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.