Big Ten game-day traditions: Illinois

The game-day traditions series marches on with Illinois. Although Illini football has struggled to sustain success the past few decades, the history and tradition in Champaign is easy to see. Memorial Stadium remains one of college football's great relics, and the recent renovation has preserved the history there.

Of course, the most famous, or infamous Illinois game-day tradition, Chief Illiniwek's halftime performance, is no more.

Minnesota is up next. Indiana fans, where are you? You are up soon, and I need to hear from you.

Here are some top game-day customs for Illinois:

  • Block I's card stunts: The Block I student section has been the "visual staple" at Memorial Stadium since 1926 and performs creative card stunts during games.

  • Three In One: There's no more Chief, but the band still performs the time-honored Three In One at the end of its halftime show. Many fans still shout "Chief!" at the conclusion.

  • Illini Walk: Two hours before games, Illinois players and coaches walk from First Street to the football complex along Irwin Drive as fans greet them.

  • The Grange Rock: Dedicated in 1994, the rock honors former Illini great Red Grange and is situated near the northeast end zone. It comes from the same stone quarry in Indiana used to form the granite columns in the stadium. Players will touch the rock on their way to the field.

  • Marching Illini pregame show: A favorite for Illinois fans, the band performs seven songs in a 12-minute show that takes place shortly before kickoff of home games. Some of the top numbers are the fight song, "Oskee Wow Wow," and "William Tell overture." You can find a detailed description here.

  • I-L-L/I-N-I: You'll hear this at every Illinois sporting event, as a group of fans will yell "I-L-L," and be answered by "I-N-I," spelling out the school's nickname.


Rakesh from Urbana, Ill.: Illinois really started of a lot of football traditions. The idea for homecoming was started at the University of Illinois in 1910, when Illinois needed to defeat a tough University of Chicago team. Our school was the first to instate a student's section, the Block I (which until recently had held its own spot for 97 years). The card stunts of the Block I was the first of its kind as well. The first school song (ever) was played by our Marching Illini in 1906, Illinois Loyalty. The first halftime show (ever) was done in 1906 as well. A quick summary of traditions include the 3-in-1, the Illini walk, the Marching Illini, the pre-game star and stripes, and the formation of America/Illinois/a person for the University on the state of Illinois.

Eddie from Milwaukee: Hey Adam. Just wanted remind you to include Block I's card stunts during halftime. The crowd gets into it when the cards create an orange and blue foaming beer mug. Everyone hollers "chug, chug, chug" as it empties. Also great traditions are the student's William Tell dance, the Marching Illini's Three in One, and the War Chant, which is played at every third down. And don't forget the ILL-INI!! Finally, most Illini fans check out the colonnades around the stadium (each pillar represents one of the 200 fallen U of I students during WWI). Memorial Stadium was built for the WWI veterans, and the Marching Illini plays its American Medley at the beginning of every game to salute America and its veterans - since our stadium is a "living memorial" for them.