Opinion | Illinois football provides the best game day experience


Cameron Krasucki

Block I goes crazy during the game against Maryland on Sept. 17. Senior columnist Noah Nelson believes that football games gives students the best game day experience.

By Noah Nelson, Senior Columnist

One of the best perks about being a student at the University is the ability to attend all Illinois athletic events throughout the school year. With 21 men’s and women’s sports to choose from, there’s something to see for every sports fan.

There’s no doubt, however, that football and men’s basketball dominate the spectrum, resulting in each having the largest University student sections. Attending games for both sports is a great opportunity for all involved. However, football provides a better game day experience for everyone.

I have been attending Illini football games since grade school. As a student, I have been doing so since the first week of my freshman year. The Illini didn’t win each game I attended nor did they need to. The entire game day experience makes up for a devastating loss.

After my first year at the University, I knew I wanted to be a part of football games even more. I soon joined Block I, the student section for football, and my whole life changed for the better.

Beginning my sophomore year, I joined one of the oldest clubs on campus. In Block I, it’s each member’s job to organize and manage tailgates before each home game, help other members of the student section cheer the team onto victory and (the best part) help with the card stunts during halftime.

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!

The latter task requires many hours of work on our part as Blockheads. We hand out several stacks of multicolor cards to the student section and a small piece of paper indicating when they should hold up a certain color card. Most of the time, stunts are performed correctly, and when this happens, it makes for a great aspect of the halftime show.

But performing card stunts isn’t the only part of football games that make the game day experience successful. It’s the pageantry of it all, from the moment one arrives at Grange Grove until the second one leaves Memorial Stadium.

The whole day is filled with many activities and traditions for fans of all ages. These include live bands playing music before kickoff, halftime performances by the Marching Illini, admiring the wonderful statues of Illini greats Red Grange and Dick Butkus and everything in between. Fans spend these days bleeding orange and blue, and there’s nothing quite like college football.

While these experiences are great, so are times spent watching Illini basketball games at the State Farm Center. But attending basketball games isn’t the same. As student attendees, we pay a certain amount of money for student tickets. However, not every student ticket holder is guaranteed to sit in the bowl section located courtside of the stadium.

As students, we can purchase levels in the Orange Krush including VIP, orange, blue and white who walk into the stadium in this order at their given times. However, even if a student is in the orange level, they are still not guaranteed to sit in the bowl — unless they arrive at the game early, of course.

I’m not talking 20 minutes early, like during my freshman year. Nowadays, students arrive at basketball games hours in advance to secure their seats. Even then, they are still not guaranteed to sit there if they have orange-level tickets.

Earlier in the season, I paid $250 for the orange-level pass on top of the $125 season ticket value. However, I don’t care for standing in line hours before a game. Over the years, I have done so to secure the front row at various concerts, but there’s no way I’m going to do it for Illinois basketball. As much as I love the team, there’s just no way.

Students shouldn’t have to, anyway. Those who purchased student tickets for basketball games — all 3,000 of us — should be able to sit close to the court, not only 1,200, like it is today.

At football games, the Northend Zone at Memorial seats 6,000 people. No one has to wait in line hours in advance to attend a game. They can show up five minutes before kickoff and still be able to join the Block I experience.

Who knows if the seating arrangements at basketball games will soon change? If they do, it will certainly not be during my time at the University. The 3,000 of us students should be able to sit with one another, not only a third of that while the rest of us are stuck up top in the nosebleed section. It’s just not fair.

I love Illinois basketball and I wish them nothing but luck and good fortune for the rest of the season, but I will continue to be irritated at the ongoing seating arrangements in the stadium. If only so many seats are available to sit courtside, then only that many should be sold. Other student tickets at a lower price should be sold thereafter. I believe this may make for a better system.

Nevertheless, I will always enjoy my time in the Northend Zone. Block I has provided me with great friends and even better memories. I don’t understand everything about the game of football, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the experiences I’ve had.

Thank you, Block I and Illinois football, for providing great game day experiences. Maybe the same will occur for Illinois basketball in the future, but for now, I will enjoy reminiscing about my time at Memorial Stadium and will greatly anticipate the day I can again attend games there in the fall.

Noah is a senior in Media.

[email protected]