Olsen Announces Retirement


A long career in coaching and teaching is about to end. Paul Olson, track and cross country coach at Augustana College, has announced he’ll retire next spring.

He started in 1966 as head coach of the men’s cross country team, and recently concluded his 52nd season. The upcoming track and field season will be his 50th.

Olson is also a professor of English at Augustana, teaching classes in African American Literature and the “Sacred and Profane.” And has been chosen by 15 senior classes to give what’s called the “Last Lecture” before graduation.  

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November 15, 2017 at 11:17AM

Olsen Announces Retirement

Illinois Wesleyan hires first esports coach


BLOOMINGTON — Callum Fletcher might be the only Illinois Wesleyan University coach who doesn’t care about wins and losses — yet.

“My biggest responsibility is recruiting the team for next year,” he said. “It’s recruiting, coaching, management of the esports community on campus… and maybe we’ll win a little, too.”

Fletcher is the school’s first leader in a sport ahead of its time: competitive video games played by teams in person or online, also called esports. He thinks IWU is the only private liberal arts college with such a program, though they’ve grown in popularity nationwide over the past several years.

In his first few weeks on the job, Fletcher has selected a team of intramural players, started scouting recruits for next year’s varsity team and spent hours planning to turn Room 200 at Hansen Student Center from a seldom-used conference room to a state-of-the-art gaming competition space.

Of 20 students who tried out, 14 make up Fletcher’s first roster, including at least two who don’t mind that they probably won’t make the squad in 2018 — when IWU will start entering major competitions in “League of Legends,” an online multiplayer battle game that’s become one of the first major esports.

“It’s a good way to make friends and spend time, talking about something you like to do with other people,” said freshman physics and secondary education student Caleb Hansen of the team. “Getting better goes faster if you’re in game with somebody.”

“It still has the friendly but competitive edge you don’t always get with other clubs,” added sophomore psychology and pre-med student Luke Sieving, who played high school football. “I don’t want to do poorly when I’m playing with these people on my team. It’s got that same edge to it.”

Fletcher hopes Hansen, Sieving and their teammates can help him pick the school’s first roster of competitive players. While he and IWU recruiters are scouting talent like any other college sports program, no scholarships are involved, and the most talented players are unlikely to come.

“The dream is for a player from Illinois Wesleyan to go pro, but if a player is collegiate, they probably won’t, just because pro players get into the scene at 17 and 18 (years old),” said Fletcher. “This is about creating new opportunities for students, to cater to an audience we weren’t accessing.”

Fletcher’s path to IWU was also unlikely. The 25-year-old got a bachelor’s degree in law enforcement and justice administration with a minor in homeland security from Western Illinois University in Macomb but went to work for Play Mechanix, the suburban Chicago company that makes the “Big Buck Hunter” arcade shooting game.

Fletcher became the company’s community manager and ran the game’s world championship tournament, which gives away $100,000 in prizes, showing him not only the spoils of esports but also what a tournament looks like up close and what participants need to succeed.

“This feels like what I’ve been gearing up for for the last 10 years,” he said. “I’m very into the start-up role, building something from the ground up.”

Follow Derek Beigh on Twitter: @pg_beigh

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October 5, 2017 at 06:05AM

Illinois Wesleyan hires first esports coach

Morthland College ends athletic program


Morthland College ends athletic program


Wednesday, May 17, 2017 11:13 PM EDT

Wednesday, May 17, 2017 11:13 PM EDT

FRANKLIN CO. — Morthland College trustees voted Wednesday to end the school’s athletic program. Former coaches and others say this could signal some very tough times for the college.

Former Morthland College athletic director Reid Cure once had great hope for the school.

“I thought we were growing and heading in a great direction. We were providing a lot of great kids, really good experiences and opportunities to play collegiate sports,” he said.

But he said recent developments at the private college brought him, and at least two others to resign.

“I saw a college going into a different direction that I preferred to see it go,” said Cure.

Wednesday night, Morthland explained its new direction. In a statement, spokesperson Leigh Caldwell said, “the Board of Trustees has made the decision to transition our athletic programs to club programs only”

The vote, made behind closed doors, apparently brings an end to the school’s intercollegiate sports program.

Others contacted by News 3 said they sensed the school had run into financial problems.

The Morthland board’s vote will affect more than 50 athletes, and Cure hopes for the best for them.

“We’re just kind of praying for the best and just keeping the students first and we would love to see the college succeed despite my resignation,” he said.

The school blamed its troubles on “Delays in receipt of government funding having brought a season of hardship on the college.”

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May 17, 2017 at 03:20PM

Morthland College ends athletic program

Dan Corkery: The high cost of collegiate ice hockey


Brother, can you spare $100 million?

That’s how much the University of Illinois would need tp start men’s and women’s NCAA Division I hockey at the University of Illinois, according to Kent Brown, Illini sports information director.

Varsity hockey is a familiar subject for Brown. Inevitably each spring, as the National Hockey League playoffs gear up, a student reporter will ask him: “Why doesn’t Illinois have a hockey program?”

And I asked Brown a similar question recently, in regards to past efforts to build a new ice rink in Champaign-Urbana.

The question about big-time hockey has merit. A substantial portion of the UI’s student body comes from the Chicago area, where the Blackhawks have won the Stanley Cup three times since 2010. Plus, the fan enthusiasm for hockey is obvious whenever the Illini Hockey Club has a home game.

“There would definitely be a following,” Brown said.

But then there’s the money.

Brown bases his $100 million figure on what Penn State has spent to bring NCAA men’s and women’s hockey to State College.

In 2010, Terry Pegula, a PSU alumnus who made billions in oil and natural gas drilling, donated $88 million so his alma mater could build a ice arena. Later, he and others pitched in several million more to endow scholarships and other costs, according to Jack Hanna, sports information for men’s hockey.

The high-priced startup is doing well.

In just its fifth season, the Nittany Lions men’s team briefly held the No. 1 ranking before dropping six of their last eight games. The men sit in fourth place in the six-team Big Ten, while the women’s team is having a rough season at 9-18-5 in College Hockey America.

By all appearances, the sport is popular in “Hockey Valley,” the nickname given to the 5,700-seat Pegula Arena. The Roar Zone, the student section, is usually full.

A huge part of starting hockey is building an arena. Penn State’s facility, opened in 2013, cost about $90 million. But that includes two rinks — one for the Nittany Lions and the other for the community.

Another factor: Title IX, part of the 1972 federal legislation that prohibits sex discrimination in education. Adding a men’s sport means adding one for women, too. More players, more scholarships, more coaches, more salaries.

For a brief time before World War II, the Illini had a hockey team.

According to the 1943 Illio, hockey started at Illinois in 1938. But by the 1943 season, the team was running out of players; the men were entering the service. There was a war, after all.

The student yearbook shows the team competing through Feb. 23, 1943. In the 1944, no team is mentioned, the end of Illini hockey.

Dan Corkery is a member of The News-Gazette’s editorial board. His email is dcorkery@news-gazette.com, and his phone is 351-5218.

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February 25, 2017 at 11:09PM

Dan Corkery: The high cost of collegiate ice hockey