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Two Illinois players charged with theft for relocating deer sculpture

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A pair of Illinois players have been charged with theft between $500 and $10,000 after taking a sculpture from a Champaign park and relocating it to the top of their apartment building.

Jimmy Marchese, a junior linebacker, and Drew Murtaugh, a sophomore linebacker, told police they were walking home on the night of April 29 and saw a sculpture of a running deer, titled “Startled,” lying on the ground and took it home, placing the sculpture on the roof of their apartment. The Champaign Park District pleaded for the sculpture’s return on Facebook, and an anonymous tip led the authorities to Marchese and Murtaugh.

“Startled” has since been reinstalled at Champaign’s Scott Park, where the $5,000 sculpture will require touch-up work by the artist who created it.

“We had to have the artist come and do some work on it. We think we got it worked out to where it would be a lot harder for anyone to take it out again,” Champaign Park District director Joe DeLuce told the Champaign News Gazette.

The Illini pair has already appeared in court for a probable-cause hearing, and are due back on June 12. They face penalties ranging from probation to five years in prison.

Illinois spokesman Kent Brown told the News Gazette that head coach Lovie Smith is aware of the incident but has taken no action.

Marchese, a native of Vernon Hills, Ill., played in all 12 games in 2017 with two starts, and was named to the Academic All-Big Ten team. Murtaugh, hailing from Crystal Lake, Ill., did not letter as a redshirt freshman in 2017, but joined his partner in petty crime as an Academic All-Big Ten honoree.

 

Once committed to Illinois, USC grad transfer Jalen Greene now headed to Utah State instead

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That whole thing where Illinois picked up a Power Five transfer earlier this offseason?  Never mind, apparently.

In late March, Jalen Greene took to Twitter to announce that he had committed to Illinois after deciding to transfer from USC.  Showing that commitment is sometimes fleeting anymore, 247Sports.com is now reporting that Greene is instead headed to Utah State.

No reason for the abrupt flip was given.

As Greene comes to the Mountain West Conference school as a graduate transfer, he’ll be eligible to play for the Aggies in 2018.  The upcoming season will serve as the wide receiver’s final year of collegiate eligibility.

Greene was a three-star 2014 recruit who was rated as the No. 13 dual-threat quarterback in the country.  He moved to receiver after the 2014 season and ended up catching 26 passes for 318 yards.

Comcast drops Big Ten Network from some out-of-market areas

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Finding something to replace the Michigan spring game on the schedule is suddenly the least of the Big Ten Network’s worries this week. The same could be fans of the conference who live outside the league’s footprint too.

Reports started surfacing Thursday afternoon and evening that cable giant Comcast (who, full disclosure, is the parent company of NBC Universal) had dropped BTN from its lineup in a rather unexpected move given there was no word about any potential carriage battle between the two. As it turns out, this isn’t some wild rumor spreading on social media, the company is indeed dropping BTN from certain packages outside states within the Big Ten footprint.

Straight from the Comcast corporate account:

Markets in Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin will continue to receive the BTN feed like normal.

While some might worry first about whether or not they’re able to watch a certain game, there is a financial aspect to this news that should not go unnoticed. Comcast pays to carry the Big Ten Network and has a different price they pony up each month for the channel depending on what market it is. The out-of-market price is significantly lower than the in-market price but, when you add it all up over 12 months a year and millions of subscribers, this is still a potentially huge hit worth millions of dollars to the bottom line of BTN and, in turn, the schools themselves.

Needless to say this does not impact other providers such as Time Warner, DirecTV, Dish, Verizon and others but this remains an issue for those who have Comcast and want to watch BTN outside Big Ten territory. Based on the states listed above, even those near Big Ten areas like Maryland fans who live in Northern Virginia or Rutgers alumni in Connecticut could also be facing some changes.

You can still likely get the channel in your area on Comcast but it may now require a change to a different package so if you’re a Buckeye in Oregon or a Wolverine in California, you might want to double-check your channel lineup after today’s news.

Illinois unveils new Nike uniforms, including updated ‘Gray Ghost’ look to honor Red Grange

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There’s no better time to do a re-branding than when you’re still undefeated on the season and that’s just what Illinois is doing on Friday, unveiling a new look for the 2018 football season — and beyond — with a set of redesigned uniforms. As part of the new Nike Vapor Untouchable line, the program introduced a trio of jerseys (in navy blue, orange and white), three pairs of pants (in the same colors) and one new orange helmet to round things out.

Per the Illini release:

“The jerseys are bold, yet traditional in design, inspired by the Dick Butkus era jerseys of the 1960s. Illinois’ traditional block I logo remains prominent on the sides of the helmet and at the base of the collar. A unique two-column pattern is set in both the jerseys and the numbers as a nod to the historic columns at Memorial Stadium, which represent Illinois soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice. “

It’s not just the traditional base uniforms that were released however, as the school is also paying tribute to Hall of Famer Red Grange by updating their annual ‘Gray Ghost’ homecoming uniforms as well. The entire outfit is a nod to Grange, who was nicknamed the “Galloping Ghost” when he was in Champaign (way) back in the day.

The gray uniforms aside, many have been quick to note that the base look for the Illinois looks almost exactly like what Syracuse wears outside of a few minor alterations. That’s probably not what the designers nor the school were going for but given the shade of orange involved, there probably wasn’t a ton for Nike or the Illini to work with.

Obviously the new uniforms are at least a nice update but it won’t mean much come this fall if the team can’t turn things around in what should be a make or break year for the program and head coach Lovie Smith.

QB Brandon Dawkins hopes to make transfer decision before late-May graduation from Arizona

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Brandon Dawkins still doesn’t know to where he will transfer. The erstwhile Arizona quarterback does, however, have somewhat of a timeline for a decision to be made.

Late last week, it was reported that Florida Atlantic, Indiana, Nebraska and UCLA have all expressed interest in the quarterback. It was also confirmed that Dawkins has plans to visit the campuses of FAU and IU in the coming weeks.

In an interview with Rivals.com, Dawkins acknowledged that those are the four main schools who are in pursuit of him. He also told the website that he hopes to announce a decision on his new college football home before he graduates from UA in late May.

“I just want to be done with it as soon as possible,” the Thousand Oaks, Calif., product told the site. “I’m not in high school anymore. I’m not trying to have a bunch of offers and brag and post about them. I just want to know where I’m going to go and settle in and start learning that playbook and get to wherever I’m going and start learning the offense and get with the team and start getting that chemistry going.”

On Twitter late last month, Dawkins announced that he would be transferring from Arizona.

As a graduate transfer, Dawkins would be eligible to play immediately in 2018 at whichever of the quartet of schools he ultimately lands. The upcoming season will serve as Dawkins’ final year of eligibility at the collegiate level.

Dawkins started nine games in 2016 and the first four games this past season before the force of nature known as Khalil Tate took over. All told, he played in 23 games during his four seasons in the desert. The 13 starts previously mentioned were the only ones of his UA career.

For the Wildcats portion of his playing career, Dawkins completed just over 56 percent of his 334 passes for 2,418 yards, 15 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He ran for another 1,582 yards and 20 more touchdowns.