Fifty years ago today — Feb. 28, 1966 — behind a magnificent 30-point, 20-rebound performance from Rich Jones, the Illini defeated Purdue 98-81. The victory lifted Illinois’ record to 7-5, two games behind league-leading Michigan. Said UI coach Harry Combes about his talented second-year player, “Rich improved more his sophomore year than any Illinois player in history.
What's going on with Illinois athletics? What are the biggest challenges Josh Whitman faces? Will John Groce be around for a fifth season? Does Bill Cubit have a chance to coach Illinois beyond 2016? How does The News-Gazette handle coverage of certain events? Sports editor Matt Daniels will take any and all inquiries in his 2 p.m. chat on Thursday. Feel free to submit questions beforehand.
Like Blockbuster and pay telephone booths, the college coach who doubles as athletic director is obsolete. Outmoded. A relic of time past.
ADs are mostly businessmen today, backgrounded in administration or holding a law degree like the UI’s Josh Whitman. They have oversight responsibilities for multiple sports, but their principal job is schmoozing donors and updating facilities.
Josh Whitman will officially become the 14th permanent athletic director in Illinois history on March 21. A look at his predecessors:
Mike Thomas 2011-2015
COMMENT: Hiring, and subsequent firing, of Tim Beckman is defining legacy
Josh Whitman is the newest athletic director in the Big Ten. How the league’s athletic leaders stack up in terms of seniority and age (*interim):
AD: Josh Whitman
Starting: March 21, 2016
AD: Beth Goetz*
AD since: Aug. 7, 2015
Josh Whitman will get to know all 19 head coaches at Illinois better in the coming weeks. Here’s what we’re thinking the conversations will be like:
CHAMPAIGN — Paul Kowalczyk will still handle the day-to-day responsibilities of the Illinois athletic director’s office until Josh Whitman officially starts on March 21.
Papers will still need to be signed. The routine operations of the office will continue while Whitman transitions from Washington University in St. Louis to Illinois.
“When I interviewed Josh, I didn’t take notes. I knew I was looking at the next athletic director.”
Josh Whitman impresses people that way. He was winning over his new boss, UI interim chancellor Barbara Wilson, even though he might not have known it.
CHAMPAIGN — Kevin Hambly got to know Josh Whitman in the mid- to late-2000s when Hambly was an assistant on Don Hardin’s volleyball staff.
Whitman was finishing up his law degree at Illinois and working with former Illini athletic director Ron Guenther.
Smiles were in full supply on Thursday morning on the Illinois campus.
Illinois introduced 37-year-old Josh Whitman to the public as the former Illini tight end became the 14th permanent athletic director in UI history.
Whitman has a five-year contract with his alma mater with a salary of $600,000 per year.