How Illinois Getting Screwed Has Changed College Sports

Most die hard college sports fans have come to expect that the last couple minutes of college basketball games will take much longer than the time on the clock to complete because of the constant reviews. In college football, the reason the games can take so long to complete is in part due to the constant reviews that occur throughout each game. During the NCAA tournament, teams are not allowed to play on their home court in order to ensure that no team has a true advantage over the other. However, did you know that all of these things were a result of the University of Illinois? If you did you’re probably an Illinois fan, but if you didn’t, at least you now understand why Illinois fans feel they have endured a lifetime of being screwed, only to see changes come after the fact.

I’ll start a little before my prime understanding of sports years, but every college fan likes to point to the banners and markers of champions past. They are like a badge of honor that justifies your fandom to others that do not quite understand. In the heat of the moment, it they can be the go to move to try and settle which team or program is or was better than the other. So it is within Illinois fans’ rights to wonder about a 1984 Final Four banner hanger permanently at State Farm Center.

The 1984 team won the Big Ten title and earned a #2 seed in the MidEast Bracket. That would earn the Illini the opportunity to face the #1 seeded Kentucky Wildcats on their homecourt in Rupp Arena where they had gone 108-11 in the previous 8 years. Nothing like playing a true road game with a chance to go to the Final Four on the line. To compound matters, the Illini were whistled for 10 fouls in the second half to just 2 for Kentucky in a three point loss. To make things worse, trailing by two points late in the game Illinois forced a traveling call that was missed. Even the announcers saw it.

After the game, national media even admitted that Kentucky had benefitted from ‘home cooking.’ All the NCAA could do was acknowledge that errors were made and that teams would no longer be allowed to play NCAA tournament games on their home court to gain any sort of advantage. Too little too late for Illinois and Lou Henson, who might be considered one of the all time greats had he retired with three Final Fours on his resume instead of two.

The next major rule change to come to college sports courtesy of Illinois was replay in college football. Coming off an 8 win season in 1999, Illinois football was primed for a breakout campaign in 2000. Having won seven games in a row, dating back to the previous season, #17 Illinois hosted #10 Michigan for a primetime showdown. Big Ten officials managed to blow not one, but two fumble calls late in the fourth quarter that both went Michigan’s way.

Illinois went on to lose that game and could never get back on track that season. Of course, the Big Ten would admit that the officials missed both calls, but it wouldn’t change the outcome of the game that had already been played.

From that point on, Illinois coach Ron Turner lobbied endlessly to get instant replay implemented in college football. Eventually he would succeed, and the Big Ten became the first conference to implement instant replay. Not surprisingly, it was wildly successful and eventually was adopted by all conferences and the NCAA, but only after Illinois had a monumental win likely taken away from them by incorrect calls on the field.

Yet, Illinois wasn’t done getting screwed by officials and replay, or lack thereof. Switching back to basketball and the NCAA tournament, the reason that the last two minutes of a college basketball game is closer to ten minutes is because of Illinois. While facing Miami with a chance to go to the Sweet Sixteen, a rebound was contested in a two point game. Watching live, it appeared that the ball went off a Miami player, but the officials on the court ruled the other way.

Published by mikegallo314

I have been in education for over 20 years, and it has been an amazing and rewarding career. I grew up on the east side of St. Louis, and I'm an avid sports fan. My three biggest addictions in life are the St. Louis Cardinals, St. Louis Blues, and University of Illinois athletics. I love listening to rock blues, and americana styled music. Throughout the years I have coached boys and girls basketball from the youth levels to the varsity level, and the last 10 years I have coached travel baseball. I have a passion for writing, and a long list of experiences and topics that I like to share my thoughts on. The best part about writing, are the conversations and thoughts that are shared as a result.

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