Decatur Tribune Online

Illinois Athletics Department Unveils Plans For Memorial Stadium, Football Performance Center

 By J. Thomas McNamara      

Late Friday afternoon, the Illinois Athletics Department released its information on the two-phase plans to improve the Memorial Stadium and Irwin practice facility with the performance center, south of the football practice facility coming first that is labeled phase 1. 
        Make no mistake about this as it is a recognition that Lovie Smith and his football staff are in an arms race, not in military terms, but in keeping up with the Michigans, the Ohio States, the Alabamas, the Iowas, the Penn States, in terms of having the best facilities available to recruit players there to elevate the football program to a competitive and winning way. 
        As a result, dramatic upgrades to the Fighting Illini football facilities were unveiled last Friday.  Plans call for a brand-new 107,650 square foot, $79.2 million Illinois Football Performance Center to be constructed next to the Irwin Indoor Practice Facility, and adjacent to Memorial Stadium. 
        Future Phase 2 plans call for expansions of Memorial Stadium's south and east sides.     
    Construction on the new football performance center will break ground in early 2018, with the project scheduled for completion prior to the start of the 2019 season which is aggressive.
        All this started in March 2016 with the hiring of Smith. 
    And the university, in its release, writes, "Make no mistake: before the nation’s best and brightest student-athletes are competing for us, we are competing for them.  Driving this project is the need to update our outdated football facilities.  Today's program bears little resemblance to that which existed 30 years ago when the current football operations complex was built. 
    "The football staff has grown substantially.  Improvements to the technology and methodology have changed the way players and coaches interact, train, prepare and recover.  Advancements in sports medicine and strength training have outpaced our facility's ability to house them. 
        "As a result, we are missing critical opportunities for our student-athletes to prepare and develop, constrained by the limited functionality of our current facilities." 
        Continuing, the university said in its release, "of equal importance is the impact a quality facility has on recruiting.  To win football games and pursue championships, we need top student-athletes from around the country to choose the University of Illinois to further their educations and their football careers.  The competition for talent is fierce and its us against tradition-rich football programs from coast-to-coast. 
        "To win in this race, we must offer exceptional leadership and resources that allow our student-athletes to realize every ounce of their potential.  World-class facilities are an important part of the equation as well.  Our facilities must demonstrate an institutional commitment to building, supporting and sustaining a winning football program."

Father Chris Comerford Throws Out
First Pitch For Cardinals Game

​​Comerford on 'First Pitch'--The Rev. Chris Comerford, a 1987 St. Teresa graduate and ordained Springfield Diocesan priest, who is co-chaplain of the St. Louis Cardinals, threw out the ceremonial first pitch before their May 30th home game against the LA Dodgers.  On the left is John Brebbia, who caught Rev. Comerford's pitch, with Fredbird on the right, with the scoreboard sign, in the background, welcoming "Father Chris Comerford."  Check out this week's (July 19th edition) print edition of the Decatur Tribune for full story.
Photo courtesy St. Louis Cardinals.

Mac on Sports   
District 61 Announces Fall Hall of Fame Class

    John Alexander and the 1992 MacArthur boys state track and field championship team headline the third Decatur School District 61 athletic Hall of Fame class that was recently selected by the district's committee comprised of athletic directors, administrators, retired coaches and several media members. 
    The 10 individuals selected are, in alphabetical order, Tarise Bryson, the late George Eubanks, Julie Foertsch, Elizabeth Kampfe, Gwen Muex, Bob Pittenger, the late Ray Rex,   Pete Scott, Dion Simmons and Roe Skidmore, who will be inducted Saturday night, Aug. 26, at the MacArthur at Eisenhower Tate & Lyle Braggin' Rights football game.  
    I have complete details on the inductees in this week's Irish Stew which our readers will enjoy.

Mark Scherer new Millikin Men's Coach
    Late this afternoon (Wednesday), Millikin named retired Elmhurst College men's basketball coach, Mark Scherer, as its next men's basketball head coach.
    Scherer retired from Elmhurst in 2013 after 17 seasons on the sidelines there coaching in the College Conference of Illinois-Wisconsin where he posted 245 career wins there, including finishing in the top four in the conference 10 times and made two trips to the NCAA tournament and one to the Sweet 16.
    He holds two Elmhurst coaching records for the most wins as a head coach and best winning percentage.
    Scherer met with the media tonight.
    I will have more on this developing story in a future print edition of the Decatur Tribune.

Nancy Fahey New Illini Women's Coach
    Lori Kerans, Millikin University's women's head coach, had these thoughts after being asked about Nancy Fahey, Washington University of St. Louis women's head coach, who has been named head coach of the University of Illinois women's Fighting Illini.
    "I am super excited for the University of Illinois women's basketball program.  Nancy Fahey is a phenomenal coach and mentor of student-athletes.  Coach Fahey is a proven winner, with the experience, enthusiasm, recruiting, and teaching abilities to be successful at ANY (caps are Lori's for added emphasis) level.  Coach Fahey is a tireless worker, one of the most thorough and organized coaches in the field, and has a national recruiting reach.  
    "Illini Nation is in good hands with Nancy Fahey at the helm of the women's basketball program," concluded Coach Kerans about her colleague who had numerous memorable battles against each other.
    I will have more on this developing story in a future print edition of the Decatur Tribune. 



J. Thomas McNamara
Sports Editor

Decatur Tribune
Email Tom at

Check out McNamara's "Irish Stew" every week in the print edition of the Decatur Tribune.
Columns Are Printed With The Most Recent Displayed First

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