Kedric Prince grew up in Rock Island and played high school basketball for the legendary Duncan Reid. He followed Bruce Douglas and his Quincy team to the 1981 state championship and became a big Illinois fan when Douglas went to Champaign. Later, he had a radio talk show in the Quad Cities and became a voice for the Illini in a region filled with Iowa fans.
"I had a reputation for saying what was on my mind," he said.
He didn't know what he was getting into.
A few years ago, he was contacted by Rivals. They wanted him to do recruiting articles. But he didn't want to work for Rivals. "I wasn't sure if they were legitimate," he said. "I didn't know what I wanted to do at the time."
Then he got a call from John Miller, who runs Iowa's Website, Hawkeyenation.com, for Scout, one of Rivals' competitors in the recruiting business. He wanted Prince to work with John Brumbaugh, who didn't want to do recruiting on Illinois' Website, Illiniboard.com. Last January, when Brumbaugh's contract ran out, Prince took over. He was joined by Frank Frangie, who has a good relationship with Illinois' football coaching staff.
Prince oversees the Website from his home in Moline. He hired six moderators or monitors to oversee the message board. They are alert for posters who get out of line, use foul language, hapr on the Illini coaching staff when they lose a recruit and get too personal. The moderators run 90 percent of the questionable material past Prince before a decision is made whether to delete it or not.
"I love recruiting," he said. "Today's world is quick. People want to know something right away. I can call a kid and have a story on my Website in five minutes. Even family members go on the Internet to post information about their kids. It isn't as bad as it is made out to be."
But Prince has his own misgivings about the process. "I don't like bickering among fans. I don't mind Illinois vs. Kansas bickering. But when you make it personal, I struggle with it. I don't like personal attacks," he said.
Prince said he read a comment by Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo in reference to the Internet, about hos bad he felt it was, that it was ruining the recruiting process.
"Coaches think people say things that are wrong and inaccurate," Prince said. "But newspapers have bad reporters, too. I think if you get the right people to run the Websites, it can be a great technology that works for everyone."
Prince said a profile of an average poster is college students to 50-60 years ago, a lot of young guys who don't know history and some who became fans during Illinois' glorious 2004-05 Final Four season and don't know anything else. He said over 3,000 posts still ask about Deon Thomas.
Frangie has generated more football interest on the Illini board. And the success of coach Ron Zook's team has fostered a new generation of contributors.
"A lot of people think Illinois is a basketball school," Prince said. "The basketball program has had more recent success. But I want more balance between football and basketball. I want our board to be a place where people of all ages and families and athletes can go and read stories. I don't want people to be attacked by comments of others."
Prince said Michael Jordan subscribes to the site to see what people are saying about his oldest son Jeffrey, a walkon at Illinois. He wishes Zook and basketball coach Bruce Weber would consent to more interviews on his Website, as they accommodate the print media.
"Fans are dying to know what the assistant coaches think, what Wayne McClain is up to, what is a normal day for a recruiter," Prince said. "But 2004-05 generated a whole new generation of fans. College students became more involved. They have no clue about the slush fund or much history about Illinois. I became a fan because of Bruce Douglas. How many people know about him?"