So close were Byron’s Billeter boys that Tom followed big brother Jeff to Illinois without as much as thinking about another school.
“Thank goodness I was accepted,” Tom (BS ’83, physical education) says from South Dakota, where he’s built a Division II basketball juggernaut at Augustana University, winning the school’s first national title in the sport n 2016.
Billeter arrived at Illinois in the fall of 1979 as a pre-med major. Then he took his first Chemistry 101 test, which led him to switch — quickly — to a P.E. track.
It was, he says four decades later, the perfect fit.
“I was incredibly fortunate to work every aspect IMPE had to offer,” Billeter says. “I officiated, was a gym observer and actually became an administrator of some sort.
“My brother was the university play-by-play announcer for the football and basketball teams through WPGU. With his connections to Illinois basketball, I got to know two assistant coaches: Bob Hull and a volunteer named Dan Smith. Through these two, I was able to become the assistant varsity and head sophomore coach at University High School.
“I lost my first frosh/soph game, 83-13, to Tolono Unity and the parents were just great, saying: ‘We have never had double-figure scoring against these guys before!’
“That led to an experience I have never forgotten and has a great deal to do with my job today. Even though the frosh/soph team never won a game that year, the varsity beat DeLand-Weldon, 58-56, to end a rather long losing streak.
“Kam’s never had a happier high school coaching staff close the place down in its history of existence.”