Illinois Fighting Illini

CHAMPAIGN, IL - NOVEMBER 14: Desmond Cain #86 of the Illinois Fighting Illini is shoe tackled by Raekwon McMillan #5 of the Ohio State Buckeyes
at Memorial Stadium on November 14, 2015 in Champaign, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Year after breakout freshman season, WR Desmond Cain to transfer from Illini

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A career that began with much promise will, at least the Champaign portion, end with a departure.

On social media Thursday night, Desmond Cain announced that he has decided to transfer out of the Illinois football program and continue his collegiate playing career elsewhere. According to the wide receiver, a desire to be closer to his home in Florida triggered his decision.

After talking it over with my family it’s best to move closer home to finish off my next few years in college! Thank you Illini! Has been amazing these two years I’ve been here and thank you all for the major support GO ILLINI!

A three-star 2015 signee, Cain was rated as the No. 146 player at any position in the state of Florida coming out of high school in Delray Beach.

With Bill Cubit as his head coach as a true freshman, Cain was second on the Illini in receptions (53) and third in receiving yards (492). Those totals dropped to five and 61 in Lovie Smith‘s first year as injuries caused the receiver to miss six games.

If the 5-11, 185-pound Cain ends up at another FBS program, he’d have to sit out the 2017 season. He’d then have two years of eligibility remaining beginning in 2018.

Wisconsin’s revised stadium policy bans nooses, ropes

MADISON, WI - SEPTEMBER 19:  General view of action as fans look on during the college football game between the Wisconsin Badgers and the Troy Trojans at Camp Randall Stadium on September 19, 2015 in Madison, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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I’m thinking that, with this latest development, this particular storyline has officially run its course.

During the Oct. 29 Nebraska-Wisconsin game, television cameras showed a shot of the crowd in which one fan was seen wearing a mask of President Barack Obama with a noose around his neck. The university was roundly criticized for allowing the fans involved to remain in the stadium — and their citing of “an exercise of the individual’s right to free speech” — although they did demand that the costume be removed.  As the controversy continued to stew, UW athletic director Barry Alvarez felt compelled to issue a statement a few days later in which he described himself as “deeply troubled” and said their plan is to “have a revised policy in place” before the Badgers’ next home game.

With that next game, against Illinois, two days away, UW has announced the revised policy. From the school’s release:

Specifically, items prohibited in athletics facilities will now include nooses and ropes, which will be treated as weapons that constitute a threat to safety (as will replicas of weapons). In addition, policies will be revised to read:

Any person who engages in violent, threatening, abusive or otherwise disorderly conduct which tends to provoke a disturbance or incite violence will be ejected from our events. Threats include statements, actions and behaviors that could reasonably be foreseen as having a purpose to inflict physical harm, even if the person making the threat doesn’t have the ability to carry out the threat. Disorderly conduct does not require that a disruption actually occur. Any spectator carrying a prohibited item may be refused admittance or may be ejected from the venue.

It will further be reiterated that UW Athletics promotes a welcoming atmosphere in its venues and that disrespectful conduct toward others may lead to ejection from the venue. Racist and other offensive behavior is not appropriate for our venues.

“What happened at Camp Randall two weeks ago goes against everything we stand for,” a new statement from Alvarez began. “I am very pleased that we all were able to work together to improve our policies. I greatly appreciate the collaborative spirit of our meetings with leaders in our community. It is great to be able to talk, and even more satisfying that we took action.”

“This policy change is an important step in ensuring that our sporting events are free from offensive conduct that has the potential to create a disturbance,” UW chancellor Rebecca Blank said in her statement. “I have asked the Office of Legal Affairs to work closely with the Division of Athletics in the next several weeks to review facilities use and other policies to clarify conduct rules at all of our sports facilities. We fully intend to include campus and community stakeholders in that process as well.”

UW announced earlier in the week that it had revoked the season tickets of two groups of fans involved in the incident. The revocation impacts a total of four season tickets.

Illini nixes future games vs. Northwestern at Soldier Field

CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 28:  Mason Monheim #43 of the Illinois Fighting Illini dives over Austin Carr #80 of the Northwestern Wildcats to score a touchdown after intercepting a pass at Soldier Field on November 28, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Northwestern defeated Illinois 24-14.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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This development will likely sit very well with a sizable segment of the Illinois fan base.

On the same day it was announced that the Illini would play host to one of the six Big Ten games to be played on Friday night next season, the school announced that it will be discontinuing what was expected to be a biannual contest with Northwestern at Soldier Field in Chicago. Instead, the conference matchup with the Wildcats will be played in Champaign moving forward.

