Sporting events to go to before graduating
July 17, 2018
Being a student at the University is *pick a word* — but being an Illini fan is better.
With 19 varsity teams, finding something to watch during any season isn’t a challenge. And there are a few iconic teams you shouldn’t pass up a chance to see while you’re a student.
Every August the football team laces up for another season, but they aren’t the only ones. The start of the fall semester hallmarks the beginning of women’s soccer, volleyball and men’s and women’s cross country teams seasons.
Football is a centerpiece at Illinois. This year the Illini will play 12 games nearly every Saturday from about August to the middle of November.
Last season, the football team went 2-10 overall and 0-9 in the Big Ten. While the squad’s record might be a little rough, the game atmosphere is anything but. Memorial Stadium fits nearly 60,000 people inside it’s iconic walls, however outside there are hundreds more tailgating in Grange Grove.
Inside, students are welcomed with the warm boom of long time Chicago Blackhawks and White Sox announcer Gene Honda’s voice over the PA system. The north end of the field is home to the “Block I” student section, which regularly chants and performs along with the Marching Illini throughout the game.
The stadium is home to energy unlike anywhere else on campus. Memorial is where students congregate for Sights and Sounds in their first days as Illini; it’s also where they spend their final hours as students in lieu of graduation. It’s a common place, and no matter what the scoreboard says, going to an Illinois football game is a special experience.
Illinois volleyball is hardcore –– last year the team was one of the best in the country. Their 2017 season concluded with a loss to Michigan State in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA tournament. The women went 23-11 under first-year head coach Chris Tamas.
And the energy inside Huff Hall mirrors Illini volleyball’s success.
The Spike Squad –– Illini volleyball’s student section –– is one of the most enthusiastic clubs on campus. Whether students are twirling orange and blue towels or wearing old volleyballs as hats, the spike squad is like Illinois’ seventh woman. In the Big Ten, Illinois volleyball is notorious for having some of the best fans.
In the winter, Illini fans rejoice over the starts of men’s and women’s basketball, as well as wrestling, men’s and women’s gymnastics and women’s swimming and diving.
Like football, men’s basketball is another trademark event for Illini fans. Their season launches on the cusp of November and concludes anywhere from February to April –– depending on the team’s overall success.
But no matter what the Illini’s record is, there’s something unique about going to a game at State Farm Center.
Men’s games are filled with sound; from the team’s student section Orange Crush and the Marching Illini. Like football and volleyball, the student section is a huge reserve for Illinois spirit under State Farm’s roof. And since Illinois has pumped significant cash into new renovations of State Farm, fans are indulged with professional-level game time audio and graphics.
The spring season is the busiest for Illinois athletics. With eight varsity teams playing from about February to as late as June, there are heaps of events for Illini fans to go to on a weekly basis. Students can enjoy anything from the bleachers at a baseball game to cheering on some of the nations top tennis players at the Atkins Tennis Center.
Illini softball and baseball are cornerstones of spring in Champaign-Urbana.
Bren Spillane is one of the University’s best athletes and Illinois baseball is lucky enough to have him as their frontman. Last year the band of bat swingers went 33-20 overall, but dipped out of the season in the Big Ten tournament after going 2-2 with losses to Indiana and Purdue.
And just like Block I and Orange Crush, the baseball team has its own unique student section namesake –– the Grounds Crew. While Illinois Field doesn’t sit thousands of fans, the arena provides the same energy.
Grounds Crew members yell cheers while the smaller fan base fosters a more intimate ball park atmosphere.
This season the softball team went 37-18 overall, but dropped their second game in the Big Ten tournament to Indiana 1-2.
Softball games are mirrors of their male counterparts on the baseball diamond, however the energy on the field is unique on it’s own. In the dugout, Illini scream jovial chants to fire up teammates up to bat.
While some sports attract more fans, no matter what sport you’re watching at Illinois, you’re in for a treat.
Meghan is a junior in Media.