The highs and lows of the Guenther era
A lot has happened since Ron Guenther was named Illinois athletic director on May 14, 1992:
While the Illini struggled on the field, Guenther made Memorial Stadium a destination by helping lure the Bears for a season and the IHSA for its state finals. Those moves, however, paled to the $121 million renovation of Memorial Stadium which moved the house that Red Grange Built into the 21st century.
Memorial Stadium wasn't the only upgrade under Guenther's watch. From practice centers like Ubben and Irwin to state-of-the-art facilities like Atkins, Demirjian and Eichelberger, the south end of campus has his imprint.
Illinois came within a game of winning its first men's basketball national title in 2005. The Illini became the first Northern school to win a men's tennis title in 2003 (and later won a bid to host the 2013 NCAA finals). And Guenther developed into a leader among his peers. The fifth-longest tenured AD served on the BCS football committee since its inception and had the ear of Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany.
PLAYING BY THE RULES
Keeping his department in the black, Guenther also kept Illinois mostly off the NCAA blotter.
... and downs
WORDS CAN HURT
At the 2007 NCAA tournament, Guenther berated Illinois senior Warren Carter from a press-row seat during a loss to Virginia Tech, at one point yelling "Warren, you idiot!" Said Guenther: "I didn't direct my comments to anyone in particular, and I certainly didn't intend for my words to be picked up. They did not represent the way I feel about our players, and they know it."
TACKLED FOR A LOSS
A former MVP at Illinois, Guenther oversaw a program that failed to produce a consistent winner in his favorite sport. While twice reaching BCS bowls, the Illini went 88-132-2 under Guenther, who fired Lou Tepper and Ron Turner.
LOSING STEAM IN BASKETBALL
The Illini failed to capitalize on the Final Four run in 2005, winning two NCAA tournament games since. On the women's side, Theresa Grentz's early teams had the community buzzing. But without an NCAA tournament win since 2000, the sport has become an afterthought.