UI punter overcomes rare illness

   CHAMPAIGN  He is as big as ever. And stronger.

   Hard to believe it is the same Matt Minnes. The guy who almost lost his life to a rare illness last summer.

A new beginning

   This is Bill Self''s offseason. On a snowy central Illinois morning, the Illinois basketball coach already has conducted a lengthy interview with the Indianapolis Star, which has sought his help in analyzing the Final Four.

   (He''s something of an expert, having coached against three of the teams headed to Atlanta.)

Chief can´t be counted out just yet

   Chicagoan Roger Plummer deserves a medal. Aided by innovative semisecrecy  as a one-man committee, he evaded the open meetings act under which the UI board of trustees operates  Plummer came to a brilliant but obvious conclusion, reducing the Chief Illiniwek question to two alternatives: retain or retire.

   No compromise. No attempt to pacify both sides by staking out common ground. No eliminating the dance but keeping a nonmoving symbol during the three-in-one music.

Powell, Lockhart see stars

   Illini senior All-America wrestlers Griff Powell and John Lockhart will compete Friday at the Spirit of the Heartland all-star dual meet in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Illini pair off to regionals

   Junior Jana Gallagher and freshman Ashley Williams were selected to represent Illinois on April 6 in the NCAA South Central women''s gymnastics regional at Tempe, Ariz.

   Gallagher is making her third regional trip, qualifying for the second straight season in the all-around.

Experience could help end UI trend

   OK, Ron Turner, now it''s your turn. - Illinois has produced three consecutive Big Ten championships in the major sports  an undisputed football crown sandwiched between two shared basketball titles  and it''ll be Turner''s turn in the fall.

   Before we slide over recent accomplishments, consider that Illinois went 47 years with two shared championships in basketball before getting a piece of three in the last five seasons  and the 2001 football title was just the fourth in 48 years.

Spring workouts might help Illini fill in the blanks

   They took the school''s first outright Big Ten title in 19 years, played in the school''s first BCS game ever and won 10 games for the first time since 1989.

   Ron Turner''s Illinois football players have plenty to smile about when they look back at 2001.

Self will feel a bit lonely at Final Four

   CHAMPAIGN  Bill Self is going to the Final Four.

   He only wishes he was traveling with more company.

Illini makes most of second chance

   CHAMPAIGN  There probably isn''t a more grateful recruit on the Illinois baseball roster than Brett Wicker.

   On Sunday, the junior college transfer delivered the first of what he hopes will be many paybacks to his new team for the chance to keep playing.

UI plays well at end, still disappointed

   MADISON, Wis.  He welcomed the expectations.

   Sure, Bill Self thought they were a little off, thought his team was being overrated early, its lofty preseason perch little more than a byproduct of last season''s success.