Gophers'' timing bad

URBANA – Imagine how Minnesota must feel. When the Gophers'' softball team first played at Eichelberger Field in 2001, there were 748 fans in the stands.

That was the most ever to see a UI home game.

Dietz: Minnes was just kicking around until Bears came calling

While Champaign''s Reggie Hodges was watching the NFL draft with his family last weekend, Urbana''s Matt Minnes was taking it easy.

Minnes, Illinois'' backup punter the past couple years, attended the spring football game and checked out the alumni barbecue. Minnes was pretty sure he wouldn''t get drafted, so he didn''t sweat it Saturday or Sunday.

Extra nonconference game a boon for league

PARK RIDGE – Get that thought of an increased Big Ten football schedule out of your heads. Even with the addition of a 12th game in 2006, conference commissioner Jim Delany said it isn''t going to happen.

The reason is mathematics. There is no way to configure 11 teams into a nine-game schedule.

Rossow: A note on thank-yous

We can learn a lot from Deron Williams.

Not about basketball or tattoos. But about manners and public relations.

Jones puts Illini back on map

DES MOINES, Iowa – Abe Jones capped a memorable Drake Relays by running legs on two Illinois winning relays Saturday.

Jones, who won the 400-meter hurdles Friday, teamed with Zach Glavash, Champaign Central product Jeremy Kruidenier and Tim Hobbs to win the distance medley relay. He joined Nathan Vadeboncoeur, Adrian Walker and Tramell Smith to win the sprint medley relay.

Who''s that Illini?

I played women''s basketball from 1978-1982 and established myself as one of the top scorers in UI history. I''m still third on the career scoring chart (1,906) points, and my 658 points in the 1980-81 season is good for second in the single-season list.

Kroner: Softball party draws a crowd

URBANA – Softball and food had equal billing Saturday at Eichelberger Field. Each was good.

The second World''s Largest Softball Tailgate promotion was a day for orange (courtesy of the Illini fans) and for blue (the attitude of Minnesota fans) after Illinois rallied in each game for one-run victories.

Close-call victories increase Big Ten lead

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – Chris Robinson''s hitting and Aaron Saving''s pitching helped Illinois separate itself from the pack atop the Big Ten baseball standings.

The Illini swept Penn State on Saturday – 6-3 and 6-4 – as Robinson delivered two game-winning hits and Saving picked up a win and a save. The wins pushed Illinois (26-13-1 overall, 14-5 Big Ten) two games ahead of Minnesota and three of Iowa.

It's business as usual

URBANA – This was supposed to be the year.

If you wanted to beat the Big Ten''s tennis juggernaut, if you wanted to knock Illinois from its nine-year perch atop the league, this was your chance.

Badgers bump Illinois

EAST LANSING, Mich. – Cynthya Goulet won at singles and doubles and Momei Qu also earned a victory, but fourth-seeded Illinois couldn''t rebound at the Big Ten women''s tennis tournament, losing 4-2 to fifth-seeded Wisconsin on Friday.

"That''s the way the whole year has gone," said UIcoach Sujay Lama, whose team has lost 4-3 five times this season. "The effort has been incredible. It''s a matter of execution, and that''s where we''ve struggled this year. We''ve battled, we''ve played close. It just comes down to execution."