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Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Illini athletic director apologizes for tourney outbursts

Associated Press

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- The University of Illinois will not discipline athletic director Ron Guenther for yelling at men's basketball coach Bruce Weber and Illini players during the team's NCAA Tournament loss Friday.

Guenther yelled substitution advice to Weber -- who was just a few feet away -- and also yelled "Warren -- you idiot" after a play by Illini forward Warren Carter, according to a report on CBS Guenther also pounded the table throughout Illinois' 54-52 loss to Virginia Tech in Columbus, Ohio.

Richard Herman, chancellor at the Urbana-Champaign campus, said Wednesday that Guenther -- in his 15th year as AD at Illinois -- would not be disciplined. He said Guenther had apologized to Weber and Carter.

The outbursts happened because Guenther is a fan, Herman said.

"If you've been with director Guenther at a game, you know his intensity when he watches a game," Herman said.

But he added, "He's always the athletic director and the remark was inappropriate."

Herman said he'd heard from only two Illinois graduates demanding action against Guenther.

Guenther did not return calls from The Associated Press on Wednesday. In an interview published Sunday in The (Champaign) News-Gazette, Guenther acknowledged his comments and actions.

"Did I slap the table? Yes," Guenther said. "But I didn't direct my comments to anyone in particular, and I certainly didn't intend for my words to be picked up. That did not represent the way I feel about our players, and they know it."

Guenther and Illinois' basketball and football programs have been under pressure this year over a variety of troubles.

The basketball team's first-round NCAA exit followed a car accident that led to felony charges against sophomore guard Jamar Smith for drunken driving and leaving the scene of an accident that left his passenger, center Brian Carlwell, with a serious concussion. And Rich McBride, a senior guard, pleaded guilty this month to drunken driving after an arrest last fall.

Two weeks ago, football coach Ron Zook kicked two players off the team after they were charged with burglary and theft. Jody Ellis and Derrick McPhearson pleaded not guilty.

Despite the troubles, Herman said he continues to support Guenther.

"The man runs a high-integrity program," Herman said.