Ever since I can remember, I’ve loved Illinois athletics. And before you ask, yes, that is me (as well as my Dad and Brother) at an Illinois football game, circa 2008… when Illinois was actually watchable. Shoutout Juice Williams. This having been said, I can’t say it’s been that great of a ride so far. Most of U of I’s athletic programs have been a dumpster fire the last 3-4 ish years. 2013: Illinois basketball makes the tournament, beats Colorado, subsequently loses to Miami (FL). Typical. 2014: Illinois football makes the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl, subsequently gets merked by LOUISIANA TECH. Again, typical. Since around then, not much has happened. I guess one could argue the NIT, but lets be honest, nobody gives a shit about that. Really the only bright spots Illinois has had over the past decade have been Illini Baseball and Golf. In fact, as I’m writing this the Illini golf team are competing in the finals of whatever college golf championship thing at Sugar Grove. But I digress, there will always be outliers. In this blog I hope to give you, most likely a U of I student, some relatable points about Illini sports over the years. Just a disclaimer, the sports I’m referring to in this blog are primarily football and basketball, as well as a bit of golf. Lemme know your thoughts: if you agree, disagree, or have anything you’d add or subtract from this list.
Some people are under the impression that the Chief is cultural appropriation and what not. To me, that’s complete and utter bullshit, usually coming from people who a. have never seen a game with a Chief performance or b. people who just want to pick fights because they think they’re some sort of modern-day Braveheart for the Native American community. The Chief’s actions were always meant to honor the people of the Illini tribe, not belittle them. Whether its yelling ‘CHIEF’ while the band performs at football and basketball games or wearing relatives’ old t-shirts, the legend of Chief Illiniwek will never die in the hearts of the Illini faithful.
I’m in the minority that hates this hashtag, but I do understand the tremendous impact it has had on alums and current students alike. My problem with it is that its very vague. Where’s the plan on when and how we will win? I realize you can’t make the hashtag “#wewillwinin2020byactuallyspendingmoneyonourmarqueeprogramsandrecruitingactuallyestablishedcoachestoourteams” but at least mention in a press conference some sort of a plan for people like me who are sick and tired of the biggest school in Illinois blowing at any and all sports that really matter. I know I’m definitely overanalyzing this, but I’m so fed up at this point that I don’t give a shit.
3. Illinois football = a joke/wtf Lovie
Going to Illinois football games as a student makes me want to drink until I pass out. I get that thats a horrible thing to say, but if you’ve ever been to a game, you know why I say that. Throws into double coverage, blown routes, blown coverages, horrible coaching, shitty attendance and atmosphere, the Illinois football program is a clusterfuck. All we can do is either a. go to block (if you’re in a house) or b. pregame the living shit out of the games so we can chirp our own teams (lack of) ability. In many fan’s eyes’ Lovie can walk on water and lead Illinois football back to the promised land of god knows when we were last actually good. People forget that a. Bears fans wanted Lovie way the fuck away from their team and b. that he was was awful in his closing seasons with the Bucs. The only thing I gave him the benefit of the doubt on was recruiting, as he has a recognizable name, but obviously he has zero idea how to do this too.
4. “Who is our football team playing this week?”
Unless you’re an Illinois football hardo and you believe in all that trust the process bullshit, students have no idea (and frankly no interest in knowing) who their football team is playing that particular week. If it’s not some garbage non-conference team (who we can’t seem to beat as of late) or Rutgers, god bless the fact that they’re in the Big Ten, theres a good chance the game’ll be over before the second half. Hell, we couldn’t even beat Purdue last year. Their mascot is like an imaginary creature or something, like seriously what is a “Boilermaker”.
5. Illinois basketball choking spectacularly
Illini basketball, unlike football, is (sometimes) actually watchable, but just barely. Games in the past 3-4 years follow one of four paths for the Illini: 1. Absolute bend opponent. This occurs v. whatever non-conference trash we play that year. 2. Blow 15-20 point lead in 2nd half and win by two. Very common v. teams like Rutgers or Penn State. 3. Blow 15-20 point lead in 2nd half and lose by a billion. Very common v. teams like Iowa or Michigan. 4. Get absolutely annihilated and look like the worst team in college basketball. Very common v. Big Ten powerhouses. I’m exaggerating, but it always seems like games spiral out of control the same way game after game. Hey, John Groce, congrats on your success with Ohio, this is the Big Fucking Ten not the MAAC, the worst conference in college basketball, learn on the fly and adjust your methods. As you can tell I’m pretty happy with the Groce firing.
