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Thursday, Dec. 14, 2006 09:05 pm

A sporting chance

Let's fix what ails University of Illinois football and basketball

Having solved the Chief Illiniwek problem [see “Solving Chief Illiniwek,” Aug. 18], Yanks Avatar, Tom “Snorts” Sullivan, and Father “Frog” O’Malley have now decided to address the more important University of Illinois sports problem — that the Illini do not win national championships.

“National championships,” of course, refers to football and basketball, because other sports don’t make money for universities — so they don’t matter.

Snorts and Frog were star athletes in high school, and they played some college ball. They are, then, by definition, sensitive, outstanding citizens, keenly aware of the many real-life lessons one learns by participating in sports. Yanks also played the game, and later on in life he coached, until a stroke took away his voice and made him speak only in “dots.”

The proceedings this day are to be conducted with civility and within the conventions of common debate. Two models will be considered: the “student-athlete model” and the “athlete-student model.”

A coin flip decides that Snorts will champion the student-athlete model.

Snorts: I don’t want the student-athlete model. Let’s make the dot-talker do it.

Frog: OK.

Yanks: . . . . .

In the spirit of fair play, a passing teenage busboy is captured alive and forced to help Yanks explain his position. Another coin flip decides that Yanks and the teenager will open the proceedings.

Yanks: . . . . .

Teenager: Like, whatever!

Snorts and Frog: The first order of business in the athlete-student model is salary adjustment — fair compensation for duties performed. Please note that the president of the University of Illinois makes $400,000 a year, and the director of the medical school gets $350,000. Bruce Weber, the basketball coach, makes more than $800,000 a year, and Ron Zook, the football coach, is paid $1.25 million.

Given that “managing” a basketball game requires skills almost as complex as those needed to stack toy blocks and managing football is akin to playing checkers, we need to adjust salaries to fit responsibilities. Because there’s a limited supply of money, we’ll take $200,000 from the president and give it to Weber and take $200,000 from the medical director and give it to Zook. Your position, Mr. Dot Head?

Yanks: . . . . .

Teenager: Whatever!

Snorts and Frog: The next adjustment is “time at the game.” Currently only 91 percent of Illini football and basketball players major in sports management, meaning that a full 9 percent must take time away from practice to attend an occasional class.

No wonder we lose; we’re giving just 91 percent, and, as any true sport fan knows, you have to give 110 percent! The new agenda will require that all scholarship players major in sports management — and fulfill their entire academic obligations by listening to a coach scream out “lessons” 24/7. Of course that still only gives us 100 percent of a player’s time — so we’ll steal 10 percent from students on cello scholarships. Your opinion Mr. Dot Brain?

Yanks: . . . . .

Teenager: Whatever!

Snorts and Frog: Speaking of screaming, Weber and Zook don’t do it well. Oh, they cuss out officials, pout-dance like spoiled children when things don’t go their way, and publicly berate players, but they don’t do it with required intensity — they don’t humiliate enough. Humiliation builds character. Builds winners! We need to send both coaches to an anger-management class to train them in severe anger — Bobby Knight bullwhip anger! Gnashing-teeth anger! Flying-spittle anger! Fist anger!

All of it, of course, is intended to ready players for the “real world” after they quit school. For example, it’s common knowledge that the accounting supervisor will pout-dance if the balance sheet doesn’t balance. If you mistakenly assign an expense to the asset column, he’ll screech obscenities at you, then collar-drag you to the front of the accounts-payable team and face-slap you with a 12-column spreadsheet — because, you see, humiliation builds accounting prowess. Don’t you agree, Mr. Dot Breath?

Yanks was wide-eyed, clawing at his throat; the teenager said, “Whatever!”

Snorts and Frog: Although Weber should be commended for recently getting a commitment from a 13-year-old (really), neither Weber nor Zook recruits well. They both give it the ol’ college try, as evidenced by the recent recruitment of a rash of misdemeanor offenders, DWI offenders, and petty thieves — thugs, to be sure, but not championship-caliber thugs.

As Lawrence Taylor, the best linebacker who ever played, said, “Ya gotta play like mad dogs!” Mad-dog play requires felons, not petty thieves. Time for Weber and Zook to start recruiting in prisons.

And waiting until someone is 13 before getting a commitment is too late by far, for it’s well known that USC, Ohio State, and Michigan engage in preconception recruiting.

Your thoughts, Mr. Dot Mouth?

Yanks: I CAN TALK!

Yanks turns to his teenager helper, cracks the lad over the head with a sugar bowl, and yells, “You @@##&&! You call that bussing tables?”

Snorts: Did you know that Lawrence Taylor retired from football and is now a damn fine accountant — when he’s not in rehab?

Frog: Proves our point. The athlete-student model is the answer.

Contact Doug Bybee Sr. at dougbybee@sbcglobal.net.

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