If Illinwek is retired, popular Three-In-One should be, too

By Kevin Spitz

Let me start this column with a disclaimer: This argument is not about whether or not I support Chief Illiniwek. In fact, I cheered on Chief Illiniwek for years. I believe like many others that the Chief stood for goodness, strength, bravery, truthfulness, courage and dignity, and was a symbol that I was proud to believe in.

My problem right now is with the Three-in-One that is still played by the Marching Illini for all sporting events that once featured the Chief. There is absolutely no reason why it should continue to be played.

According to the Honor the Chief Society, in October 1926 Chief Illiniwek first marched on the field in a game against Penn. He met up with a man portraying William Penn and they smoked a peace pipe together.

The Three-In-One – the medley played while Chief Illiniwek performs – is made up of three songs: “The Pride of the Illini,” “The March of the Illini” and “Hail to the Orange.” Even though “The March of the Illini” was composed in 1922, the entire Three-In-One did not become what it is today until 1928. Since then, the composition has remained almost entirely unchanged.

The Three-In-One and Chief Illiniwek were synonymous for almost 80 years, but those still grasping to the past will tell you that the Three-In-One is nothing more than a song. Besides, part of it was written before Chief Illiniwek ever performed.

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Now, as a former fan of Chief Illiniwek, I always felt a good compromise would have been to retire the Chief and the Three-In-One except for one time a year, on Homecoming. This is because Chief Illiniwek is still a big part of the University’s traditions, too. Of course, as most know, the NCAA decided to overstep its boundaries and force the University into a corner. But that’s a story that has been told too many times.

So being that Chief Illiniwek is gone for good, I figured the music that goes along with him would be gone as well.

Not so.

Every home halftime the band marches out and does the same rendition of the Three-In-One it always has.

Though I feel it is silly, the Three-In-One is still tolerable in football because you can still watch the band do what is considered a very difficult marching maneuver.

Enter basketball season.

At halftime the unmistakable sound of the drum signified the Three-In-One would begin. Though the fans no longer spilled around the court, the cheerleaders still lined up along the baseline. The music played and fans around me stood watching an empty basketball court where Chief Illiniwek previously danced.

And just like in football games when people had previously folded their arms and yelled “Chief,” they still yelled “Chief.” Maybe after those of us who actually saw him perform are gone, the yelling will die down. But in the meantime it defeats the entire purpose of why we got rid of him if everyone continues to chant for him.

I was even more amazed that the cheerleaders, who are not part of a Registered Student Organization but members of the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics, could lead the crowd by folding their arms, standing in a line and chanting “Chief,” as well. How can the students move on when the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics obviously hasn’t?

When the song plays and fans are still screaming “I love you Chief” at the top of their lungs, isn’t the same hostile environment – the one that was supposed to be eradicated – still being created?

So there are two options: Either bring back the Chief and let him do his honorable performance, or get rid of the entire thing – Three-In-One included – and let’s move on.

It would just be best for the campus to move on. The Chief isn’t coming back. Just because you chant “Chief” at a game doesn’t mean he will appear.

The NCAA would never let it happen, and schools that have lost their politically incorrect mascots in the past haven’t been able to resurrect them, no matter how many people protested.

It is a mockery of everything good Chief Illiniwek stood for to continue this charade in which we stare at an empty basketball court and pretend that he is still dancing for us.

Let’s do away with the Three-In-One. Let’s remember Chief at his finest.

Kevin Spitz is a senior in Engineering. He can be reached at [email protected].