Racial concerns brought up over Illinois' history of hiring coaches.

 

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- A message from two University of Illinois trustees might come into play after voting last month against Illinois football coach Tim Beckman's contract, citing racial concerns.

With Illini basketball in a tail spin and the status of coach Bruce Weber decided in the court of public opinion, the symbolic vote from trustees James Montgomery and Lawrence Oliver put athletic director Mike Thomas on notice whenever he makes a move, whether that's next month, as expected, or down the road.

Illinois, Purdue and Nebraska are the only schools in the Big Ten Conference without a history of an African-American head coach in football or men's basketball. Montgomery and Oliver felt Illinois hadn't done enough to hire a black coach.

The vote irritated some Illini fans, but former Flyin' Illini guard Stephen Bardo, an ESPN analyst who is black, had no problem with the message from two of the three minority trustees after their vote didn't block Beckman's hiring. 

"I appreciated their stance,'' Bardo said. "If we continue to go status quo, we get the same results. To do the same thing and expect a different outcome, that's the definition of insanity.

"If we want to have different results, we have to go in a different direction. I think it's high time to include, I mean seriously include, qualified minority candidates. We need to have a different approach than we did in the past.''

In December, Thomas made a serious run at Kevin Sumlin in his search for a football coach, but Sumlin, an African-American, jumped from Houston to Texas A&M, but the heat was turned up. Bardo doesn't agree with claims of reverse discrimination, and he also wants the best man hired, no matter the skin color.

"If we want to talk racism, the track record there speaks for itself,'' Bardo said. "I've heard about getting the best candidate.

"Have all the best candidates been white in the last 100-some years? Has there not been African-American coaches who have gone to the Final Four and won national championships?''

It comes down to recruiting Chicago, and you don't have to be a black coach to get it done in the city, Bardo said, pointing to recent success there by Duke, Kentucky, Kansas and Memphis.

"It doesn't mean they have to be an African-American coach,'' Bardo said. "They have to have an approach that's allowed them to come into our backyard and steal our players.

"Let's be honest, any time the basketball program has done well, they've gotten the best kids out of Chicago. The best kids, more than half of them, come from the inner city.''

Otherwise, Bardo braced himself for a bad night in the ESPN studio. He felt Illinois faces a mutiny when the Illini play at No. 8 Ohio State Tuesday, Bardo said.

"As a network analyst, it appears as though the team has really given up on its coach,'' Bardo said. "It's a team that's baffling. They can beat Ohio State and Michigan State, yet they lose to Nebraska and Penn State. There's not a lot of consistency and leadership on the team.

"As an alum, it's frustrating because you see the talent. You want so much for the program to be respected. Illinois gave me a tremendous platform to do the things I've enjoyed in my profession. These guys don't understand the opportunity they have to set themselves up for life.''

FOOTBALL: Peoria Manual junior Logan Tuley-Tillman gave an oral commitment to Michigan Sunday. The 6-foot-7, 300-pound left tackle chose the Wolverines over 26 other offers, including one from the Illini.

He planned to cancel scheduled unofficial visits to USC, Oregon and Texas. He can't make it official until signing a letter of intent next February.

IN OTHER NEWS: Illini wrestling, ranked No. 5 nationally, lost to No. 4 Iowa 28-6 in the consolation match of the national duals tournament. In the national semifinals, the Illini fell 19-15 to top-ranked Oklahoma State. . . 

  John Supinie can be reached at Johnsupinie@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter @JohnSupinie.