Monday, May 08, 2006

Trustees to deal with Weber's contract and Memorial Stadium, but Illiniwek not on agenda

Trustees to deal with Weber's contract and Memorial Stadium, but Illiniwek not on agenda
Associated Press

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Another contract extension for a basketball coach and approval for the first phase of a huge stadium renovation go before the University of Illinois Board of Trustees this week, but apparently there won't be any talk about Chief Illiniwek.
Discussion of Illiniwek - and the NCAA's ban on Illinois from hosting postseason athletic tournaments until the school does away with the controversial mascot - is not part of the board's posted agenda. And, barring a last-minute change of plans, is unlikely to be discussed at the Thursday meeting on the university's Chicago campus, university spokesman Tom Hardy said Monday. The agenda becomes final at 10 a.m. Tuesday, 48 hours before the meeting, in accordance with the Illinois Open Meetings Act.
"If there's going to be a board agenda item (on Illiniwek), it would have to be reflected in a revised agenda for the board meeting" before then, Hardy said. "I'm not aware of anything right now."
Instead, trustees will be asked to approve a third extension for Illini coach Bruce Weber that would put him under contract through the 2011-2012 season and to approve the first phase of a three-year $120 million renovation of Memorial Stadium in Champaign. Trustees also will consider a go-ahead for construction of a new student recreation center on the Springfield campus and $42 million in deferred maintenance needs at the Urbana-Champaign and Chicago campuses.
The 80-year-old Illiniwek tradition is once again front-and-center on the Urbana-Champaign campus after the NCAA upheld its decision to bar Illinois from hosting postseason tournaments because the Illiniwek image is "hostile and abusive" to American Indians. The April 28 ruling means the seventh-seeded Illinois men's tennis team was prevented from hosting the first and second rounds of the NCAA tournament this weekend, the first evidence of what athletic director Ron Guenther has called "an unbelievably negative effect" on the school's athletic program.
Guenther took some criticism from the public for his statement, but trustees Chairman Lawrence C. Eppley defended him.
"It might be harsh news, but he's right," Eppley wrote in an op-ed article that was published by The (Champaign) News-Gazette Sunday. "Guenther 'gets' winning. He 'gets' tradition. He also 'gets' that sometimes the best interest of the university is different than personal preference."
Weber's contract extension calls for increasing his pay for radio, television and other promotional appearances from $500,000 to $600,000 per year, an increase that will push his pay, including deferred compensation, to $1 million next season, according to documents filed with the board's agenda.
"I don't want to go anywhere. I don't want to move again," Weber said during an appearance on WDWS-AM in Champaign on Monday morning.
Construction on the first phase of the Memorial Stadium renovation - building new seating for 7,000 fans in the north end zone - won't begin until after the upcoming football season, but approval is needed now to secure construction permits and hire the construction company, according to agenda documents.
The pending approval for Springfield's new rec center includes a boost in the project budget from $14 million to $16.3 million. Construction would begin this month if the board signs off on the plans.
The board also will be asked to approve a series of projects made possible by its approval last month of a student fee for deferred maintenance. The first projects include replacement of the fire alarm systems at the university hospital and other buildings in Chicago and repairs to the university library in Urbana.


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