Denver Johnson coached at Illinois State for nine seasons. He resigned in 2008 after a 3-8 season. The Chicago Tribune reports 17 of the 22 recruits in his 2008 class left school prematurely. (Photo courtesy GoRedbirds.com)
By Eric Stock
Illinois State University football coach Brock Spack has issued a statement in response to a Chicago Tribune story which criticized the university's handling of football recruits, specifically Denver Johnson's final recruiting class at ISU in 2008.
The front-page report says 17 of the 22 student-athletes who were awarded scholarships that year left prematurely because of either injuries or troubles outside of the classroom. Others were reportedly given the cold shoulder when new coach Brock Spack and his staff took over after the 2008 season.
"As a program, we abide by standards set forth by the NCAA and its Academic Progress Rates (APR), and we have met or exceeded their standards with regards to student-athlete performance and retention. In fact, we recently won an award from the Football Championship Subdivision Athletics Directors Association (FCS ADA) for the most improved APR rate in the Missouri Valley Football Conference," said a statement from Spack. "We continue to stress to our student-athletes the importance of hard work, dedication in the classroom and personal responsibility. That has always been our standard and will continue to be as long as our staff is running the football program at Illinois State."
The story cited President Al Bowman's remarks about Johnson's team. Reporter John Keilman wrote the team had "become a disappointment on and off the field, with too many players negelecting classes and getting in trouble around campus." Johnson denied that the program was undisciplined. He's now an assistant at the University of Tulsa.
Two of the student athletes who did not leave prematurely have graduated, while the three others, including starting quarterback Matt Brown, are still on the team.
Chicago Tribune reporter John Keilman will talk to WJBC's Scott Laughlin at 7:10 a.m. Tuesday.
Eric Stock can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.