Press row wrong spot for AD Ron Guenther

By Lucas Deal

Recently, there has been a lot of discussion throughout the University of Illinois’ Athletic Department on the actions of Illini Athletic Director Ron Guenther during Illinois’ two-point loss to Virginia Tech in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Guenther was seated on press row behind the Illinois bench and was seen repeatedly yelling and criticizing Illini head coach Bruce Weber and forwards Warren Carter and Brian Randle.

His actions were seen by several CBS cameras and media members who questioned Guenther’s motives and seats near the bench. CBS Sportsline columnist Gregg Doyel, who was sitting next to Guenther, wrote after Illinois’ loss that Guenther had behaved like a child who needed restraint.

He wrote that Guenther spent most of the game criticizing Weber’s personnel moves and at one point was even heard to have called Carter an “idiot.”

Guenther has since apologized to Weber and the Illini team, and the University recently announced that no action will be taken to punish Guenther. However, the public outcry created by Guenther’s actions and Doyel’s subsequent article have created quite a stir around the Illini program and their AD.

Those who back Guenther have seen his actions as foolish but overblown, while those who oppose the Illini AD can’t wait to give him his walking papers. Both sides realize that Guenther’s actions were a serious lapse in judgment, yet neither side has provided a genuine stance as to what Guenther did was so wrong.

People have been quick to criticize Guenther for being a fan, but is what he did really any different than what we do as fans when we’re watching an Illini game?

As an Illini fan and someone who was also on press row the night of Guenther’s meltdown, I’ll admit what he did was wrong.

He never should have been seated on press row in the first place and if he was going to sit there, he should have had the presence of mind to keep his emotions in check.

Those of us on press row are expected to carry ourselves with professionalism and Guenther should have done the same.

If Guenther’s intention when he arrived in Columbus, Ohio, on Saturday was to cheer – and criticize – the Illini, he never should have taken those seats on press row. I know most of the seats inside of Nationwide Arena were sold out for the game, but as the AD of a school participating in the tournament, I’m pretty sure Guenther wouldn’t have had much problem finding quality tickets.

And, if Guenther had not planned to act as he did and was simply caught up in his own emotions, he still should have known to move away from press row.

All that being said, I doubt Guenther is the only Illinois fan who muttered a few choice words during Illinois’ season-ending loss. Between poor shot selection and bad ball handling, Illinois’ collapse at the hands of the Hokies was depressing for everyone who’s ever worn orange and blue.

I held my tongue and hostility during the entire game and even cracked a smile or two after the loss, but after leaving the arena my anger finally got the best me. After arriving back at my hotel, I flipped out a little. I had to let the frustration out somewhere.

Guenther was doing the same thing – he was just doing it at the wrong place, at the wrong time. Being disappointed when your team loses isn’t bad, but as the athletic director in charge of Illinois’ athletic program and a spokesman for the entire University, Guenther must understand he is held to a higher standard than the casual fan. He is expected to carry himself with class and should have done so last Friday.

I’ve had outbursts like Guenther had before.

During Illinois’ early-season loss at Arizona I threw an empty water bottle across my apartment after a bad call.

I was pissed just like Guenther was – but I wasn’t sitting on press row. No one was expecting me to exude class and professionalism.

I was just a fan watching a game.

Guenther was doing the same thing, he just wasn’t in a place where fan reaction was acceptable.

He was an adult acting like a child in a position where immaturity and juvenile behavior just isn’t accepted.

That’s where the real problem lies.

Lucas Deal is a senior in Communications. He can be reached at [email protected]