My Plea To Illini Fans During Basketball Season

Thursday’s column from CBS Chicago

(CBS) The days are dark in Champaign right now.

And it has nothing to do with the time change.

At the University of Illinois, the football program is caught up in a tailspin so severe that an ETA on its actual crash landing remains unavailable. As a result, the first-year football coach has hardly instilled confidence – let alone enthusiasm – among a frazzled fan base. And in turn, the second-year athletic director has become the target for many a critical arrow, including those from yours truly.

With despair sweeping across the Illinois prairies – and creeping through the streets of Chicago – a restless Illini Nation is in dire need of a savior to light the way back to brighter days.

Enter John Groce.

On Friday night, the Illini’s new hope, er… new basketball coach’s Fighting Illini team tips off the 2012-13 season when it hosts Colgate at Assembly Hall. Here’s to hoping that we see a brand of basketball that’s minty fresh.

But whatever the flavor, I expect that we will see plenty of different things from Groce’s inaugural team when compared to departed coach Bruce Weber’s. That includes a faster pace, perhaps some zone defense and hopefully higher scoring totals. But an antsy Illini fandom needs to not expect to see too much from Groce & Co.

After all, it’s too soon.

To continue reading, visit