Open Mike: Staying Busy

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MT-Beckman.jpgGreetings Illini Nation!

There's so much going on at the DIA!  I want to fill you in and update you on different areas of our athletic department.

First of all, a big thanks to those fans who came out from near and far to cheer the Illini to victory in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.  I've been to several bowls over the years and this one was certainly well done - a great time was had by all.  San Francisco is an amazing city and we were happy our student-athletes were able to experience it.

The first year of a new AD's job is hectic, to say the least.  You have to quickly get to know the athletic department staff, who does what, where to go with questions and how to get things done.  We have several head and assistant coaches who want to get to know me and how I do business so we can continue to attain great things in our athletic programs here at Illinois. 

At the same time, you've got to know the players on campus in central administration, human resources and other support services.  I've also been meeting and getting to know our donors, season ticket holders and fans.  My wife and I have gotten to meet what seems like a million smiling faces in Illini Nation.  We can't believe how warm and welcoming this community is and how kindly we are treated everywhere we go.  We thank you, sincerely, from our hearts.

The warmest people to my heart, of course, are our Illini student-athletes.  They're why I do this job. I don't get as much contact with them as I'd like, but I've found this is just an amazing group of young people we have here.  What fine human beings.  You can be very, very proud of them. 

It's a lot to absorb but I'm trying to head into everything with gusto and enthusiasm.  You all have made this a very easy job to walk into and I thank you.

Our new football coach, Tim Beckman, has been extremely busy putting his staff together and organizing his team.  Any time you change coaches, you have adjustments, but Coach Beckman is implementing his systems and I think they are exciting and fresh approaches. If you've spent time with any of these coaches you can see there's a real intensity surrounding this staff.  I'm looking forward to the next few football seasons!

MT-BP-Hug_wide.jpgWin or lose, I try to meet our basketball coaches and players in the tunnel as they come off the court.  You know they're giving their best efforts, and no matter the outcome, it's important they know I support them in their endeavors on and off the court. 

Recently, I had a conversation with several of our women's basketball players prior to their game at Indiana.  It wasn't the first time I'd met them, of course, but it was fun to learn where they're from and their backgrounds.  We also talked about the importance of finishing - playing strong for 40 minutes. Now, I can't take all the credit, but they've certainly been finishing well lately, winning on buzzer beaters in their last two games against Ohio State and Indiana.

Again, the success of all our teams is the direct result of our great fans.  We have lofty goals for the future and hope for your continued support of all our programs.  And we thank you, yet again, for your attendance at our games and your words of encouragement to our players.

Go Illini!
Mike Thomas

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Although I have never done something like this before, in the light of recent backlash at Coach Weber, I just had to speak out. I have never spoken to Coach Weber or even been within 10 yards of him, but I admire him tremendously and think we are lucky to have him. He is a really good coach, I like the way he recruits, how he puts the players first and his honesty on and off the court. Expectations for this team were not so high at the beginning of the season for good reasons. The coach is not on the court, the players are. And, while the players have improved, they haven't improved to the point where they can beat so many good teams. As a case in point, my hometown hero, Meyers Leonard, doesn't have the prep school background many of these students have, putting him farther behind. I have attended Illinois basketball games since the winter of 1971 as a college freshman and been a ticket holder for about 10 years. Love Coach Weber in Charleston Illinois.

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