Block I gives supporters chance to cheer, meet players

It wasn’t exactly a fair fight back on Nov. 10, 2007, with the 100 or so members of the Illinois football student cheering section matched up against more than 100,000 screaming fans of the top-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes.

But lo and behold, there were those Illini fans still standing—check that, jumping up and down and screaming— after what felt like a 12-round title bout. The Illini had just upset the No. 1 Buckeyes by a touchdown, vaulting themselves into the national spotlight, paving the way to a Rose Bowl appearance and— for the first time on the day— allowing their fans in the Horseshoe to finally be heard loud and clear, with the “O-H-I-O” chants turned to despair and, in some cases, tears.

“The atmosphere, being able to see a game in the Horseshoe, with all your greatest friends right on the field and the team jumping into your arms right after the game, it was just an unbelievable experience,” said Maggie Moerschbaecher, public relations representative for of Block I. Illini Pride is the registered student organization that supports Illini varsity sports and oversees Block I.

Take note, incoming freshmen: There could be an unbelievable experience waiting to happen for everyone with season tickets, including members of Block I, the Illinois football student cheering section.

A Saturday on college campuses in the fall is an experience in itself, and that’s why Orange Krush chair Brett Zimmerman recommends that freshmen buy football tickets.

“The gameday experience for football, it’s a whole-day event,” Zimmerman said. “You can find a friend or somebody you know tailgating. There are friendly people out there always willing to talk, and you get to meet people out there.”

Block I tickets are already sold out for the 2009 season, but those who did order them will receive all the perks of the organization. Chief among those is the annual opportunity to go on an all-expense paid road trip to an opposing stadium to see the Illini play. But there’s a lot more to Block I than just that.

Block I gives members a T-shirt and holds weekly pep rallies where members get free food and a chance to interact with Illini players. On game days, the tailgates start long before kickoff, and members get the center two sections of seats in the north end zone and perform the ever famous card stunts at halftime.

Even though Block I tickets are sold out, incoming freshmen and others can still buy regular student season tickets to see six home games for $77. There were about 2,500 remaining as of July 7, said Brian Amentt, assistant ticketing manager. Amentt expected those to be available when students return to campus but said they will likely sell out before the first game.

Joe Hanley, the Block I member in charge of public relations, said everyone should experience the atmosphere of an Illini football game. And when one goes to a game, his best words of advice are to “wear as much orange as you possibly can” and “be as loud as you can, as creative as you can.”

Getting football tickets is also an excellent way to meet new friends for students just stepping on campus.

“People should get football tickets because as an incoming freshman it’s one of the best ways to meet people that enjoy the same things as you. If you enjoy football and go to games, obviously all the people around you do too,” Moerschbaecher said.