Big Ten: Illinois State Redbirds

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

Purdue always has been on Robert Marve's radar as a possible transfer destination.


But after the unfortunate news out of West Lafayette last Friday, Purdue might be moving up Marve's list in a hurry. Quarterback Justin Siller's dismissal for academic violations thins Purdue's quarterback depth for the future. Siller was only a sophomore, and he already had experience as a starter from 2008.

Marve, the former Miami quarterback, is in West Lafayette Thursday and will reportedly spend a few days checking out Purdue's program and campus. He's still considering six schools: Purdue, Texas Tech, Michigan, UCLA, Nebraska and South Florida.

If there's anyone who can sell a Florida kid like Marve on playing at Purdue, it's Boilers head coach Danny Hope, who signed 14 recruits from the Sunshine State in February. Marve will have to sit out the 2009 season, but with Siller gone, he would have an excellent shot to win the top job in 2010. There is the possibility that Siller could re-enroll at Purdue for the 2010-11 academic year.

I talked with Purdue offensive coordinator Gary Nord last night. Like Hope, Nord really likes redshirt freshman quarterback Caleb TerBush, but he considers senior Joey Elliott to be the starter until proven otherwise. Elliott will be gone next year, and though Purdue signed two quarterbacks in February (Najee Tyler and Rob Henry), Marve's experience should put him at or near the top of the depth chart.

As for Siller, Illinois State has been rumored as a potential destination. New Redbirds coach Brock Spack, the longtime Purdue defensive coordinator, recruited Siller to Purdue but hasn't talked to Siller about the possibility of transferring to Illinois State.

"I'm concerned for his well being. This is out of character for him. It's very shocking because he's a great kid," Spack said Wednesday. "Justin comes from a great family and is a great athlete. I hope he gets all his ducks in a row and gets everything figured out over there."

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

After shuffling nonconference games to accommodate Miami (Ohio) and finalize the 2009 schedule, Northwestern is looking ahead to the future. 

The team has released tentative schedules for 2010 and 2011, which thankfully appear to pack a bit more punch than this year's slate. Northwestern rivals Penn State for one of the softest non-league slates among BCS teams, with games against Towson, Eastern Michigan, Syracuse and Miami (Ohio). 

Northwestern still needs a home game in 2010, but it will play:

  • at Vanderbilt (Sept. 4)
  • Illinois State (Sept. 11)
  • at Rice (Sept. 18)

In 2011, the Wildcats play:

  • at Boston College (Sept. 3)
  • Eastern Illinois (Sept. 10)
  • at Army (Sept. 17)
  • Rice (Nov. 26)

Upcoming contracts with Vanderbilt, Boston College and a likely improved Syracuse team give Northwestern a more attractive non-league slate, which could remedy the school's constant struggles with home attendance. The team's annual rivalry against Illinois has been shuffled around, with the 2011 game taking place Oct. 15, the earliest meeting in at least a decade. 

Also, Northwestern finishes the 2011 season with home games against Michigan and Rice. The school wants to hold a home game at Wrigley Field if the field can accommodate football. If Northwestern gets the go-ahead, expect one of these contests to be played at The Friendly Confines.

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

Illinois finalized its 2009 schedule last week by agreeing to a home-and-home series with Big East Champ Cincinnati, which begins Nov. 28 at Cincinnati's Nippert Stadium. 

Adding a solid BCS opponent to the slate should excite fans accustomed to the mostly gun-shy Big Ten, but Illinois now will face a potentially daunting nonconference lineup this fall: Missouri, Fresno State, Cincinnati and FCS-member Illinois State.

Since the Illini finish the regular season against Fresno State and Cincinnati, the team's bowl fate could be determined by its non-league performance. 

Athletic director Ron Guenther didn't intend to make things so tough down the stretch.

In a recent interview with The (Champaign) News-Gazette's Loren Tate, Guenther lamented the scheduling abnormality. Illinois will conclude Big Ten play a week earlier than the other 10 teams. Although the team will have a bye week in Week 3, it got stuck with an open date in November that needed to be filled. 

"I'm not happy about it, but there isn't much I can do when we're presented with an open date at the end," Guenther said. "Somebody had to be there, and I hope the conference changes that in the future. We really got stuck with few options after electing to keep the open date in September."

Meanwhile, the Cincinnati series could signal the end to Illinois' annual meeting with Missouri in St. Louis, Bob Asmussen writes in The News-Gazette. 

