Bob Asmussen: I hope IHSA fields my call

Bob Asmussen: I hope IHSA fields my call

The biggest school in the state hosts a baseball super-sectional today.

Softball, too.

“I think any time you have young people on your field and they are exposed to your university that’s a positive,” Illinois baseball coach Dan Hartleb said, “not only for your university, but for the community.”

But is that enough? Not even close.

Put me in charge of the IHSA for a day — don’t freak out Bloomington-Normal, it is never going to happen — and the state championships would be moving.

To Champaign County. A lot of them.

Start with state tennis, which was played during the weekend in Arlington Heights.

No offense to the Chicago suburb, but the facilities in C-U are better.

A year ago, Illinois hosted the men’s and women’s NCAA championships.

Pretty sure it can handle the state version.

On to football, which is now splitting time between Champaign and DeKalb.

There are football players in the state who dream about stepping onto the field where Dick Butkus once scared running backs.

Where Red Grange toasted Michigan.

Where Howard Griffith ran for eight touchdowns.

Nobody grows up dreaming of playing at Northern Illinois.

If you end up there, it means the bigger schools didn’t notice you. Not your fault, but that’s the reality of the Big Ten vs. the MAC.

The Big Ten actually hurt Illinois’ ability to host the state finals every year, insisting that Memorial Stadium be available on Thanksgiving weekend every other season.

There is a solution. An easy solution.

One that will involve an agreement between Illinois and Northwestern: play their annual game on Thanksgiving Day.

That would free up Memorial Stadium on odd-numbered years to host the state finals.

And it would take DeKalb out of the state final rotation.

Anybody who says they prefer the finals at NIU is lying.

Have we mentioned the state boys’ basketball tournament?

Peoria has done a fine job since stealing the event back in the day.

It is time to bring it back home.

Illinois is doing its part by renovating the State Farm Center.

When it is all done, there won’t be a facility in the state that comes close.

Every state game played somewhere else is a mistake. It can be fixed.

Local businesses are going to have to do their part.

The mayors of C and U need to enact “No gouging” laws.

Guarantee the IHSA that all rooms will cost less than $100.

And make that rule stick for two decades.

The folks in charge of high school basketball want a reason to reconsider the earlier flight.

Providing the fans with affordable lodging is a great start.

And the cities have added ooldes of fancy rooms since the IHSA fled.

Call that a bonus.

As long as we are bringing the boys’ tournament back to town, better regain the girls’ tournament, too.

The State Farm Center creates a winning argument for C-U. Redbird Arena is nice, but not as nice.

Imagine St. Thomas More playing for its fourth consecutive state title in 2017.

The SFC would be rocking like an REO concert (showing my age).

No reason to mess with wrestling.

The mat men already spend their title time in C-U.

Based on the scene in town that weekend, they seem to enjoy themselves.

C-U doesn’t have to host all the state championships, just the majority of them.

We promise to show up in droves and leave you walking away saying “I can’t wait for my next visit to Champaign-Urbana.”

Staff writer Bob Asmussen can be reached at 217-351-5233 or by email at

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eastsideexp wrote on June 02, 2014 at 1:06 am

Suggestion for the IHSA.... for basketball.... have a Grand Champion tournament.

Take the four class champions for both boys and girls and bring them to SFC the following week for a four team Grand Championship tourney.  Draw the brackets every year so you might have 1A vs 4A in the opener and the following year it might be a 1A vs 3A.

You could "spread the wealth" by having the regular class tourneys in Peoria and Bloomington-Normal and the the 'Big Show'  Grand Championship Tourney where it belongs in CU at SFC.


Jam wrote on June 02, 2014 at 6:06 am

I believe that the IHSA should at the very least rotate these events Norh, South, East, West. 


Many years ago the UI was placed in CU. Obviously the politicians had no regard for high school sports or college recruiting.  This is why I think that beyond a 100 mile radius or so the UI is not a major force in parts of the state.

Lefty55 wrote on June 02, 2014 at 9:06 pm

Nice work Bob and you are correct.  C-U and UofI loses a lot by not hosting these events.  When I grew up all we wanted to do was get to the hall or memorial stadium.  It made you love Illinois even more.  Why not play NW game on Black Friday?  Men need something to do besides hang X-mas lights. 

C-U should fight tooth and nail for these events.  It makes the whole town stronger.  The Big Ten needs to stay out of this one.  I also think you could play NW every single year at Soldier Field.  That way we could really see who's city it is. 

