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.
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!
Win 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.