Why Illinois might want Northwestern’s Jim Phillips so badly

SHARE Why Illinois might want Northwestern’s Jim Phillips so badly

The pull and the lure of anyone’s alma mater is great. I

don’t think it matters if it is your old high school or college, be it big or

small.

So Northwestern athletic director and Illinois alum Jim

Phillips has got to have a huge knot in the pit of his stomach, wondering about

the Illinois athletic director’s vacancy.

On Monday, Illinois AD Ron Guenther announced his retirement

after being in C-U for 19 years, the longest of any AD in the Big Ten. The

university has a search committee in place, headed by Larry DeBrock who is the

head of the university’s College of Business — and in a weird twist, DeBrock

was my Econ 101 professor my freshman year at Illinois.

All the rumors and stories on the Internet that Phillips is

probably Illinois’ top candidate to replace Guenther should be taken seriously.

Look at what Phillips has done in just three years at Northwestern:

* he put the football team on a huge national stage when

they played Illinois at Wrigley Field last November

* he’s locked up Pat Fitzgerald for the next 10 years with a

new contract extension, providing consistency for the program and for

Fitzgerald in recruiting

* he hired Mike Polisky to run the school’s first-ever

marketing division in the athletic department, helping to create a snappy and

memorable slogan in “Chicago’s Big Ten Team”

* he’s spearheaded a facilities study that will determine

which athletic facilities need either a major overhaul or to be replaced

altogether

* he inked a home-and-home football series with Notre Dame

and another with Stanford

* and he’s got this infectious enthusiasm — just like Fitz —

where he gets excited about all things NU.

Who wouldn’t want to have someone like Jim Phillips running

their athletic department?

Probably a lot of people, especially those who love orange

and blue.

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