One last thought.  Why not go back to two class basketball?  There were some great battles back in the day.  This is watered down championships in the everybody gets a trophy sweepstakes.  Come on CU and UofI leadership.  This is a no brainer of the highest order.   

illini82 wrote on June 03, 2014 at 9:06 am

I would love to keep FB in Champaign and the state basketball finals should have never left. The Champaign community or better said Hotel owners and eateries were quite smug to the point of arrogance thinking that the tournament would never leave Champaign. Even after requests from the IHSA and being put on notice that the IHSA was looking at bids or packages at other venues the arrogance remained hence the move. Blame no one but yourself Champaign/Urbana.

As far as the tournament of champions goes the state of Indiana tried that and it failed miserably. Neither the kids nor the fan bases wanted to have to play AGAIN after having earned a championship in their respective class. The idea sounded good but it failed miserably with little fan interest.

Even if by some miracle the Champaign community to coax back the tourney so much has changed. It's now 4 classes and interest in the tourney has waned greatly as predicted. Indiana had a great tourney for High School. The best in the U.S. and they too finally succumbed to the politically correct demand for more classes. Interest in that once great tourney predictably fell and by a huge amount.

The Peoria Civic center can't sell out the venue and sometimes it's not much more than half full.

Chicago wants the top class or 3A and 4A in their back yard. Most of the schools are from there so that's understandable but it's also due to a lack of respect or even awareness that there is a state south of I-80 and west of I-39.

But, the Assembly Hall renovation adds a one time selling point that should make the IHSA at least consider Champaign again. The University of Illinoios between Huff Gym and the Assembly Hall will ALWAYS be the rightful and historical home of the tournament. The newness of the State Farm Center and the history and tradition are great selling points. And as Assmussen said have the motels/hotels come up with a fair guaranteed rate for the weekend and get rid of those 3 night minimums they used to have. 20 years might be a bit much but a 5 year rate is doable.

The basketball tournament will never get back to what it used to be. Not with 4 classes but at least the tourney should come back to its righful home.

DaisyJ wrote on June 04, 2014 at 10:06 am

The basketball arena at Peoria is dark, drab, and not a good place for the state finals.

Baseball at the U of I is not big enough for the finals, they should use Wrigley Field.

You need to write about the 4 class system of watering down champions. We just watched a 1A Super in softball, 16-0. We see the same in baseball. Basketball also does not need 4 classes. You have to ask yourself what is going on sometimes.

We just had a super in softball at Scared Heart Griffen. They converted the turf baseball field to a softball field. This was truly ignorant to do, and is disrespectful to the players. 


DaisyJ wrote on June 04, 2014 at 11:06 am

Write about the real mistake, the new seating and selling out so rich fans can go cheer on the Illini basketball. The seating and cost  is a slap in the face to those of us that put up with everything else.

msmith5487 wrote on June 07, 2014 at 9:06 pm

Bob, you're failing to take into account multiple factors that should lead to hosting state championships. I understand your responsibility to support/represent the C-U area but as a journalist you are failing to at least acknowledge these factors that should lead to other cities/areas hosting state championships. Weather the argument surrounds facilities, proximity to C-U or the economic benefits of hosting state championships- other areas qualify and deserve to host state championships. <?xml:namespace prefix = o />

Take boys/girls tennis for instance. One quick glance at the teams/individuals that finished in the top 20 and you would find that more than 75% of those finishers are located north of I80. Does U of I have some of the best tennis facilities in the state-maybe the nation? Yes, but why would you inconvenience 75% of the student-athletes, parents, and supporters?

Will the renovations of the State Farm Center make it an excellent basketball venue? Yes, but have you ever heard of the United Center? Does Peoria not deserve the economic boost the state basketball championships will bring? Does DeKalb or Bloomington-Normal not deserve the benefits?

I admit the NU/UofI football games have been insignificant lately but when that game matters, wouldn't you rather benefit from a sold out B1G football game in C-U? C-U is a college town which reeks the benefits of B1G games/contests more than a weekend of high school sports here and there. Have you attended the FB state championship weekend? If you did, you would know that less than a 3rd of the fans spend the night in C-U.

Should C-U host state championships? Yes, but so should DeKalb, Peoria, B-N, Chicago, and other areas.

CecilColeman wrote on July 12, 2014 at 12:07 pm

When the hotels and motels in Chamaign Urbana stop gouging fans with maximum hotel rates, prepaid for three nights, with no refunds, maybe the IHSA will begin to reconsider. Then maybe improve the slop served at most of the "restaurants" on South Neil Street and in campus town.

By the way, most kids that play HS football in Illinois have never heard of Dick Butkus; I'll wager a lot of their coaches haven't, either.