Illini basketball

NCAA’s 30-mile rule: Why?

Over the past four years, Patrick Smith attended more Illini games than many parents. Most of the time, he didn’t pay for tickets.

Apart from an executive position at Ameren, Smith was the coach of the Southwest Illinois Jets AAU basketball team. His prized pupil was Malcolm Hill.  Malcolm’s mother Machanda came to all the games. Malcolm Sr. attended a good number. A couple of uncles made it now and then. But most of the time, one of Malcolm’s NCAA-allotted four complimentary admissions went to Smith.

Smith was eligible to receive a free pass directly from the school, too. And that was useful during the recruiting process, because only active roster players get the four freebies.

But curiously, free admission is available only within 30 miles of campus. So in December 2012, when Smith accepted free admission to watch Braggin’ Rights with high school senior Malcolm Hill, he unknowingly triggered a secondary infraction.

Jason Heggemeyer

Jason Heggemeyer is the guy responsible for the violation, and also the person who reported it.  Heggemeyer is the Illinois Associate Director of Athletics for Ticketing, Sales & Customer Service. He travels with the basketball team, sets up a table or a booth in the bowels of various stadia, and keeps the list of admittees (usually family) who attend away games. But Braggin’ Rights isn’t considered an “away game.” In even-numbered years, it’s considered an Illini “home game.” In odd-numbered years, it’s a Mizzou “home game.” That’s why you hear of Illini recruits only in even-numbered years.

In 2012, Heggemeyer simply didn’t know the rule. In 2013, his counterpart at Mizzou explained it to him while they jointly prepared for that year’s game.

It’s not clear when Heggemeyer’s initial report was filed. The case documentation says it was December 22, 2012, which was actually the day the violation occurred.

But the bulk of the action took place in February of 2014, just as Malcolm Hill was starting to earn some tick. (He was averaging 12 minutes and 3.8 points per game as of February 19). As the investigation unfolded, Hill was declared ineligible to play. He would not be reinstated until Patrick Smith reimbursed the school for the “impermissible gift.”

Malcolm Hill and some familiar faces at the 2012 Braggin’ Rights game.


So on February 21, 2014 Smith cut a check for $105. Fortunately, he can afford it. Malcolm was reinstated in time for the Nebraska game on the 26th, and he scored 10 points.

The long-running adage about AAU coaches is that they receive money from college programs. Scurrilous bagmen distribute cash in exchange for access to recruits. That’s how the story goes, anyhow. You never hear about schools demanding money from AAU coaches.

Why 30 miles you ask? Because it’s the NCAA! Arbitrary rules are their specialty.

Patrick Smith is an amiable man. But you can imagine how an AAU coach might react to the news that a school was reneging on its offer of free admission.  If such a demand for payment came before his star player signed a National Letter of Intent, it would be in his financial interest to steer that recruit away from that school.

The 30-mile rule presents a recruiting disadvantage to schools located outside major metropolitan areas. In the Big Ten, that’s most schools. Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio State, Northwestern and Maryland are the exceptions.

Illinois plays at least one game every year in St. Louis and Chicago because that’s where all the people live, including basketball players and their coaches.  Northwestern needn’t worry about the 30-mile rule for Chicago-based events. SLU is safe in St. Louis. But neither Illinois nor Mizzou can ever provide the same hospitality to AAU or high school coaches in the metro areas where most of them live.

Travis Ford can foist the Vatican’s limitless hospitality budget toward gladhanding the myriad coaches who live within easy driving distance of the Billikens campus. Brad Underwood can offer free admission, but Metro East coaches must drive five hours  to receive it.

So to the extent that buttering AAU and high school coaches helps with recruiting, schools in big cities hold an advantage. East Coast Bias may be real. Rural discrimination certainly is.

Illini football

Illini football graduates 24 this weekend, 42 this academic year

For the last four years, encountering Mason Monheim was risky. You might lose a tooth trying to scamper past the hard-hitting linebacker. But in the future, you’ll want to see Doctor Monheim for your dental problems.

