Blood Feud

With all the focus locally on the three ACC teams and the possibility that NC State and UNC could meet for a trip to the Final Four, it’s easy to gloss over the other upcoming NCAA games.
There are several interesting games – Texas Tech and Bobby Knight vs. West Virginia, Utah vs. Kentucky and Louisville vs. Washington – but none rival the Illinois vs. Wisconsin-Milwaukee game.
What’s that, you ask? UWM vs. Illinois? How in the world is that an interesting game?
It’s all because of the UWM coach, Bruce Pearl.
He was involved in alleged recruiting violations by Illinois back in the late 80s and has never been forgiven by the Illini faithful. Pearl was an assistant coach at Iowa at the time and recorded a phone conversation with star recruit Deon Thomas in which Thomas admitted to being offered inducements by Illinois assistant coach Jimmy Collins.
I wrote about this story last summer, when Collins’ name hit the wires (he had just signed a contract extension) and it reminded me of a story from college.
When I wrote that article, I had no idea it would attract as much attention as it has. It has been linked over a half dozen times by various Illinois, Iowa, University of Illinois-Chicago (where Collins now coaches) and UWM sites. The Illinois fans, blinded by hate and suspected reading comprehension, have accused me of being an Iowa fan and “Bruce Pearl apologist.”
One such article popped up on Sunday. It’s actually a pretty good review of the history of the case, at least from a biased Illinois perspective. From that article, you can link to several other articles to get an idea of what really happened, at least from what was reported publiclly.
To sumarize, Illinois fans think that Pearl induced Thomas to lie about being offered money and a car by Illinois. In fact, they say, it was Iowa who really offered Thomas money and a house. They also add that the conspiracy was joined by Notre Dame coach Digger Phelps and Indiana coach Bobby Knight who also made allegations against the Illini at that time. We all know that Phelps and Knight are longtime friends who would gladly conspire to smear Illinois.
Whatever really happened doesn’t matter anymore. No one but Collins, Pearl and Thomas will ever know and their accounts don’t match up, so you have to choose whom to believe. What is for sure is that Illinois fans have a hatred of Pearl and all that he has touched that borders on pathologic. There will be LOUD boos and cheers throughout this game and when Illinois smashes the Panthers, they’ll feel a satisfaction that goes way beyond just earning a trip to the Elite Eight.
But if UWM should win …. well, there aren’t any cliffs in Champaign-Urbana, but they should lock up the silos, because fans are going to be looking for something to jump off of.
It should be a lot of fun.

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