Illinois Fighting Illini

CHAMPAIGN, IL - OCTOBER 3: Ke'Shawn Vaughn #5 of the Illinois Fighting Illini runs the ball against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Memorial Stadium on October 3, 2015 in Champaign, Illinois.  Illinois defeated Nebraska 14-13. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Former Illini rushing leader announces intent to transfer from Illinois

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Illinois running back Ke'Shawn Vaughn is moving on from the Illini. The sophomore announced, via Twitter, he will transfer to a new school in 2017.

Vaughn rushed for a team-high 723 yards as a freshman in 2015 with a team-leading six rushing touchdowns. This past season saw Vaughn slip to third in rushing yards with 301 yards and three touchdowns behind Kendrick Foster and Reggie Corbin under new head coach Lovie Smith. Vaughn was slowed by some injury concerns in the 2016 season with a leg injury causing him to be taken out against Minnesota and limiting him to two rushing attempts for three yards in his final two games before not getting a rushing attempt against Iowa and not playing at all against Northwestern in the season finale.

With two years under his belt, Vaughn still has two years of eligibility to play and a redshirt season still available to use to preserve his eligibility. Should he transfer to another FBS program, NCAA transfer rules will prohibit him from playing this fall. He will be eligible to play immediately if he lands at a lower division school.

Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield takes home second straight Burlsworth Award

NORMAN, OK - SEPTEMBER 5: Quarterback Baker Mayfield #6 of the Oklahoma Sooners looks to throw against the Akron Zips September 5, 2015 at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma. Oklahoma defeated Akron 41-3.(Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
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For the second straight season, Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield has been named the recipient of the Burlsworth Award. Mayfield is now the first player to win the award two times.

The award is given to college football’s top player who began his career as a walk-on player. Mayfield was originally a walk-on player at Texas Tech before eventually transferring to Oklahoma, where he has emerged as a Heisman Trophy candidate and led the Sooners to two consecutive Big 12 championships and one appearance in the College Football Playoff.

Mayfield beat out Washington State quarterback Luke Falk and Northwestern wide receiver Austin Carr for the award. Mayfield will also have a chance to add one more Burlsworth Award to his name next season, as the Sooners passer has already said he will return to Oklahoma for the 2017 season.

Year after breakout freshman season, WR Desmond Cain to transfer from 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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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.