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The Good, The Bad and The Ugly: 2017-18 Illinois Athletics

The 2017-18 Academic and Athletic Year is almost done. What stood out?

The Good


Thad Ward and Cory Patterson have brought a shot of adrenaline to the Illinois Football Program. Champaign-Urbana is now commonly referred to as #Littyville in the streets of college football twitter. Social media has been ablaze with #Littyville and orange and blue diamonds as Lovie’s coaching staff attempts to build their brand and attract elite HS football players. In 2018, Marquez Beason and Isaiah Williams committed to the Illini. Both are top 100 prospects and the highest rated recruits since the Ron Zook ere. The Columns are hot.

Illinois basketball also landed Ayo Dosunmu, the school’s first 5-star prospect since Jereme Richmond.

Women’s Volleyball

After Kevin Hambly left Illinois to take the coaching job at Stanford, there were some worries that Illinois volleyball would see a dip, but that didn’t prove true. In the first season under new head coach Chris Tamas, the Fighting Illini volleyball team made it to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament, beating No. 8 Washington in the second round.

Juniors Ali Bastianelli and Jordyn Poulte were named to the All-Big Ten team, and Megan Cooney was named to the Big Ten All-Freshman team. 2018 looks like it may be a big year for volleyball.

Bren Spillane

At the moment, Illini Baseball is 23-8 (9-3) and ranked 25th in the country. They’ve been led Bren Spillane, a junior from Wheeling, IL. Spillane has been an absolute revelation. His slash line of .4357/.540/1.038 looks like something out of a video game. Spillane is currently at 14 and 43 on the power numbers and was named Midseason Player of the Year by Perfect Game USA. Don’t be surprised when Spillane racks up the awards at the end of the year if he continues to hit at this clip for the rest of the year.


Isaiah Martinez is quite simply one of the greatest Illini of all time. I’m not sure how long one has to wait to go on the ballot for Josh Whitman’s new “Illinois Athletics Hall of Fame”, but I-Mar will be in on the first ballot. In his fourth and final season for the Illini, Martinez won his 4th Big Ten Championship and finished 2nd at Nationals at the 165 weight Class. Martinez is the program’s only 4 time Conference Champion and 4 time All-American.

Alex Wittinger

Coach Fahey’s first season in Champaign saw few bright spots, however Alex Wittinger received Second Team All-Big Ten honors this season. The 6’1” junior averaged 14.8 points, 8.9 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game.

Butkus Statue

Finally! Josh Whitman announced plans to unveil a statue of the legendary Illini Linebacker Dick Butkus outside of the new Football Performance Center in 2019.

Illini Hockey

The University of Illinois and Collegiate Consulting launched a feasibility study in regards to the possibility of Division 1 Hockey at the University. The studied provided positive results, and while the road ahead is long, it looks more and more likely that Division 1 Hockey will be coming to Champaign.

Men’s Gymnastics

The Illini Men won their 28th Big Ten Title and their first since 2012. Alex Diab won his third consecutive B1G title on rings and Chandler Eggleston claimed the B1G on high bar. Head Coach Justin Spring was also named B1G Coach of the Year. The team will have a chance to make even more noise on the national stage.

Men’s and Women’s Tennis

Both tennis teams are enjoying a great start to their seasons. The men are currently ranked No. 6, while the women are ranked No. 14.

Aleks Vukic on the men’s side is the No. 15 ranked singles player.

XC and Track

Jon Davis! Davis became the 498th American to run a sub-4 minute mile. Davis’ mile time of 3:58.46 set both an Illinois record and a record for the Armory facility. The Illinois record had stood for 44 years.

Lovie’s Beard

Since the arrival of Lovie Smith’s beard, Illinois Football recruiting has trended upwards. This is not a coincidence.

The Bad

Men’s Basketball

It was the worst season for the Men’s Basketball program since the 1998-99 season. The Fighting Illini were 14-18 and 4-14 in conference play in Brad Underwood’s first season. In addition to losses on the court, the team suffered losses to the roster as well. Currently, Underwood has signed a six man recruiting class and only returns six players from last year’s team.


The Illini women struggled this year. They went 5-14 overall and 2-9 in conference play. Illinois finished second to last in the Big Ten Conference and had the fewest overall wins of any Big Ten team this season.

The Ugly

Women’s Basketball

In her first season as head basketball coach, Nancy Fahey’s team struggled mightily. The team posted a record of 9-22 over the course of season, including an 0-16 record in conference play. Nowhere to go but up I suppose...


Speaking of winless conference teams... Football! We’ve harped on the deficiencies of the 2017 Football team on this website quite a bit. I mentioned the recruiting momentum the staff has built this year at the top, it’s important they win some games next year. They can’t go winless again. 4-8. If they can go 4-8, Lovie may just be on track to turn this thing around.