Herb Gould retires. Steve Greenberg in at Chicago Sun-Times

Herb Gould retires. Steve Greenberg in at Chicago Sun-Times

The “other” paper in town has apparently hired a national college football and basketball writer.

Steve Greenberg announced on his Twitter feed July 1 (Canada Day coincidentally) that he was joining the Chicago Sun-Times as its national college sports writer and he also Tweeted that he’ll be covering Illinois. He received the usual slap-on-the-back-welcome-aboard-so-nice-to-have-you-around type tweets from a bunch of his followers as a result.

So this must mean that Herb Gould, the paper’s national college writer and Illinois beat writer, is gone. Rumors have been circulating for weeks that Herb Gould was going to retire, but nothing was made official — until now, I presume. I cover the Illini regularly, and I’ve heard whispers about Gould riding off into the sunset from other Illinois beat writers for months.

Now it’s official, so I can publish it.

Though Steve Greenberg’s resume is decent, having worked at The Sporting News until its print edition crapped out earlier this year, he is going to have his work cut out for him at the ship-taking-on-massive-amounts-of-water that is the Chicago Sun-Times. Herb Gould has worked at the Chicago Sun-Times since 1977 and he’s covered the Illini for longer than I can even remember. He was there when I was just a young Daily Illini football reporter in 1997. He knows his way around the campus, the athletic department and the entire Champaign-Urbana area. He can tell you as much about Kurt Kittner, Brandon Lloyd, Deon Thomas and Kiwane Garris as I can.

And Herb Gould’s contacts are second to none.

He knows most of the athletic department boosters and he’s built up a source list that could rival anyone who’s held any beat for over a decade. One of the biggest stories Herb Gould ever broke was last spring when Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas interviewed Shaka Smart for Bruce Weber’s old job as men’s basketball coach. Shaka Smart, though, didn’t take the money and balked at the job. Gould was the first to report Weber’s job was in jeopardy. He wrote a column about it in January of 2012 on the same day that the Illini upset highly ranked Michigan State. When everyone else was writing about Illinois beating a great MSU team that went on to earn a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, Gould reported the even bigger story- regime change was coming to Illinois basketball.

Herb Gould is basically one of those Illini beat writers who has been there so long, he has his own clique. Kind of like high school, he sits at the “cool table” of Illinois reporters. Herb Gould ran with the “in” crowd of Illini media and he was the leader of that pack. The only reason I even notice this is because my group of Illini beat writers, the “new media” and online journalism crowd, are all gone now. I’m the only one of our clique that makes a nice living doing this, so they all had to leave the Assembly Hall and Memorial Stadiums press rooms to find other jobs. It’s rather sad sometimes. Especially on that long commute down Interstate 57.

Let’s see if Steve Greenberg can break in to the “cool table” — or maybe the Chicago Sun-Times will fold first. Of course, one thing I’ve learned about covering Illinois basketball and Illinois football is that the downstate media and Chicago media don’t like each other all that much. For many reasons.

Gould was one of the few who was beloved by both cliques. Then there’s the St. Louis media, who are much smaller in numbers than the Chicago subset and the “rest of Illinois” subset. I like them, they’re nice. Mostly, I stay close to the Chicago television people. That’s my high school lunch table at Illini media events. Because “internet people” and “tv people” are much likely to get along than internets and “newspaper people.” Television and online are not as much in direct competition with each other like newspaper and online reporters are.

And what does this Sun-Times personnel change mean for that other Big Ten team in Illinois? I’m talking about Northwestern of course.

The Wildcats haven’t had a steady beat writer from the Chicago Sun-Times in years, probably not since Greg Couch and Jeanie Chung covered Northwestern in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Actually, with the ouster of Neil Hayes, the S-T will have five different NU beat writers in five years. The position is getting like Bears QBs in the 1990s.

Will the Chicago Sun-Times figure out how to get Steve Greenberg up to Evanston from Champaign, or will the Fading One just blow off coach Pat Fitzgerald and his Wildcats this fall, and leave the real reporting to the Tribune’s Teddy Greenstein?

Paul M. Banks is the owner of The Sports Bank.net. (“Quasi-endorsed” by Philadelphia Eagles Coach Chip Kelly) He’s also an author who contributes regularly to MSN, Fox Sports , Chicago Now, Walter Football.com and Yardbarker

Banks has appeared on the History Channel, as well as ESPN and CBS radio all over the world. The NFL, NBA expert does a weekly spot for 95.7 The Fan. President Barack Obama follows him on Twitter (@PaulMBanks), like him on Facebook

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