As reported by The News-Gazette, the athletic director at Illinois, Josh Whitman, announced Matt Bollant would be returning as the head coach of the women's basketball program. There have been some struggles not just on the court, yet off the court as well for Illinois.
Whitman had this to say about his decision, "Without question, the team's on-court performance has fallen short of our high standards," Whitman said. "However, this past season was extraordinarily challenging both on and off the court. We are eager to turn the page and focus on creating a bright and successful future."
In his four years as the head coach, Bollant is 52-72, including a 19-49 record in the Big Ten. This past season Illinois' record was 9-21, including a 2-16 record in conference play. The first four seasons, Bollant's teams have lost their Big Ten tournament opener, yet in 2012-2013, his team did make the WNIT playing until the quarterfinals.
This year started off promising for the Illini going 7-1; however, two long streaks of eight straight losses occurred making the year a difficult one for the team.
The New-Gazette also reported there has been some negative attention for the program following a $10 million lawsuit the program received last season. The lawsuit came from seven former players and families who claimed the environment had become racially hostile and other claims.
There was an investigation which was cleared last August of any wrongdoing, however, Mike Divilbiss, Bollant's associate head coach, resigned last spring created a stir for the program.
With the claims, that is definitely some of the struggles off the court that Whitman is referring to. To have claims of a hostile environment is difficult for all parties to deal with rather it is the coaching staff or the players.
On the court, Illinois ran into significant depth issues. To start with, four key players from the 2014-2015 season transferred in the offseason due to the unhappiness they felt with the program.
To add on top of that, freshman point guard, CeCe Rice, suffered a season-ending knee injury. Last but not least, Simone Law was a fifth-year transfer, who also couldn't play like it was perceived she would, due to a lingering knee injury.
The 2016-2017 season does look bright only having lost two seniors -- Sarah Hartwell and Kyley Simmons - the Illini will have significant players back with sophomore center Chatrice White, who surpassed 1,000 career points already and having Rice back on the court to name a couple.
To join them will be five players who have already signed to join the team and the possibility of a Czech guard, Petra Holesinska, who has committed just hasn't signed yet.
Whitman continued to share his confidence in Bollant: "We also look forward to the arrival of a highly accomplished recruiting class, which we believe, will set the tone for many talented recruiting classes to follow," Whitman said.
"I commend Coach Bollant, his assistant coaches and our basketball student-athletes for persevering through an extremely difficult year, and I look forward to supporting them in their efforts to build the Fighting Illini into a championship program."
Whitman has confidence not only in Bollant, however, the players who are currently on the team and the incoming players. There is still a chance for the Fighting Illini to have a better season than this year. Hopes are still on the table to not only return to the postseason, but to get back to the NCAA since the school has not been since 2003.