Summer time on the University of Illinois campus is always lacking in excitement from a sporting perspective, with the absence of the athletic teams on the field. Summer camps and recreation leagues fill the void for sports. However, that doesn't mean that the Illini aren't in the news. Former Illini basketball standout Deron Williams, now with the Utah Jazz, was named to the U. S. Olympic Team in basketball. Williams, who finished his third season in the NBA, is one of the premier players in the league, and should serve the Americans well in August in Beijing. Also being named to the Olympic squad is former Illini gymnast Justin Spring. Spring, who is currently an assistant coach with the Illini gymnastics squad, qualified this past weekend for China, and should be an asset to the squad. More Illini athletes making news include baseball and football star Kyle Hudson, who was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the amateur draft. Hudson, who has not made an official decision on whether or not he will pursue the professional contract, or return for his senior year, was named to the All-American squad as a third team selection. If Hudson decides not to return to the Illini, a void will be created on both the football and baseball teams.
If you have driven by the football stadium on campus lately, you may have noticed some progress on the new pressbox. The outside of the structure is beginning to take shape, and driving east on Kirby Avenue towards the stadium will present a view that is both new and refreshing. According to project coordinator Warren Hood, the new pressbox should be completed by the Illini's opening game on September 6th against Eastern Illinois. That game will be the dedication of the renovation, and also the celebration of 10 former greats of Memorial Stadium, that include Jeff George, Dick Butkus, and current Pittsburgh Steelers running back and 2007 graduate Rashard Mendenhall. The Illini will open the season on August 30 in St. Louis against the Missouri Tigers.
It may have been a year too late for most people in this area, but Comcast and the Big Ten Network finally have struck a deal in time for the 2008 football season. Comcast, who took over Insight Communications in 2007, was in stalled negotiations with the network, causing the majority of viewers in the Champaign-Urbana area without a satellite system to be shut out of programming. What this means is that starting with the fall sports season, most everyone in central Illinois will be able to see their Illini, not to mention other Big Ten teams when they are telecast by the Big Ten Network. Too little, too late? Maybe, but still, something that in my opinion should never have taken this long to settle.