This weekend, Monheim will earn a degree in Community Health, and then it’s off to dental school at Ohio State.  Thursday, the Big Ten Conference awarded him a $7,500 scholarship toward that degree.

Two student-athletes from each B1G school received the $7,500 postgraduate scholarship awards from the conference. Recipients maintained a minimum 3.2 grade-point-average, “demonstrated leadership qualities, served as an excellent role model and intended to continue their academic work beyond their baccalaureate degree at a graduate degree program.”

Swimmer Stephanie Hein is Illinois’ other recipient. She’ll pursue a Master’s degree in Teaching & Learning at the University of Michigan, with a focus in STEM Education.

All-in-all, 119 Illini athletes will walk this weekend. 24 of them are football players, former and current. When including last December and this coming August’s commencement ceremonies, 42 football players will have matriculated with a degree or two.

Illini Football Graduation Facts

• 42 football players will earn degrees in 2015-16

• 10 of the 42 are on the current 2016 roster, meaning they’ll already have degrees when they play in 2016

• 9 of the 42 earned a master’s degree or second bachelor’s degree

• 3 of the 42 played pro ball and came back to finish their degrees
» Michael Hoomanawanui (Illinois 2006-09) – current New Orleans Saint
» Kyle Hudson (Illinois 2005-08) – Illini dual-sport star and former Baltimore Oriole
» Corey Liuget (Illinois 2008-10) – current San Diego Charger

• All 6 new Illini in the NFL will have at least one degree
» Geronimo Allison (Packers)
» V’Angelo Bentley (Patriots)
» Josh Ferguson (Colts)
» Clayton Fejedelem (Bengals)
» Ted Karras (Patriots)
» Jihad Ward (Raiders)

• In the last two years, 80 football players have earned degrees
» 42 in 2015-16
» 38 in 2014-15

• Football degrees by year (since 2012)
» 2012 – 15
» 2013 – 16
» 2014 – 21
» 2015 – 38
» 2016 – 42

2015-16 Illinois Football Graduates

December 2015 (7)
Name Major
Geronimo Allison Communication
Rob Bain Communication
Martize Barr Communication
Josh Ferguson Kinesiology
Eric Finney Human Development & Family Studies
Michael Martin Mechanical Engineering
Cameron Tucker Political Science
May 2016 (24)
Name Major
Taylor Barton Communication
B.J. Bello Community Health
Jesse Chadwell Communication
Ryan Frain Kinesiology
Justin Hardee Recreation, Sport and Tourism (Master’s)
Zach Hirth Kinesiology
Michael Hoomanawanui Recreation, Sport and Tourism – Sport Management
Kyle Hudson Recreation, Sport and Tourism – Sport Management
Ted Karras Recreation, Sport and Tourism (Master’s)
Jevaris Little Sociology
Corey Liuget Sociology
Nelson Lugo Recreation, Sport and Tourism – Sport Management
Wes Lunt Recreation, Sport and Tourism – Sport Management
Mason Monheim Community Health
T.J. Neal Recreation, Sport and Tourism – Sport Management
Chris O’Connor Agricultural Leadership & Education (2nd degree)
Leslie Poole Accountancy (Master’s)
David Reisner Advertising
Joe Spencer Finance
Tyrin Stone-Davis Communication
Mike Svetina Finance
LaKeith Walls Recreation, Sport and Tourism – Sport Management
Sean White Civil Engineering
Taylor Zalewski Technology Management (Master’s)
August 2016 (11)
Name Major
Raphael Barr Communication
V’Angelo Bentley Recreation, Sport and Tourism (Master’s)
Tim Clary Recreation, Sport and Tourism (Master’s)
Cedric Doxy Recreation, Sport and Tourism – Sport Management
Henry Enyenihi Communication
Joe Fotu Recreation, Sport and Tourism – Sport Management
Davontay Kwaaning Recreation, Sport and Tourism (Master’s)
Marchie Murdock Communication
Kenny Nelson Recreation, Sport and Tourism (Master’s)
Teko Powell Sociology
Jihad Ward Recreation, Sport and Tourism – Sport Management
Illini Basketball

