Big Ten Conference
“Illinois has always played within the rules. It's had a magnificent athletic tradition. And because it was an influential charter member of the Big Ten Conference, that makes it stand out even more.”
With the ongoing success of the Fighting Illini basketball team, especially in its centennial year, 2005, when the Illini played in the NCAA national championship game, Illinois has grabbed the national spotlight. But basketball is only one of the intercollegiate sports in which Illinois is exceptional.
Former Division of Intercollegiate Athletics Sports Information Director Mike Pearson extensively researched the history of Illinois sports for his book “Illini Legends, Lists, and Lore,” and understands the historical significance of Illini sports.
“George Huff was right at the beginning of it all. He was a member of the University’s first football team, then became a coach, then became an athletic director for nearly 30 years. He was a major voice in intercollegiate athletics in terms of sportsmanship and general competitive rules.
Football player Red Grange brought great prominence to Illinois because of his athletic prowess. Because of him the great journalists of the 1920s who came to campus wrote not only about him, but about the University as well, and it spread the word about how great the University was.”
Today Illinois retains a reputation for excellence and integrity in its nineteen intercollegiate sports programs.
“Illinois has always played within the rules. It's had a magnificent athletic tradition. And because it was an influential charter member of the Big Ten Conference, that makes it stand out even more,” Pearson says.
Illinois has been listed in a U.S.News and World Report Honor Roll as one of the twenty most successful Division One athletic programs in the country.
Big Ten sports are also a big part of the student experience. Students are admitted free of charge to all sporting events except basketball and football games. They can also join one of the many student organizations dedicated to Illinois Athletics. The biggest and most comprehensive group, Illini Pride, supports all nineteen varsity athletic teams by organizing tailgate parties, road trips to away games, and managing the biggest college basketball cheer section in the country – Orange Krush.
Big Ten athletics at Illinois are programs all Illini fans can be proud to support.