive coordinator in the Big Ten twice and the Big 12 once. He brings a wealth of experience and will be an asset to our program as we continue to move forward."

Okruch left the Illinois program before the 2007 season. He has been living in Champaign while looking to continue his coaching career.

Okruch will join another former Illinois assistant at Akron. WALT HARRIS, the ex-Pitt and Stanford head coach, will work with the Zips quarterbacks.

Brookhart is filling his staff with former head coaches. Besides hiring Harris, he also has added former Miami (Ohio) coach SHANE MONTGOMERY as offensive coordinator.

Coming off a 5-7 season that ended with a three-game losing streak, Brookhart might need a winning season to stay in the good graces of the Akron leaders.

– Of course, LARRY COKER made the final cut to become the first football coach at Texas-San Antonio.

The decision at the school is expected in the next few weeks. Other finalists for the job are Tulsa co-defensive coordinator PAUL RANDOLPH and Northwest Missouri State coach MEL TJEERDSMA. Randolph and Tjeerdsma are both fine coaches. But they shouldn't get their hopes up.

Look at the history of football startups and you will see the schools crave guys who have had Division I-A success (think Howard Schnellenberger at Florida Atlantic). It isn't mandatory, but it helps.

How much easier will it be for Coker to recruit Texas with the national championship ring? Tons.

The Road Runners will begin playing football in 2011, with plans to compete in Division I-AA. Texas-San Antonio is part of the Southland Conference.

– How important is football to Rutgers? Very. The school just hired a former player as its athletic director.

TIM PERNETTI, who played tight end for the Scarlet Knights, was hired away from CBS College, where he served as executive vice president. Pernetti has also been an analyst for the Rutgers radio network and is close to coach GREG SCHIANO. Certainly, the popular Schiano played an important role in getting Pernetti the job.

Pernetti has no experience as an athletic director, but his work at CBS College should help. He has strong ties to the area media. With so many other options, Rutgers is sometimes lost among the New York teams. Pernetti will be able to deliver the school more attention.

– There have been some weird developments in recruiting, but few match what is going on with running back DAVID OKU. The Midwest City, Okla., star, who at one point was recruited by Illinois, has left his high school and transferred to Lincoln (Neb.) East. That makes some sense if he is going to Nebraska. But he isn't.

Nebraska signed three running backs in its latest class. And Oku, in a story on Rivals.com, said his move to Lincoln doesn't mean he will sign with BO PELINI.

Oku's latest list includes Auburn, Mississippi, Tennessee, Oklahoma State and Louisville.

Scoreboard watching

WHAT I'M READING

Like eggs and milk, the cost of hiring assistant coaches continues to climb.

South Carolina's nine on-field assistant coaches will make a combined $1.83 million this year – a 17.5 percent increase from last year's staff, according to salary figures obtained Thursday by The State.

Gamecocks fifth-year coach Steve Spurrier hired five coaches during the offseason, including two coordinators who received guaranteed three-year deals.

Defensive coordinator and secondary coach Lorenzo Ward's $275,000 deal is $100,000 more than what Ron Cooper, the coach Ward replaced, made last year. Offensive line coach and running game coordinator Eric Wolford will make $250,000 – $75,000 more than former offensive line coach John Hunt's 2008 salary.

Among returning coaches, Shane Beamer received the biggest raise – a 31 percent bump that took his salary to $165,000. Besides coaching the spurs and strong safeties, the 31-year-old Beamer added the titles of recruiting coordinator and special teams coordinator.

Receivers coach and passing game coordinator Steve Spurrier Jr., who assumed the offensive play-calling duties from his father last season, and defensive line coach Brad Lawing were given 14 percent raises – from $175,000 to $200,000.

Ward, Wolford and assistant head coach for defense Ellis Johnson ($350,000) are the only assistants with multi-year contracts. USC now has several assistants who are considered coordinators of some type, although athletics director Eric Hyman said such titles do not guarantee a multi-year deal.

"I always try to be balanced with what I do," Hyman said. "I try to be sensitive to the marketplace, but I've got to be a good steward of the dollars we have here."

Tennessee raised the salary bar for SEC assistants by paying Lane Kiffin's first-year staff a combined $3.33 million, including $1.2 million to defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, the coach's father.