6. Golf is king
Looking at our school; Champaign, IL, middle of the cornfields, hours away from actual civilization, and yet, I’m pretty sure we’re somehow a top program. Personally, I suck at golf. But, I respect the hell out of these kids who drive 300+ and sink 100 foot putts, that shit is damn near impossible. Best of luck at Sugar Grove boys (the championship is still going on while I’m writing this). Also mad props to whoever made those polos are they’re absolute fire.
7. FUCK NORTH CAROLINA
Am I still triggered over 2005? You bet your ass I am. Is this petty? Yep. Do I give a shit? Not in the slightest. Fuck all North Carolina sports teams, I don’t care if I have to cheer for Ohio State, UNC will always have a special place of hatred in my heart. Roy Williams can honest to god fuck off with his tacky suit coats and crybaby antics on the sideline. Nut up dude, you’re 66 years old still throwing temper tantrums on the sideline. You’re coaching one of the most historic teams in college basketball history, and yet you’ve still got to resort to recruiting and implementing dirty players and tactics. Key example: Tyler Hansbrough. And yes, I know he wasn’t on that 05′ UNC team, but he’s still a piece of shit.
8. De-commits & Transfers
It’s an aggravating time to be an Illini basketball fan. Yes, getting Mark Smith was big for the program but those traitors Jeremiah Tilmon and Javon Pickett leaving hurts. Just when you thought our big man problem was fixed. On top of it all, former 4-star recruits DJ Williams and Jalen Coleman-Lands have also announced their intent to transfer over the past month. Everyone’s celebrating because we landed Mark Alstork. As much as I want to believe, I’m a realist. The dude played for MURRAY STATE in the Horizon League, where the best team you play is a three way tie between Northern Kentucky, Oakland, and Valparaiso. I’m not trying to be overly rip the dude, I’m sure he’ll be a great addition, he was a one man wrecking crew for the Raiders last season. However, when you shoot 3/18 v. Penn State, the best team your team played, thats not too promising.
9. That fucker Bill Self
This guy…When the going gets tough, the tough get going. In the cases of Bill Self, this “going” meant leaving to new, better basketball schools. As much as I understand the grind of college coaching and using one job to get to the next, fuck that noise. The University of Kansas I can more understand but I still hate that traitor Bill Self more than 99% of people (e.g. Roy Williams, Tyler Hansbrough). I still don’t understand why you’d want to live in Lawrence, Kansas, a place even god couldn’t find on a map. In his case, for me, it’s kinda like that Batman quote from the Dark Knight, “You either die a hero, (stay at Illinois and become a legend) or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain (moving away to another team and leaving a trail of hate-filled fans from your old team)”. Looking at that quote now, I’m realizing that the analogy and symbolism behind it doesn’t really translate, but you get the point.
10. That fucker Cliff Alexander
Easily the most pissed off I’ve ever been in a single moment as an Illinois basketball fan. 1. why the fuck would you do this. 2. we lost the dude (5-star mind you) to Bill fucking Self. Jokes on you though bud, how’s the D-League treating ya? I hear Long Island is a hell of a basketball town… what goes around comes around.
11. The ‘U’ II: Illinois Edition
All I have to say is, how stupid can you possibly be. You tried to rob a room in Bromley and actually got recognized. For a bunch of nobodies on the football team, thats really a testament to your obviously horrible disguises/masks. Bad PR for the street smarts of Illinois football players.
12. Never-ending renovations to Assembly Hall (SFC)
I’ve ranted about this before, and I get that they really did change a lot in their most recent renovation, but really Illinois? Closing the stadium for renovations in the middle of an NIT run so you can add a couple thousand seats? It’s not even like this was a one time deal. While I may be exaggerating, I feel like this has happened for the last five years in a row. Hopefully the stadium gets put to good use this year during the regular season.
