No time for Illini to use new NCAA rule

No time for Illini to use new NCAA rule

   Sights you won''t soon see around Champaign-Urbana:

    Herb Caldwell filling up your gas tank;

    Brian Johnson asking if you want fries with that;

    Matt Heldman delivering your News-Gazette.

   Just because the NCAA now says that scholarship athletes can start working for a living doesn''t mean University of Illinois basketball players are going to start scanning the classifieds for part-time possibilities.

   "Yeah right," said Johnson, a junior forward. "With our schedule, even in the off-season, there''s no time. We''re on the court, we''re in the weightroom and then usually the off-season''s used to bring your classwork up to speed.

   "It''s nice for the NCAA to allow us that freedom, but I don''t see too many guys having time to take advantage of it."

   At the NCAA Convention earlier this week, delegates passed a bill that says athletes can earn as much as the difference between the value of their scholarship and the estimated full cost of attending that school, which falls somewhere between $1,200 and $2,500.

   The proposal, which goes into effect on Aug. 1, has drawn the ire of some university administrators and coaches, who must now worry about influential boosters hiring athletes, making sure the part-time jobs are legitimate, and checking that athletes'' income doesn''t exceed the earnings cap.

   Count UI coach Lon Kruger among the many who believes the rule isn''t good for the game.

   "It''s going to make the recruiting interesting," Kruger said. "I think the job becomes a focal point of recruiting now, which I''m not sure is healthy. Someone might say, ''When you come to our school, here''s a scholarship and a $2,500 job.''

   "Now, each school has to come up with that $2,500 job to be competitive in the recruiting process. That concerns me."

   Division I athletes, critics of the bill say, are crunched for time as is. Taking away another 13 hours for a part-time job  at $5 an hour, nine months a year, that''s what it''d take to hit $2,500 (taxes excluded)  would be next to impossible.

   "I don''t know when our guys would have the time to work a $2,500 job in a school year, as it relates to the academics and basketball practice," Kruger said. "I think maybe in some areas, some markets are more conducive to having those jobs available.

   "It''s a lot easier for a kid in New York to work as a bellman and make $2,500 if he''s working at the right time at the right place. I''m not sure that''s good."

   Said Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany: "Sure there will be bogus jobs. It''ll open up a can of worms, but I think we have to start living with cans of worms and let the presidents, athletic directors and board of trustees handle it."

   The proposal passed by a 169-150 margin, with more Division I-A schools against it (61) than for it (51). Several schools, Miami (Fla.) and UCLA included, voted "nay" because they wanted a bill with no ceiling on earnings.

   "There''s no question there are problems, but is our inconvenience a reason to constrain students?" Miami athletic director Paul Dee told the Associated Press. "I think not."

   Among the expenses Johnson and Heldman say they could use a few extra bucks to cover are car insurance, gas, utilities and long-distance phone bills.

   "Isn''t college life just great?" Caldwell said. "The guys like to dress nice, too. I have a couple of vehicles and I''m always getting repairs on them."

   "Some of the guys'' parents help them out, but I don''t think there''s anybody on the team who''ll tell you they couldn''t use the extra cash," Johnson said.

   Johnson says he can get by on $1,000 a year  "That''s living the poor student''s lifestyle," he said  which he was able to raise through a summer internship.

   Heldman''s summer earning time was limited, the junior guard touring Italy and Monte Carlo with the Big Ten Select All-Star team this summer.

   "I just don''t have any time to get a job during the school year," Heldman said.

   No Illini needs extra dough more than Caldwell, the only married one of the bunch.

   If he wants to stay married, though, he''d better head straight home after the season.

   "With basketball, I spend enough time away from my wife," Caldwell said. "I think I might just want to relax, spend some quality time with her and finish up my degree."


   Nothing''s official, but Kruger earlier this week called Notre Dame "a really good candidate" for the UI''s annual United Center opponent.

   Fighting Irish coach John MacLeod likes the idea, but not for 1997-98.

   "I talked to Lonnie a couple months ago about it," MacLeod said. "Somewhere down the road, it might be a good idea, but we''re still trying to get our schedule straightened out here. We have to get the right mix of road games and home games before we do something like that.

   "There''s a lot of Notre Dame alums in the Chicago area and a lot of Illinois alums in the Chicago area, so it''d make a nice rivalry."

Garris Marooned.

   Just one player in any NCAA division has outdone Kiwane Garris'' 17-for-17 free throw shooting exhibition in a loss at California.

   It''s former Champaign Central star Jason Sempsrott, who on Jan. 4 hit 18 of 18 in South Dakota State''s Division II game against Augustana (S.D.)

   An unlikely UI opponent has turned in the top rebounding performance in Division I this season: Chicago State''s Kory Billups, who yanked down 24 against Western Michigan.

   Other UI opponents high up among the Division I leaders: UCLA (first in field goal percentage, 52.2); Iowa (first in rebounding margin, 13.9); Iowa''s Kent McCausland (first in three-point percentage, 55.7); and Tennessee State''s Kareem Gilbert (second in assists, 7.7).

Worth quoting.

   Overheard in the days following Tuesday''s 96-90 UI upset of Minnesota:

    Center Chris Gandy on the Illini''s inconsistency: "We''ve got to win consecutively. That''s our goal now. We''ve won one, lost one, won one, lost one. We can''t go back to that win one, lose one. We have to win them consecutively if we want to have a chance to go to the tournament."

    Kruger on the significance of beating the Gophers, second in this week''s power ratings: "As it relates to the RPI, any time you beat a top-ranked team like that, it''s very helpful. Obviously, it''s way too early to start thinking (about the NCAA tournament), specifically, but as the committee looks at the quality wins, wins over people like Minnesota are very significant."

    Heldman on why the Gophers are the best team Illinois has faced yet: "I''d say so, yeah. They have inside and outside. Some of the teams we played had some post players, some had good guards, but they had a balance of both, plus a deep bench."

    Johnson on the Assembly Hall announced crowd of 12,326 that took in the win: "It sounded like there were 16,000, and that''s the important thing. It''s funny. In the first half, I''ll play an eight- or nine-minute stretch and Coach will take me out and I''m dead-tired. But at the end there, I''m playing an eight-, nine-minute stretch, and I''m bouncing around and we''re jumping around, we''re clapping, we''re yelling, we''re slapping the floor, we''re pushing people around, we''re diving, we''re sprinting to the free throw line. Nobody got tired. A lot of that comes from the fans. When they''re yelling, we don''t even think about fatigue  and that''s big."