‘War Chant’ retirement inspires mixed feelings


Marching Illini director Barry Houser conducts during the Homecoming game against Michigan State at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Ill. on Oct. 27, 2013.

By Daily Illini Staff Report

“War Chant” will be eliminated from playing at athletic events starting Fall 2017, according to the Athletic Department of the University.

Kent Brown, associate director of athletics and media relations, said the decision was made in part to enhance the atmosphere at sporting events and to make them more inclusive.

In an open letter, Athletics Director Josh Whitman stated that he shares in the sadness with the decision to discontinue playing “War Chant” at the University’s athletic events.

“I have fond memories of watching Chief Illiniwek perform, and “War Chant” was, to a large degree, the soundtrack of my football career,” Whitman said.

“War Chant” is associated with the Chief symbol, which was retired by the University in 2007.

Get The Daily Illini in your inbox!

  • Catch the latest on University of Illinois news, sports, and more. Delivered every weekday.
  • Stay up to date on all things Illini sports. Delivered every Monday.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
Thank you for subscribing!

Whitman also said that many people, including the University,  have different views on “War Chant.” He wrote, “For some, Fighting Illini Athletics have been a source of division, not unity.”

Because of this, he said that we must acknowledge these feelings (of division) and how we make people feel they matter.

Sam Hozian, junior in FAA, said that getting rid of the war chant tradition is a great idea.

I’m not really a sports person so I don’t know how big it is, but I know the Marching Illini Chief is a really offensive stereotype,” Hozian said.

Michael Brower, senior in Media, said he doesn’t know much about the war chant.

“I’ve heard a lot of people think it is appropriation,” Brower said. “I’ve also heard that many Native American do not have a problem with it.”

Despite the continuation of the “War Chant,” Whitman said he believes in the power of the athletics program and its new mission statement: Unify. Develop. Inspire. Achieve.

“Our athletics program must use the platform we have to be a catalyst for bringing our University community together,” he wrote.

However, Shelby Banach, senior in Social Work, is disappointed by the University’s decision to retire the chant.

I feel like a lot of schools use it in their marching bands, so I don’t know why we all of a sudden wouldn’t be allowed to,” said Banach. “I don’t think it’s something necessarily specific to the U of I.”

While Banach understands the reason behind retiring the chant, she still feels disappointed about the retirement because it’s not necessarily a war chant.

“I think it’s more of a national, just getting the school pumped up,” she said.

Whitman said that although it would have been easier to keep the chant, “leading is not always about doing what is easy,” and that Illinois Athletics hopes this decision “serves as a significant step toward a more unified University.”

[email protected]