A reminder about Fighting Illini sports


Illinois’ Mason Monheim (43) raises his helmet after the homecoming game against Minnesota at Memorial Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 25, 2014. The Illini won 28-24.

By Peter Bailey-Wells

Illinois sports are not about you.

Once or twice over the summer you might have thought they were. Even if you’re an innocent fan. For example:

“Why did Tracy Abrams get hurt? Why are my favorite teams’ players always getting hurt?”

That’s a natural reaction. It’s the summer. Summer is a self-centered season. Summer is when we start thinking too much about ourselves because we don’t have enough to think about.

This summer was tumultuous at best and dismal at worst for the Fighting Illini.

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College sports — when we love them — are all about the student-athletes. It wasn’t this summer. It was about coaches and athletic directors and team doctors and police.

Hundreds of kids compete for Illinois each year, starting with Friday’s soccer match between Illinois and Oakland. One in roughly every 66 Illinois students is a varsity athlete. There are about 500 student-athletes. Roughly 35,000 students. 35,000/500=70

It’s well-documented how hard they work. It’s well-documented how they succeed and how they fail.

In all of the ruckus made this summer, everybody involved with the Illinois community lost a little bit of what college sports should be about.

We lost it for good reason, but we shouldn’t lose it for good.

Screw the NCAA. It’s widely known that what they’re selling is a load of crap. Trust them at your own peril. But all of you administrators, coaches, lawyers, reporters (including yours truly), fans, parents and alumni need to remember why you’re here in the first place.

It’s not about you.

It’s about those student-athletes.

So, if you’re harassing that recruit on Twitter to commit to your school, cut it out.

If you’re defending your coaches without first defending your student-athletes, cut it out.

If you’re abusing your players, cut it out. That should be obvious.

If you’re writing a column criticizing the character of a troubled student-athlete, cut it out.

You know who you are. If the shoe fits.

It’s not about you. It’s about those student-athletes. Love them or hate them or something in between, I don’t care. I’m not Tim Beckman pleading with the media for more positivity. But please, question your motives.

If you’ll be heavily involved or invested in Illinois sports this year —like me — check your ego at the door. Now that sports are back on the field and court and out of the conference room and the courtroom, maybe you’ll remember.

It’s not about you. It’s about those student athletes.

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Let’s bring #Illini student-athletes back into focus, writes sports editor @pbaileywells