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Editorial: Whitman scores again with Illini Hall of Fame

Honoree+Dick+Butkus+shakes+hands+with+Athletic+Director+Josh+Whitman+at+Memorial+Stadium+on+Thursday.
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Editorial: Whitman scores again with Illini Hall of Fame

Honoree Dick Butkus shakes hands with Athletic Director Josh Whitman at Memorial Stadium on Thursday.

Honoree Dick Butkus shakes hands with Athletic Director Josh Whitman at Memorial Stadium on Thursday.

Elisabeth Neely

Honoree Dick Butkus shakes hands with Athletic Director Josh Whitman at Memorial Stadium on Thursday.

Elisabeth Neely

Elisabeth Neely

Honoree Dick Butkus shakes hands with Athletic Director Josh Whitman at Memorial Stadium on Thursday.

By The Daily Illini Editorial Board

University athletic director Josh Whitman said in a Thursday press conference that Illinois was one of the last schools in the Big Ten without an athletic hall of fame.

Illinois finally made up some ground by announcing its own Hall of Fame last week.

And it’s about time.

Illinois prides itself on its past, and it’s well past time to hold a forum to recognize all of the incredible athletes who’ve come from Illinois.

When it comes to athletes, the two names that rightfully come to mind are Harold “Red” Grange and Dick Butkus.

Both were extraordinary athletes in their times. Grange is considered by many the best college football player of all time and the father of the modern NFL. Butkus is arguably the most feared linebacker to play the game and received a hero’s welcome from fans at the homecoming game Saturday.

They are the only two Illinois football players to have their numbers retired, and their names are synonymous with the program.

But Illinois athletics at large is more than Butkus and Grange. And while the University has talked of doing this for a long time, it’s a welcome relief to see the school’s other sports get some well-deserved recognition as well.

From basketball to baseball to golf, Illinois has no shortage of successful athletes who used their time here to pursue a great education and leave a mark in the sports world.

More importantly, this Hall of Fame will honor both athletes from the past and provide an opportunity to honor more current athletes.

Grange and Butkus are phenomenal, but they played at Illinois over 50 years ago. For those of us who are tired of relying on half-century-old football highlights to prove the program’s legitimacy, it’d be nice to incorporate more recent names such as Arrelious Benn and Kurt Kittner.

Illinois could also enshrine an entire team’s worth of golfers and volleyball players solely from those programs’ past five years.

The location and manner of the Illini Hall of Fame are still undetermined, but the idea alone is a step towards honoring the past. More importantly, it works in Whitman’s favor for reshaping Illinois to be a powerhouse in athletics.

What better way to look forward to winning than by looking back on our past victors?

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