UI president Hogan talks Illini athletics

University president Michael Hogan discussed several topics regarding the state of Illini athletics during his appearance on this week’s “Illini Drive @ 5,” including the football team, possible Big Ten and campus facility expansion, and his dislike of Rutgers.

Hogan’s predicts big Illini win Saturday

Soon after arriving at Illinois, Hogan attended an Illini football practice. He said he saw potential in how new coordinators Paul Petrino and Vic Koenning were running things.

“I watched the practice for quite a long time, and I could tell the new coaches were coaching with an intensity that held a lot of promise, I thought,” Hogan said.

Since then, Hogan has been busy supporting an Illinois football team that has surprised many.

“I go to all the home football games; I try to spend at least one quarter of the games in the stands with students, visiting with the marching band and going into the Block I section and so on.”

Hogan predicts a 42-13 victory this weekend against Minnesota.

Hogan suggests UConn join Big Ten

With the Big Ten soon to boast 12 teams, Hogan speculated on which teams may be next, should the Big Ten expand even further. Since the conference would likely add not one but two more teams to maintain an even number for football divisions, he guessed they may be waiting on a team that has long been in the talks: Notre Dame.

“Again, I’m just speculating, but it may well be they’re going to wait and see what happens with Notre Dame … If they bring in Notre Dame, maybe they’ll bring in another,” Hogan said.

Hogan added that he’s unsure if Notre Dame would fit the profile of a Big Ten team, given it isn’t a major research institution. So who would be his first choice?

“UConn. I think UConn would be great,” said the former University of Connecticut president. “And the reason I say that is not just because I was there but because they’re right between the Boston market and the New York market and they have a huge fan and television base.”

For Hogan, UConn beat out several other Big East schools; even ones that have frequently come up in expansion conversation.

“I really don’t like Rutgers, or Pitt for that matter,” he quipped about his former conference rivals.

Guenther contract talks to occur over next few months

Hogan didn’t want to use the word “empire,” but he said Illinois Athletic Director Ron Guenther has created much growth during his time at Illinois.

“It would be hard to find an athletic director anywhere in the country who has been so successful in upgrading and modernizing and expanding sports complexes,” Hogan said.

Hogan said Guenther has recently been working on plans to modernize and renovate the Assembly Hall, among other things.

“Assembly Hall is an iconic structure,” Hogan said. “I love it, by the way. It looks like this Steven Spielberg spaceship rising out of the prairie, it’s just great.”

Hogan said Guenther’s contract has been renewed into next summer, and further talks will happen over the next few months.