B1G shots statement on O’Bannon case



ROSEMONT, Ill. – While testifying last week in the O’Bannon trial in Oakland, Calif., Big Ten Commissioner James E. Delany spoke to the importance of the inextricable link between academics and athletics as part of the collegiate model, and to the value of establishing a 21st century system to meet the educational needs of current and future student-athletes. During his testimony, Delany conveyed sentiments long supported by the conference and its member institutions. Today, the presidents and chancellors of the Big Ten schools issue the following statement signed by the leaders of each institution:


As another NCAA season concludes with baseball and softball championships, college athletics is under fire. While football players at Northwestern fight for collective bargaining, former athletes are suing to be compensated for the use of their images.


Football and men’s basketball are at issue. Compensating the student-athletes who compete in these sports will skew the overall academic endeavor – for all students, not just those wearing a school’s colors.


The best solutions rest not with the courts, but with us – presidents of the very universities that promote and respect the values of intercollegiate competition. Writing on behalf of all presidents of the Big Ten Conference, we must address the conflicts that have led us to a moment where the conversation about college sports is about compensation rather than academics.

The tradition and spirit of intercollegiate athletics is unique to our nation. Students play as part of their overall academic experience, not for a paycheck or end-of-season bonus. Many also compete in hopes of a professional career, just as our biology majors serve internships and musical theater students perform in summer stock. These opportunities – sports, marching band, campus newspaper, and more – are facets of the larger college experience and prepare students for life. And that, in its purest form, is the mission of higher education.


The reality of intercollegiate athletics is that only a miniscule number of students go on to professional sports careers. In the sports that generate the greatest revenue and attention, football sees 13 percent of Big Ten players drafted by the NFL and basketball sees 6 percent from our conference drafted for NBA play.


For those student-athletes who are drafted, their professional careers average fewer than five years. They still have several decades and, potentially, several careers ahead of them in which to succeed. And their college experience – their overall academic experience – should be what carries them forward.


This is why we propose working within the NCAA to provide greater academic security and success for our student-athletes:


•             We must guarantee the four-year scholarships that we offer. If a student-athlete is no longer able to compete, for whatever reason, there should be zero impact on our commitment as universities to deliver an undergraduate education. We want our students to graduate.


•             If a student-athlete leaves for a pro career before graduating, the guarantee of a scholarship remains firm. Whether a professional career materializes, and regardless of its length, we will honor a student’s scholarship when his or her playing days are over. Again, we want students to graduate.


•             We must review our rules and provide improved, consistent medical insurance for student-athletes. We have an obligation to protect their health and well-being in return for the physical demands placed upon them.


•             We must do whatever it takes to ensure that student-athlete scholarships cover the full cost of a college education, as defined by the federal government. That definition is intended to cover what it actually costs to attend college.


Across the Big Ten, and in every major athletic conference, football and men’s basketball are the principal revenue sports. That money supports the men and women competing in all other sports. No one is demanding paychecks for our gymnasts or wrestlers. And yet it is those athletes – in swimming, track, lacrosse, and other so-called Olympic sports – who will suffer the most under a pay-to-play system.


The revenue creates more opportunities for more students to attend college and all that provides, and to improve the athletic experiences through improved facilities, coaching, training and support.


If universities are mandated to instead use those dollars to pay football and basketball players, it will be at the expense of all other teams. We would be forced to eliminate or reduce those programs. Paying only some athletes will create inequities that are intolerable and potentially illegal in the face of Title IX.


The amateur model is not broken, but it does require adjusting for the 21st century. Whether we pay student-athletes is not the true issue here. Rather, it is how we as universities provide a safe, rewarding and equitable environment for our student-athletes as they pursue their education.


We believe that the intercollegiate athletics experience and the educational mission are inextricably linked. Professionalizing specific sports or specific participants will bring about intended as well as likely unintended consequences in undermining the educational foundation of these programs, on Big Ten campuses and others throughout the country


Higher education provides young people with options in life to thrive in the future. For a tiny minority, that future will be a professional sports career and all of its rewards. For all graduates – athletes and non-athletes – it is the overall academic experience that is a lifetime source of compensation in the form of a well-rounded education.