Big Ten

Illini announce star-studded Hall of Fame class featuring Dick Butkus, Dee Brown, Deron Williams and more


Illini announce star-studded Hall of Fame class featuring Dick Butkus, Dee Brown, Deron Williams and more

Last fall, Illinois announced the formation of its very own athletics hall of fame, announcing at the same time that football legend Dick Butkus would be among the inaugural class of inductees.

Well, the Illini and Bears legend now has company — and plenty of it.

Illinois announced the full 28-member inaugural class for its Hall of Fame, and it is packed with famous names who have worn the orange and blue.

In addition to Butkus, who is arguably the greatest defensive football player of all time, Illini football is represented in the class by Dike Eddleman, Red Grange, George Halas, George Huff, Buddy Young and Robert Zuppke.

Dee Brown and Deron Williams, Illini basketball legends from the beloved 2004-05 team, are also members of the inaugural class, joined by fellow basketball alums Nick Anderson, Jerry Colangelo, Mannie Jackson and Andy Phillip.

Outside of the two most prominent college sports, Illinois' first Hall of Fame class claims 15 more members, including Baseball Hall of Famer Lou Boudreau, Olympic hurdler Tonja Buford-Bailey, women's athletics pioneer Karol Kahrs, Olympic gymnast Nancy Thies Marshall, Olympic sprinter Herb McKenley, Olympic wrestler Allie Morrison, Olympic high jumper and decathlete Harold Osborn and famed golfer Steve Stricker among others with impressive credentials.

"I would like to thank the selection committee for its work in identifying the members of this inaugural Hall of Fame class," Illinois athletics director Josh Whitman said in the announcement. "As you would expect, with more than 120 years of athletics excellence to consider, it was an incredibly difficult process to select this small, elite group. The Class of 2017 includes some of the greatest names in the history of American sports. Equally exciting, however, is that we have hundreds of additional candidates with Hall of Fame credentials. Although not everyone could be included in the first class, all who are deserving will one day be recognized with this special honor. Congratulations to the inaugural class of the University of Illinois Athletics Hall of Fame."

The class will be introduced at a gala at the Field Museum on Friday, June 23. The induction will take place Saturday, Sept. 30, at the State Farm Center in Champaign.

Here's the complete list of inductees:

— Nick Anderson, basketball (1988-89)
— Lou Boudreau, baseball/basketball (1937-38)
— Dee Brown, basketball (2003-06)
— Tonja Buford-Bailey, track and field (1990-93)
— Dick Butkus, football (1962-64)
— Jerry Colangelo, basketball/contributor to sport (1960-62)
— Dwight "Dike" Eddleman, football/track/basketball (1943, 1947-49)
— Perdita Felicien, track and field (2000-03)
— Harry Gill, track coach (1904-29, 1931-33)
— Harold "Red" Grange, football (1923-25)
— Abie Grossfeld, gymnastics (1957-60)
— George Halas, football/basketball/baseball/contributor to sport (1916-18)
— George Huff, football/football coach/baseball coach/athletics director (1901-36)
— Mannie Jackson, basketball/contributor to sport (1958-60)
— Karol Kahrs, coach/athletics administration (1966-2000)
— Nancy Thies Marshall, gymnastics (1976-77)
— Herb McKenley, track and field (1946-47)
— Allie Morrison, wrestling (1927-29)
— Harold Osborn, track and field (1920-22)
— Andy Phillip, basketball/baseball (1942-43, 1947)
— Renee Heiken Slone, golf (1990-93)
— Steve Stricker, golf (1986-89)
— Mary Eggers Tendler, volleyball (1985-88)
— Craig Tiley, tennis coach (1992-2005)
— Craig Virgin, cross country (1973-77)
— Deron Williams, basketball (2003-05)
— Claude "Buddy" Young, football/track and field (1944, 1946)
— Robert Zuppke, football coach (1913-41)

Pat Fitzgerald, Lovie Smith in top 10 of an intriguing college coach list

Pat Fitzgerald, Lovie Smith in top 10 of an intriguing college coach list

Northwestern and Illinois’ college football programs are ranked in the top 10 this year.

Kind of.

One esteemed name in the college football ranks has placed Wildcats head coach Pat Fitzgerald atop the list of the all-time greatest college coaches…ranked as players. Illini coach Lovie Smith ranks at No. 10.

Rich Cirminiello, Director of College Awards for the Maxwell Football Club, compiled the list and he is an excellent follow on Twitter. He has several other noteworthy lists of interest, including the top college football players who are now coaches in the NFL. Psst…spoiler alert: several local connections are on that particular list as well, including Saints head coach Sean Payton (QB, Eastern Illinois) and Ron Rivera (LB, California).

But back to Coach Fitz, who bleeds purple and has emphatically put the NU football program on the map since the mid-90s. He was a two-time All-American in addition to receiving consecutive Bronco Nagurski, Chuck Bednarik and Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors as a linebacker (1995-96). He helped guide the Wildcats to the ’96 Rose Bowl. Since becoming the team’s head coach in 2006, he has led the program to nine bowl games (four wins).

We all know Lovie Smith’s coaching legacy with the Bears and his rebuilding of the Illinois football program, but did you know how much he dominated as a college player? He played for Tulsa from 1976-79, racking up 367 career tackles primarily as a safety. He was a three-time All-Missouri Valley Conference award winner and earned a second-team All-America mention in 1978. He was also named MVC Newcomer of the Year after he tallied 90 tackles as a freshman.

[MORE: Lovie Smith, Mike Tirico discuss systemic racism 

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh, who passed for over 11,000 yards in seven seasons as a Chicago Bear, ranked No. 2 on Cirminiello’s list. In a follow-up tweet, Minnesota’s P.J. Fleck, who dominated as a wide receiver at NIU and at nearby Kaneland High School, came in at No. 20. Western Michigan’s Tim Lester —a star player at Wheaton Warrenville South HS— is in at No. 7.

Who said that the Land of Lincoln didn’t have top college football talent?

Northwestern Wildcats athletic department begins phased return to campus

Northwestern Wildcats athletic department begins phased return to campus

Professional, collegiate and prep sports have been on hold in Illinois since mid-March but it looks like there may be more light at the end of the tunnel. This time, in Evanston.

Northwestern University announced Thursday that a phased reopening of the athletic department, in tandem with NU’s overall policy for a return to campus, will include student athlete workouts on Monday June 22.

The relaunch of athletics at Northwestern during the COVID-19 pandemic comes as the state of Illinois is progressing in its own planned reopening, as dictated by Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

The sports medicine staff, athletic trainers and student-athletes with post-injury needs were welcomed back earlier this month and other select groups will be admitted back to campus next week.

Athletes will be required to complete a full physical upon arrival in Evanston on June 22. They will be screened before entering on-site facilities by means of a wellness check and a no-touch temperature scan.

Facility access will be managed through one entrance and exit. Locker facilities and lounges will remain closed, though, along with dining centers.

[MORE: Shortened NFL preseason puts big group of players at a disadvantage]

The Wildcats football team, along with both the men’s and women’s basketball programs, are penciled in to begin those voluntary workouts a week from Monday. Each unit should have plenty of motivation once they hit the playing surface.

Head coach Pat Fitzgerald and company are eager to put last year’s 3-9 mark behind them. On the hardwood, Chris Collins’ group needs a quick bounce-back after an 8-23 mark last season while the women’s team, under the tutelage of Big Ten Coach of the Year Joe McKeown, are looking to build off a stellar 2019-20 campaign. They won the their first conference championship since 1989-90 and boasted a school record 26 wins.


Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.