University pride goes state-wide with ‘Paint the Highway Orange’

By Bryan Boccelli

University pride is about to go state-wide with the new “Paint the Highway Orange” initiative introduced by the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics. The initiative aims to generate excitement surrounding Illinois athletics, according to a press release.

“We are looking for Illinois residents who share our enthusiasm for this great university and own farmland or other property along Illinois’ interstates or major highways,” said Mike Thomas, director of Athletics, in the press release. 

There are five different sign options ranging from “Hail to the Orange” to “Hail Alma Mater.”

The signs will be placed along already specified highways and interstates delineated on a map created by the program developers. 

“It’s really a pride campaign — we’re trying to get more exposure for Illinois athletics as well as the University of Illinois,” said Jennifer Larson, assistant athletic director. 

The first signs went up a couple weeks ago and are located on I-57 southbound at the 247-mile marker between Rantoul and Thomasboro. 

Larson said they will monitor the interest in the program with the hopes of posting more signs this spring. 

Less than 48 hours after the program’s announcement, more than 50 donors expressed interest in placing these signs on their property. 

“Our goal is to get these signs up and cover as much of the state as we can,” Larson said. 

The Division of Intercollegiate Athletic is covering part of the costs, but they will not be able to accommodate everyone, Larson said. 

Larson added that the signs will be placed where the University will get “the most bang for its buck.” 

Following this initial phase the University will “then work with those landowners who have expressed interest and if they would like we can coordinate them purchasing the signs and then we can coordinate (installation),” Larson said. 

The signs cost around $250, but the University will cover the additional installation costs. 

The signs are required to be spaced out around 200 feet from one another, according to state highway and interstate regulations. 

Initially, the program called for signs on billboards; however, it eventually evolved into these roadside signs once the University contacted state officials about their placement.

“We are always excited to hear about the Fighting Illini fan base uniting to support the Orange and Blue,” said Grace Conard, president of Illini Pride.

Bryan can be reached at [email protected]