Somewhere between a cornfield and nowhere lies Champaign, Illinois. It’s a great college town with mounds of enthusiasm and passion for their team. On gameday, tailgating takes place in open fields where music blasts, games are played, and footballs are tossed. You might even catch the band perfroming a quick drumline or “Oskee Wow Wow” before they make their march into Memorial Stadium.
Beyond the beer and the band, comrodery among fans is shown in many other ways here at Illinois. Everywhere you look are signs that read, “Save the Chief!” Illinois mascot, Chief Illiniwek, was a decorated figure that performed a tribal dance during halftime. The crowd reacted positively to the Chief and sent him great cheers. Unfortunately, many activists believed that Chief Illiniwek and his performance was an offensive display. Many universities are defending their mascots against activists who wish to have them stricken from all sports. Therefore, these universities are retaliating, and Illinois is one of the leaders. Saving the chief is as important as winning the Big Ten. It is the pride of the school. New efforts to replace the mascot are underway, but its hard to replace a near century-old tradition.
Of course, there are many more aspects that highlight Illinois football including Memorial Stadium itself. Alongside the side of the stadium are over 200 columns, which bear the names of those who lost their lives in WWI. Those columns surrounded by red brick create one of the most beautiful structures in all of sports. The stadium is gigantic on the double deck sides. I had the opportunity to climb to the summit of Memorial Stadium which offers a beautiful view of campus and an even lovelier view of nowhere off in the distance. The crowd is an active one with one side screaming, “ILL” and the other side responding, “INI.” Fireworks blast at each Illini touchdown, which is a captivating sight at night.
Illinois fans demonstrate high levels of love and loyalty for their Illini. Football in Champaign is a proud tradition that is chief to the school’s enduring legacy.