Get ready to bleed Orange and Blue

By Jason Grodsky

From the Galloping Ghost Red Grange, to the Flyin’ Illini of 1989 and 2005, to the Chief’s last dance, Illinois is rich in athletic tradition, and by now you’ve read all about what Illinois has to offer academically and culturally. But it’s time to introduce you to a few things, places and teams you need to know in order to bleed Orange and Blue as a true Illini fan.

Best sports tradition: Paint the Hall Orange

There is no doubt that Chief Illiniwek was the greatest tradition at Illinois and will never be forgotten. But now that the Chief has said his final goodbye through an emotional and exuberating concluding dance at the Assembly Hall last February, it’s time to usher in the next-best thing – Paint the Hall Orange.

The Paint the Hall Orange game at Assembly Hall is a sight to see as the entire arena is blanketed with a sea of orange that strikes fear into the hearts of opposing schools. Since its inception in 2001, the Paint the Hall Orange game has pumped up Illini players and fans for the men’s basketball team’s most anticipated home game of the season, creating a home-court advantage for the Illini that is rivaled by few. This recent tradition reached its proudest moment in 2004 when Illinois crushed then No.1-ranked Wake Forest, 91-73, to take over the top spot in the college basketball rankings.

Best place to tailgate: Corner of Fourth and Kirby

Because Illinois football and Memorial Stadium are in the middle of the “Illinois Renaissance,” it will be difficult to tailgate directly across from the stadium in the fields west of First Street. However, the new hot spot for Illini football fans will be the large field on the corner of Fourth Street and Kirby Avenue next to the Illinois baseball diamond.

The location is just a short walk away from Memorial Stadium and the grassy expanse provides tailgaters the opportunity to enjoy one of the greatest pregame traditions in all of college football. However, if you plan on getting a spot, make sure to wake up early because space is limited.

Best team(s) no one knows about: Women’s Soccer and the Men’s Hockey Club

Over the past four seasons, the Illinois women’s soccer team has compiled a remarkable overall record of 60-25-7 and put together three 16-win seasons. In that same span, the Illini have gone 26-9-5 in the Big Ten, capped off by the capturing of their first Big Ten Tournament title in 2004. What’s even more impressive has been the Illini’s 30-5-3 record at home during the past four seasons.

Last year, the Illini finished the season ranked No. 15 in the country and advanced to their fourth straight NCAA Tournament before falling to Florida State in the Sweet Sixteen. Since 2003, Illinois has ended its seasons ranked in the Top 25 three times, including a No. 14 ranking in 2004 when the squad came within one victory of reaching the Final Four.

Honorable Mention: The Illinois men’s hockey team may only be a club team, but under head coach Chad Cassel the Illini have built their program into a national power in the American Collegiate Hockey Association. Since the 2000-01 season, Illinois has won more than 200 games, including a team-record 37 victories in the 2002-03 campaign. The Illini captured the club’s first National Championship in 2005 and have finished in the top five in the ACHA each of the last seven years.

Best place to get Illini gear: T.I.S. Bookstore

The best place on campus to dress the part of an Illini fan is T.I.S. Bookstore. Located on Sixth Street, T.I.S. furnishes students with loads of Illinois gear, from hooded sweatshirts to hats and jerseys. It also sells great Greek apparel for those of you who decide to join a fraternity or sorority.

The bookstore also has plenty of residence hall room and apartment accessories to properly accent any Illini fan’s crib. Plus, the deals and discounts you receive with the use of your free T.I.S. Rewards Card give it the advantage over competitors like GameDay Sports and Follett’s Bookstore. Just remember to think orange and wear orange.

Best place to get into shape like an athlete: IMPE

Although IMPE is undergoing a major renovation, its East Wing is still up and functional and is by far the best place to get in shape and get in a game of pickup basketball.

Despite the fact that CRCE was recently rebuilt and upgraded, its lack of free weights and machines creates long waits for students. With an abundance of free weights and machines to use at IMPE, you are able to get in fluid workouts right away. However, if you’re looking to hop on a treadmill or other cardiovascular machines, your best bet is CRCE, which makes up for its lack of free weights with an abundance of readily avaliable elliptical machines, stationary bicycles and the like.

Best place to watch a game: KAMS or Legends

If you can’t make it out to Memorial Stadium or the Assembly Hall for a game, you’ll be able to find sanctuary at one of the best college atmosphere bars on campus in the form of KAMS.

KAMS, the self-proclaimed home of the Drinking Illini, is decked out in orange and blue with tons of Illini memorabilia hanging throughout the establishment. While you may not experience the authentic atmosphere of a collegiate sporting event, you will be able to kick back and enjoy the game on one of the many TVs with a few hundred new friends.

Even if you are under the age of 19 and unable to get into KAMS, you can still enjoy the classic, throwback atmosphere at Legends, where you can relax and take in a game. Just hope the game doesn’t go into overtime because after 9 p.m. it becomes a 19-and-over bar.

Fastest growing sport on campus: Ultimate Frisbee

Over the past few years, Ultimate Frisbee has made its way from the land of extreme and obscure sports to a more prominent stage, especially at Illinois.

With a solid number of large grass fields scattered across campus, a growing number of students is seen playing Ultimate Frisbee, even during the winter with the playing surface buried beneath snow.

Because of this steady increase in popularity, men’s and women’s Ultimate Frisbee club teams were created at Illinois. Both teams travel across the country competing in tournaments and participate in the UPA College Series, a series of tournaments leading up to the UPA College Championships, which serves as the National Championship of Collegiate Ultimate Frisbee.