The Columbia (S.C.) State

Yard markers

WHAT'S HAPPENING

– The game contract between Illinois and Cincinnati has been signed. The Illini are scheduled to play Nov. 28 at Cincinnati. The Bearcats will return the game on Sept. 7, 2013.

Illinois will receive $350,000 for making this year's trip. When Cincinnati returns to Illinois in 2013, it will get the same amount.

The contract calls for the visiting team to receive 400 free tickets. And each visiting school will receive 3,000 tickets to sell to its fans. If any of the tickets are returned by the visiting team, the value of those tickets will be deducted from the $350,000 guarantee.

Television rights for the 2009 game will belong to the Big East. When Cincinnati visits C-U in 2013, the rights will be held by the Big Ten.

Officials will be assigned by the conference of the home team.

Cincinnati is coming off its first trip to a BCS game. The Big East champions lost to Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl.

– Illinois will have a large contingent of high school juniors on campus today. The players will tour the football facilities, visit with the coaches, players and support personnel and attend the Illinois-Michigan State basketball game.

"It will really be an electric environment, so we're excited about that part of it," Illinois coach RON ZOOK said.

The Junior Day will serve as an introduction to the school and the football program. They will talk about academics, the campus, etc. The next Junior Day is scheduled for April 18.

– Zook and his coaches have been kept busy in recent weeks with clinics and speaking engagements. Zook was in Chicago on Friday. Co-defensive coordinator DAN DISCH attended a clinic in Indianapolis. New offensive line coach JOE GILBERT went to a clinic in Houston. Running backs coach REGGIE MITCHELL was in St. Louis on Saturday.

"This week, there's been something every day," Zook said. "It gets you around the high school coaches. The more you get to know them, the more it helps."

– Illinois is still considering a scrimmage in the Chicago area during the spring. Zook said the open date is April 11, and several high schools are interested.

"We've still got to work out some logistics," Zook said. "The kids enjoy it."

Illinois made spring trips to the Chicago area in 2007 (St. Rita) and 2008 (Lemont). Both days were cold, and last year's scrimmage was also rainy.

"When you schedule one up there, you're going to practice in the elements," Zook said.

– Illinois defensive back BO FLOWERS, a former minor leaguer in the Tigers and Cubs systems, has joined The Cage as a baseball instructor.

The indoor baseball/softball facility is located at 2815 Hundman Drive #4 in Champaign. Flowers will specialize in outfield instruction.

– Former Notre Dame/Pittsburgh Steelers running back ROCKY BLEIER will be at C.H.I. Overhead Doors in Arthur on Thursday to sign autographs for employees. Bleier, who won four Super Bowls with the Steelers, will be the keynote speaker at the company's annual distributor meeting Thursday night in Champaign.

– Wisconsin has filled its 2011 schedule. The Badgers will open at home against UNLV, followed by a visit from Oregon State. Wisconsin plays Northern Illinois at Soldier Field the third week and hosts South Dakota in its final nonconference game.

Wisconsin has two openings remaining in 2010. The Badgers open 2010 at UNLV and host Arizona State two weeks later.

Extra points

The Big Ten schedules are complete for 2009. Here are my rankings of the nonconference schedules:

SCHOOL 2008 OPPONENT RECORD MARQUEE GAME GIMME

1. Ohio State 26-24 vs. Southern Cal vs. New Mexico State

2. Purdue 26-25 at Oregon vs. Toledo

3. Illinois 31-21 vs. Missouri vs. Illinois State

4. Minnesota 27-23 vs. California vs. South Dakota State

5. Michigan State 31-20 at Notre Dame vs. Montana State

6. Michigan 24-25 vs. Notre Dame vs. Delaware State

7. Indiana 27-22 at Virginia vs. Eastern Kentucky

8. Iowa 28-24 vs. Arizona vs. Northern Iowa

9. Wisconsin 29-23 at Hawaii vs. Wofford

10. Penn State 18-30 vs. Syracuse vs. Eastern Illinois

11. Northwestern 11-37 at Syracuse vs. Towson

8 ...

that's how many home games Michigan and Penn State will play in 2009. Just two Big Ten schools – Illinois and Indiana – will be playing six homes games. The rest will be playing seven. Illinois has never played eight home games during the modern era and has played seven games twice (2004 and '06).

Categories (3):Illini Sports, Football, Sports

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