13. Scalped tickets
Wanna sit at the 50 yard line for $10? Park two blocks away from the stadium for free because nobody gives a shit? Coupled this with an in-stadium atmosphere comparable to a Junior College and you’ve got scalped Illinois football tickets in a nutshell. Really though, why would you ever pay full price to go see an abysmal team that’s probably got as many people outside tailgating as there are inside watching. As sketchy as it sometimes may be, thank god for scalpers.
14. No night games
It sucks that night games are a rarity at Memorial, but honestly, to have a night game, it would have to be on TV somewhere and who would in their right mind would ever think putting Illinois football on primetime is a good idea. Aside from Illinois and whatever team is luckily selected to beat the Illini senseless, that scheduling benefits no one. From a student’s perspective, keeping in mind that many students have to be at least buzzed to enjoy a football game at 11am in the sweltering heat, night games are key. Allowing students time to wake up and drink (probably) has a direct correlation with student fan attendance. Key example: 2016, Illinois v. North Carolina night game = full student section.
15. Card “stunts”…
This point isn’t to rag on the Block I blockheads. I mean, someone’s gotta try to encourage students to yell chants that do nothing to help the team and make them look like muppets in the process. More to the card stunt portion. While they’re cool for the thousand seven-ten year-olds in attendance, they’re meaningless to everyone else in the stadium. This would be a major problem at a school that draws a decent audience to games but thankfully, Illinois football averaged 45,000-ish/60,000-ish in 2016, so nobody is really even seeing it. Off topic, that number seems way too high for an average Illinois football game. You’re telling me Memorial was 75% filled for a game v. Rutgers? Purdue? Murray State? Not a chance in hell. Numbers guy must have been in Laska’s STAT 100 class where, if you’re not from U of I, you could go to class once every two weeks and get an ‘A’. Never change U of I.
16. Alums bragging about “the good ol’ days”
My Dad attended U of I from 1984-1988. During that time, Illini basketball qualified for March Madness four times, and Illini football went to three bowl games, including the Peach and Rose bowls. Even though they never won anything in that time, I’ve never heard the end of how much Illinois sports have changed and how much it was in the 80’s. Honestly, I don’t blame him. There’s a pretty good chance of me not seeing any bowl games or tournament appearances in my four years at UIUC. I’m sure many 2nd/3rd generation Illinois students can relate to this.
17. *sarcastic air quotes* “Rivalries”
Right now, Illinois athletics are so bad. I’m pretty sure I speak for most students when I say nobody really gives a shit about the supposed rivalries UIUC has with Northwestern (for Chicago’s team I think?) and randomly Mizzou. Couple things. A. Northwestern has won 4/5 of the last football matchups. This idea, that Northwestern will just demolish us in football, has really just become common knowledge amongst students, who, because of this, really don’t seem to care about that rivalry. B. Mizzou BLOWS at basketball. Unlike U of I’s football matchups with Northwestern, students have come to realize we’re just going to beat Mizzou when we play them in basketball, so why go, or for that matter, even watch. I’m going to directly contradict myself right now as I’m looking forward to heckling that traitor Jeremiah Tilmon when the Braggin’ Rights basketball game comes around. Overall, I’m pretty surprised teams don’t want to start rivalries with us because a. we’re basically a substitute for a shitty non-conference team and b. well there is no b, we just suck and it’s an easy win (at least in football).
18. Overall widespread disappointment
Don’t throw shade at me for this gif, it’s the first one that popped up, its 11:30pm on a Sunday, and I really can’t be asked to put in a lot of effort at this moment. Illinois has it’s highs and lows every year, but as the stupid, stubborn die-hard Illini fan that I am, I’ll always hype myself up for next season, convincing myself that this year is the year we actually hit .500 (football) or make the big dance (basketball). More often than not, I’m let down, but really, I did it to myself. Hail to the Orange, Hail to the Blue, it’s the life I chose. Forever and always a hope-filled Fighting Illini fan.
(*Disclaimer* I don’t watch Parks & Rec) In the words of U of I alum Nick Offerman, “I regret nothing. The end.” I hope you enjoyed this installment of “(insert number here) things you know if you’re (insert school or area of living)”. Depending on the feedback there may or may not be more, which I guess can turn out to be a good or bad thing depending on how you feel about this blog.