Mike Nadel: Illini and other fun stuff

Mike Nadel

An Illinois sports information department employee e-mailed to pick a bone with my Sunday column on Juice Williams.

“Juice has been our quarterback for three seasons and 16 losses and this is the first time he has asked not to talk after a game,” the e-mail said. “He is a stand-up guy and has shown that by sitting through countless interviews after many more losses than wins. For you to say he can talk after wins and not losses is being a bit dramatic. I am sure that we all can find one time in our jobs that we just needed to not deal with something at that point, and Juice deserves that, too.”

In retrospect - and in fairness - I wish I had included a line in my column such as: “This was uncharacteristic of Williams, who over the years has spoken to reporters after even the most hideous losses.”

Still, Williams didn’t “deserve” to avoid holding himself accountable for his significant role in Saturday’s loss at Wisconsin.

Juice isn’t a kid. He’s a third-year starter on a Big Ten team. And he’s not a tackle or cornerback. He’s the QB and undisputed team leader. Even in Rex Grossman’s darkest hours with the Bears, he faced the media vultures. As Illini offensive coordinator Mike Locksley told me: “Quarterbacks get the praise but, unfortunately, they also have to take on the responsibilities of losses.”

Besides, nothing I said was as harsh as coach Ron Zook’s comment that Williams isn’t a good QB.

And while I’m on the subject of Fighting Illini sports ...

The purpose of my Monday column wasn’t to say Bruce Weber should be fired. I like Bruce and hope he sticks around. All I said is he must show his basketball program is on its way back up to earn the contract extension he wants and needs.

Weber’s current deal runs through the 2011-12 season. That seems a long way off, but it’s only 3 1/2 years.

Recruits want to know their coach will be there for their entire college careers. Right now, Weber cannot guarantee that.

Ideally, he’ll have a winning season, take the Illini at least to the NIT and secure letters of intent from recruits who have made verbal commitments. Then, athletic director Ron Guenther would have a better chance convincing the beancounters to extend Weber’s contract.

The time is fast approaching when the powers-that-be either must make a long-term commitment to Weber or change coaches. That’s the ugly reality of big-time college sports.

Illini basketball and football were only two of the subjects recently touched upon at Here are some more excerpts from recent blog posts:

Mail call

From Wally Boller of Galesburg: “There is a way Bruce Weber can secure his job for life and gain the admiration of the academic nutcases that run the University of Illinois. Tell him to go blow up some buildings and then write a book. Worked for William Ayers, and Bruce won't have to apologize for bad teams.”

True enough, though Ayers never lost to Tennessee State!

Mercy killing

Penn State “earned” the No. 1 spot in my semi-serious college football rankings, which are posted every Monday.

The Nittany Lions went to Columbus, won despite an injury to their QB and, most importantly, made it almost impossible for Ohio State to get annihilated again by an SEC school in another snooze-inducing mythical national title game.

Cubbie cluelessness

Voting by Cubs fans apparently got Aramis Ramirez the Hank Aaron Award as the NL’s outstanding offensive player in 2008. Ridiculous.

Besides the fact that Ramirez wasn’t one of the league’s top half-dozen offensive players, why would Cubs fans want to reward a guy who hasn’t driven in a single run as the team has lost its last nine postseason games?

That’s not loyalty, it’s insanity.

The list

According to, Brett Favre called then-Detroit Lions president Matt Millen before their game against Green Bay last month, and the current New York Jets QB told Millen how to beat his former team. (The Packers won, anyway.) Favre has denied the allegations, saying he talked to Millen only about a hunting trip.

Well, our crack staff bugged Millen’s phone, and here are the five things Favre actually was heard to say:

1. “Dick Cheney’s not invited.”

2. “No Sarah Palin, either, though it would be cool if Tina Fey joined us.”

3. “Sorry that you’re probably going to get canned soon, Matt. You were only one more first-round receiver - two tops! - from winning the Super Bowl.”

4. “You retired as a player after the 1991 season and I became a starter in 1992. Coincidence? I think not.”

5. “Look at the bright side. At least you’ll soon be leaving Detroit.”

Hexed exes

The Buffalo Bills celebrated coach Dick Jauron’s contract extension Sunday by losing to the Miami Dolphins.

Later in the day, the San Francisco 49ers were annihilated at home by the Seattle Seahawks. Mike Singletary was so embarrassed after his first game as Niners interim coach that he actually apologized to the fans on his way off the field.

And Dave Wannstedt’s Pitt Panthers plummeted out of the rankings after being thoroughly thrashed at home Saturday by Rutgers.

So while the Bears enjoyed their bye, ex-Bears had quite a productive weekend.


“Somewhere on a barber shop floor back home - Golden Shears on Monument Street (in Baltimore). I went home for a weekend to get it cut because I didn’t trust any barbers in Champaign.” - freshly shorn Illinois guard Chester Frazier, when asked where his trademark braids were.

“If we’re playing good, now he’s gotta blend in. If we’re not playing good, now there’s pressure to save the team.” - Bruce Weber on transfer Alex Legion, who will be eligible to play in late December.

Mike Nadel ( is the Chicago sports columnist for GateHouse News Service.