Big Ten football notebook | Bielema meets with reporters, Franklin dashes rumors

Bielema provided a quarterback injury update and Franklin tried to distance himself from USC and LSU’s head coaching vacancies.


Jerod Ringwald

University of Illinois head football coach Bret Bielema speaks during Day 1 of the 2021 Big Ten Media Days at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana, on July 22, 2021.

Austin Hanson, Sports Editor

Washington’s gloves sent to College Football Hall of Fame

The gloves University of Illinois wide receiver Casey Washington wore last Saturday are on their way to the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta, Georgia.

Washington caught a decisive pass from Fighting Illini QB Brandon Peters that ended Oct. 23’s Illinois-Penn State game in overtime period No. 9.

Last week’s Penn State-Illinois matchup currently stands as the longest in college football history. The Nittany Lions and Illini were tied at 10 at the end of regulation. Over the next nine extra frames, the two squads scored a combined ten points.

Illinois ultimately won the game, 20-18. The nine-overtime contest took four hours and 10 minutes to play.

The Fighting Illini’s receiving group opted to wear blue gloves against Penn State, with one exception.

The gloves Washington wore that are now headed to Atlanta are white.

Before Saturday’s game, Washington told Illini wide receivers coach George McDonald that he didn’t want to wear the blue gloves that the rest of the group donned.

McDonald reported Washington’s desire to wear non-conforming white gloves to Illinois head coach Bret Bielema.

Bielema then asked Washington why he didn’t want to wear blue gloves like the rest of the Illini’s receivers. Washington told Bielema he didn’t have enough time to break the blue gloves in before kickoff.

“I had to make an administrative decision,” Bielema told The St. Louis Dispatch Monday. “I looked at Casey and said, ‘Do you need the white gloves?’ He said, ‘I need the white gloves.’ Sixty minutes later and nine overtimes, I’m glad I gave him the white gloves.”

Sitkowski out for season

Bielema’s starting quarterback was injured in Saturday’s Illinois-Penn State game. Rutgers transfer Artur Sitkowski suffered a broken arm during the contest’s sixth overtime period, per The St. Louis Dispatch.

Sitkowski’s injury will keep him out for the season and require surgery to heal. The 6-foot-5, 225-pound New Jerseyan will also undergo shoulder surgery to correct an issue that’s been plaguing him since summer training camp.

Peters, who has been in and out of Illinois’ starting lineup all year long with a bevy of injuries, will be the Fighting Illini’s starting QB for the rest of the season.

Bielema said it will take Sitkowski six or seven months to fully recover from his injuries. Bielema added that Stikowski won’t be ready to participate in the Fighting Illini’s practices next spring.

Bielema expects Sitkowski to be ready for the Fighting Illini’s 2022 season-opener.

Sitkowski’s shoulder surgery could be delayed by as many as four weeks because of his broken arm.

Franklin find new representation

Penn State head football coach James Franklin will now be represented by Creative Arts Agency’s Jimmy Sexton, per Sports Illustrated.

Sexton also represents the likes of Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, and Texas head coaches Nick Saban, Lane Kiffin, Kirby Smart, and Steve Sarkisian.

USC and LSU are rumored to be interested in Franklin. Both programs will have head coaching vacancies to fill at the end of the 2021-22 season.

Franklin shot down the USC and LSU-related rumors at his weekly meeting with reporters Tuesday.

“My focus is completely on Illinois, and this team, and this program,” Franklin told 24/7 Sports. “I think I’ve shown over my eight years my commitment to this university and this community. That’s kind of my statement.”

“I care what people think and I want to handle things the right way all the time with the players, with the staff, with the administration,” Franklin added. “I want to use the golden rule … treat people the way you want to be treated.”

Franklin repeatedly denied his rumored connections to LSU and USC’s head coaching vacancies Tuesday, noting that he was focused on Penn State’s next opponent.

On two occasions, however, Franklin said he’s concentrated on Illinois. The Nittany Lions played the Fighting Illini last Saturday. They’ll match up with Ohio State this week.

Kickoff between the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions is set for 7:30 p.m. Saturday in Columbus, Ohio. The contest will air live on ABC.