Zook Zone towels take time to catch on with fans

By Daniel Johnson

If Illinois’ Homecoming and a resurgent Minnesota team weren’t enough for fans to get excited for last Saturday’s game, the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics added some new variables. The creation of the “Zook Zone” towel by Illinois football in conjunction with the division is one such variable, which helped “create a game-day atmosphere like none other in the Big Ten,” according to head coach Ron Zook.

Although more than 20,000 towels were sold according to Cory Shumard, manager of Gameday Spirit, 519 E Green St., students on campus thought they left something to be desired.

“I think the towels were actually kind of lame,” said Adam Pannier, junior in Engineering. “Considering we more or less just took the idea from the (Pittsburgh) Steelers – they’ve been doing the Terrible Towel for a while. We already have our fair share of traditions and things that we do at games, I didn’t think we needed to throw towels in there.”

The towel was started as a means of generating more money for Coaches vs. Cancer, after basketball head coach Bruce Weber and the team sold pink T-shirts raising money for the same charity for last year’s Midnight Madness event. Weber’s efforts raised more than $50,000 for the foundation.

Some students felt the towels were much less well-received than the T-shirts because they thought a T-shirt would be more useful than a towel in the long run.

“I think it would have been a lot better if they would have sold T-shirts,” said Bobby Cowhey, sophomore in LAS. “I think everyone would rather have that than a towel. It’s something that you can get a lot more use out of.”

Although students were turned off by the price of the towel, $7, with $1 going to Coaches vs. Cancer, many thought it was a good idea in theory. It was just one that needed to be worked on.

“It just seemed like a lot of college teams can do gimmick stuff like this,” said Quinn Reynolds, junior in Engineering. “I think that people just all wearing orange would be more than good enough. If the school would just pick one game and say, ‘This is our orange-out game, or whatever,’ I think that would work a lot better. You noticed the towels, people waving them, but I think we could do things differently.”

Although some students may feel the towels are less than ideal, Shumard is confident that as the season continues, the towels will become more and more prominent.

“If this team gets on a roll, end of the season, come back and talk to me because I think we will have some fantastic numbers,” Shumard said. “I think a lot of it is just going to build up to that last home game with Ohio State. We expect the stadium to be packed and everyone to have a towel.”

Shumard said he has heard a lot of differing opinions on when the towel will “peak,” but he personally felt it has yet to be seen.

He said he didn’t feel that there had been any lack of support for the campaign, but if there has been, it was due to the fact the towels are being sold all season, whereas the pink T-shirts last year were leading up to one single event.

But for the time being, the towels will have to continue to work their way into Illinois tradition. If the cloths do become more popular with students, alumni and other fans attending the game, the change will likely strike a difference with everyone in the stadium – not just spectators.

“Honestly, I haven’t noticed a difference,” left tackle Xavier Fulton said. “I don’t really know what the premise was behind the Zook Zone towels, but I think I only saw about five in the stands this weekend. I think more importantly, the students are always going to be excited for the games as long as we’re playing well.”