Orange Krush eyes new members

The trailer outside the Illini Union has gotten more crowded this summer. For the first time, students can get an Orange Krush membership along with their football tickets.

The decision of Illinois’ primary student-section to recruit early came in light of last season’s drop in membership.

This summer, the Krush are trying to capitalize on the excitement for Illinois generated by registration.

“When leaving the Union, (incoming freshman) are all pumped about Illinois, they just want to get involved … so we’re trying to catch that rush,” said Orange Krush President Matt Jones.

As President, Jones has two responsibilities: pump up the Illinois basketball team and raise money for the charity. In order to do both things effectively, he needs members.

“Basically the sole way to get the most money for charity is just to get more members,” Jones said.

Because of the need for members, the highest priority of the Krush this summer is recruitment.

Historically solid football ticket sales during the summer helped the Krush decide to set up shop on the quad.

This year tickets for the Block I, the main student section for football, sold out on the fifth day of freshman orientation.

According to Brett Zimmerman, who operates the Krush booth nearly every day of registration, the organization has had a positive turnout as well.

“So far for Orange Krush, we have over 180 new members that we may or may not have had,” Zimmerman said.

According to Zimmerman, the Krush benefits from the early registration even when students don’t immediately join.

“If they don’t sign up now, they still get the information and are able to raise money earlier, which is a benefit because as a freshman it’s hard to raise money in the first four weeks you’re down on campus,” he said.

According to Kelly Cunningham, a recent graduate of the University who occasionally works at the Krush booth, most of the attention comes from incoming freshman, even with summer school in session.

“Most of the returning students are not aware that we’re doing it this summer,” Cunningham said.

In recruiting members, there is only so much the Krush can do, as a lot of it depends on the basketball team’s performance, according to Jones.

“I think (the two are correlated) .9999 percent,” Jones said.

Last season’s drop-off in Krush membership followed the 2007-08 season, where the basketball team posted a disappointing 16-19 record.

On the other hand, membership was at its highest ever during and immediately following the 2004-05 season, where Illinois went 37-2.

With the basketball team coming off a 24-10 season, Zimmerman said interest is starting to rise again.

“There’s definitely a spark of excitement because we’re coming off a good season, the recruits are coming in here, everything here’s sounding good.(The team is) maybe in for something special this year,” Zimmerman said.

While recruitment is the most important thing, the Krush has other things to take care of during the summer as well.

The applications for grants were posted in mid-June.

According to Jones, once all the grant applications are in, the Krush board debates on which organizations get the money and how much they get to spend.

“It’s really a tricky part of it, because some of the debates get really heated,” Jones said.

Last year, the Krush held that meeting in late September, he added.

After last season the Krush donated to 49 different organizations, as well as the Lou Henson Coaching Endowment Fund.

While the grant-selection process doesn’t start until fall, the Krush are currently brainstorming alternative ways to raise money and cut costs.

According to Jones, Gameday Spirit, 519 E. Green St., soon will begin selling “Honorary Krush shirts.”

The shirts are produced at no cost to the Krush, who will be awarded $3 for every shirt sold.

“It’s just one more thing that we’re doing to bring in more money for charities, because last year we honestly got hit kind of hard because we only had like 650 members. So we’re trying to keep numbers high. We’re trying to cut out the fat,” Jones said.

A way the Krush is trying to “cut out the fat” is by converting its identification system to an electronic system.

An electronic system will be easier than keeping track of each member’s pledges manually and will allow for more frequent updates, according to Jones.

Of course, the Krush has been spending the summer looking for ways to help the basketball team as well.

And new chants are just a small part of what the Krush has in store for opposing, according to Jones.

“Coach Weber has a great team for us and it’s just up to us to provide that spark at Assembly Hall,” he said.