Letter RIP

This week''s comments from readers:

Former Illini in the NFL

How ex-Illini performed in Sunday''s NFL games:

Illini win, raise more than hopes

CHAMPAIGN – Illinois raised its 2004 championship banner Sunday.

And in their exhibition finale, the Illini didn''t do anything to lower lofty expectations.

UI swimming in uncharted waters

In between bites of steak and ribs at a crowded Texas Roadhouse on Sunday night, Illinois soccer players kept hearing "congratulations" and "good luck" from customers shuffling by their tables.

It was much easier on the ears than what the Illini heard a few hours earlier at Texas A&M''s soccer field.

Illini arm selves in Georgetown

GEORGETOWN – In high school, Aaron Martin has developed a well-earned reputation as a do-it-all player for his baseball team.

When he arrives at Illinois next fall, the Georgetown-Ridge Farm senior is projected as a pitcher. Clearly, however, Martin is ready and willing to pitch in elsewhere if the call ever comes from Illini coach Itch Jones.

Who''s that Illini?

I wasn’t the Big Ten’s best shooter or rebounder, and I never led Illinois to the conference championship. In fact, my teams won 18 Big Ten games from 1965 through ’67. What makes me so unique is that I was the conference’s MVP my senior year, beating out such stars as Minnesota’s Tom Kondla and Ohio State’s Bill Hosket. When the scandal of the mid-1960s stripped three exceptional players from the Illini roster, I stepped up my game to become a star. Today, I am a successful financial adviser and reside in Rye, N.Y.

A trophy case ... or more likely 100, is needed at Illinois

CHAMPAIGN – They keep the championship trophy from the 1978 Kentucky Invitational in the entrance to the media relations department at Illinois.

It''s a little wobbly up top. The action-figure-sized basketball player affixed to the apex tends to bounce when the base is moved. But you still can read the plaque on the front. The wooden base isn''t rotted out.

View from the top

News-Gazette staff writer Jeff Huth asked some prominent national observers of the collegiate basketball scene this question: "When I say ''Illinois basketball,'' what do you think of?" Here are their responses:

UI men''s basketball practice report

Brian Randle would love to be back to his high-flying ways by the time Ohio State visits the Assembly Hall on Jan. 5.

If he can''t, he''ll likely stay grounded for the season.

Tate: You can''t keep a good man down

LAS CRUCES, N.M. – The bulldog took a head-on hit from a runaway freight train.

&nsp;It threw him for a loop.

And the bounce-back, at age 72, isn''t as automatic as it might have been earlier.