That said, the football program will still look to have a relationship with the home stadium of the NFL’s Chicago Bears by actively seeking to schedule future non-conference games there.

“We feel strongly that we should play our traditional rivalry games in Champaign, but at the same time we are committed to a strong presence in Chicago,” athletic director Josh Whitman said in a statement. “Our intent is to play a major non-conference opponent at Soldier Field once every four years. Our team and fans enjoyed the game against Washington in 2013. It is important to maintain exposure in Chicago, and this also allows our fans and student-athletes an opportunity to experience Soldier Field.”

“With our strong ties to Chicago, playing Illinois football in historic Soldier Field will be a highlight for our players,” said head coach Lovie Smith. “Hosting a game in Chicago is great for recruiting while also giving the largest base of Illinois graduates access to Fighting Illini football.”

The Illini had been scheduled to play the Wildcats at Soldier Field in 2017 and 2019; those games are now off. The teams met at the NFL stadium last season in the first of the scheduled series.

Illinois has a previously scheduled game with USF in 2018 that will go on as planned.

Matt Campbell defends Iowa State TEs coach against player mistreatment allegations

AMES, IA - Quarterback Joel Lanning #7 of the Iowa State Cyclones high fives head coach Matt Campbell of the Iowa State Cyclones after scoring a touchdown in the first half of play against the Baylor Bears at Jack Trice Stadium on October 1, 2016 in Ames, Iowa. (Photo by David Purdy/Getty Images)
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Winds from the hurricane that swept Tim Beckman out of town at Illinois have blown onto campus at Iowa State.

Former Illini assistant coach and current Iowa State tight ends coach Alex Golesh has been accused of forcing former offensive lineman Anthony Durkin to play through a known shoulder injury, eventually leading to a dislocated shoulder in August of 2014, and eventually forcing Durkin to sign a waiver releasing himself from his scholarship — which would absolve Illinois from paying for Durkin’s ensuing shoulder surgery.

Durkin has filed a lawsuit stating Beckman and Golesh were negligent in knowingly forcing him to play injured, which will lead to shoulder issues that will “occur for the rest of his life.”

Golesh’s current boss says he knows all about the supposed issues at his former employer and says there’s nothing to them.

“Any of that information is not new information to my knowledge,” Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell told the Iowa State Daily. “All I mean by that is when we hired coach Golesh, all of those situations had been vetted the University of Illinois — the entire staff, all the team doctors, everybody had been vetted in a thorough investigation.

“We had detailed everything before we hired coach Golesh to make sure we were doing the right thing there. Our information back from the University of Illinois is they never would’ve kept him on staff and he would not have been retain had he been involved with any investigation or any issues there.”

Beckman was fired shortly before the 2015 season. Golesh worked at Illinois from 2012-15 before reuniting with Campbell in Ames, for whom he worked under at Toledo from 2009-11.

Big Ten announces 2017 Friday night schedule

Purdue v Wisconsin
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Much to the chagrin of many, the Big Ten is officially ahead with its controversial version of Friday Night Lights.

Earlier this month, the Big Ten confirmed that it was going against its longstanding tradition next season by playing games on Friday nights in the months of September and October.  Less than a week later, the conference has announced which six games will be played on the day usually reserved for high school football in the Midwest.

Half of the games will be non-conference matchups, the other half conference contests.

  • Fri., Sept. 1 Washington at Rutgers
  • Fri., Sept. 1 Utah State at Wisconsin
  • Fri., Sept. 8 Ohio at Purdue
  • Fri., Sept. 29 Nebraska at Illinois
  • Fri., Oct. 13 Northwestern at Maryland
  • Fri., Oct. 27 Michigan State at Northwestern

The league, as a direct result of its new television agreements that go into effect next season, will play six Friday night games per year for the next six years.  None of those games will be played in November.

Michigan, privately, and Penn State, publicly, will not be participating in FNL.  It’s unlikely either would’ve been asked to host such a game as the league is reportedly reluctant to schedule them in stadiums with a significant capacity.

The conference noted in today’s release that “[w]hile not all institutions are able to participate in Friday night matchups, all 14 institutions will participate in the broad initiative to provide more primetime exposure on national platforms.”

Given the scrutiny the decision has garnered, the league also went out of its way to ensure that they’re still thinking of the kids.

The Big Ten Conference appreciates the significance of high school football within the region and has worked to minimize the impact of this initiative by limiting the number of Friday night games. Overall, these games represent approximately six percent of Big Ten home games annually, and no institution will host more than one game in any given year. Friday night games will also be announced at least 10 months in advance to provide all parties adequate time to prepare.