"Cincinnati will return the game to Illinois in 2013. The Illini already have a home game scheduled that year against Washington. It is difficult to imagine the school playing consecutive games against Missouri, Cincinnati and Washington to open the season."

Illinois-Missouri is a tremendous basketball rivalry that is starting to get legs in football. The teams played at campus sites from 1991-94 before moving to St. Louis in 2002-03. The Illini and Tigers will meet for the third straight season Sept. 5 at the Edward Jones Dome. 

But neutral-site games are tricky in this climate, and this series could be put on hiatus. 

Early schedule snapshot: Illinois

February, 9, 2009

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

The book is closed on 2008, and as part of our look ahead at 2009, it's time to take a team-by-team look at the schedules. The analysis begins with Illinois, one of two teams without a fully finalized nonconference slate. This marks the final Big Ten season without a bye week, which returns for good in 2010. 

Here's what we know right now about the Illini:


Sept. 5 Missouri (at St. Louis)
Sept. 12 Illinois State
Nov. 21
Fresno State
Nov. 28

My take: An Illinois spokesperson last week was unable to confirm a fourth nonconference game at Cincinnati on Nov. 28, but the two schools have been talking and could sign a contract soon. Should the Illini add the Bearcats, they would have a strong case for owning the Big Ten's toughest non-league slate. Missouri loses several key pieces (Chase Daniel, Jeremy Maclin, Chase Coffman) but always shows up to face the Illini, who haven't beaten the Tigers since 1994. A season-opening win would be huge for quarterback Juice Williams and Illinois, who don't have many sure things this fall.


Sept. 26 at Ohio State
Oct. 3 Penn State
Oct. 10
Michigan State
Oct. 17
at Indiana
Oct. 24
at Purdue
Oct. 31
Nov. 7
at Minnesota
Nov. 14
Iowa, Wisconsin

My take: The start to league play is brutal, making a 2-0 start to non-league play all the more important for Illinois. The good news is that Illinois has won in Columbus, and an upset Sept. 26 could set the stage for a major push. Illinois' road schedule other than Ohio State isn't too bad, so if it can defend the turf at Memorial Stadium and pick up a marquee win or two, a solid season certainly is within reach. The Illini could be 1-3 when Michigan State comes to town, but a 3-1 start will set them up for some pretty big things. 

Spack could have stayed at Purdue

December, 16, 2008

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

Brock Spack left Purdue because of the opportunity Illinois State presented, not because he was in danger of being replaced on Danny Hope's coaching staff for 2009.

Spack, who will be introduced as Illinois State's head coach today, said he was offered a three-year contract at Purdue after Hope was hired as coach-in-waiting. Spack had been a finalist to succeed head coach Joe Tiller at his alma mater. 

Instead, the longtime Boilermakers defensive coordinator will become the head man at Illinois State. 

"Illinois State is a great school, with a lot of resources, and they are committed to winning," Spack said in a statement. "Last year, when Danny Hope was hired, [athletic director] Morgan Burke was very gracious in giving me a three-year contract, and now he is supportive of my decision to become a head coach. I wish Danny nothing but the best, and I value our friendship.

"Purdue will have a very good defense in 2009, and people should be excited. Purdue is my alma mater, and I will always be a Boilermaker." 

Spack told The (Lafayette) Journal and Courier that both Burke and Hope wanted him to remain at Purdue, but his desire to be a head coach was the deciding factor. 

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

Purdue will have two new coordinators when Danny Hope takes over as head coach in 2009. 

Longtime Boilermakers defensive coordinator Brock Spack will be introduced as Illinois State's head coach on Wednesday. Spack, a Purdue alum, spent the last 12 seasons in West Lafayette after moving over with former coach Joe Tiller -- and Hope -- from Wyoming in 1996. 

It's unknown whether Hope would have retained Spack for his new staff at Purdue, but Spack's name was not among the initial coaching changes Hope made earlier this month. Offensive coordinator Ed Zaunbrecher was not retained and was replaced by Florida Atlantic's Gary Nord. Spack had been a finalist to succeed Tiller as Purdue's head coach. 

"Certainly, we are happy for Brock, but sorry to see him go," Hope said in a statement. "When I took the job at Purdue, I knew it was likely there would be some attrition on the staff, with guys leaving to become head coaches or coordinators. Like every head coach, I keep a short list of coaches to consider for vacancies, and we will get a quality replacement on our staff as quickly as possible."