Illinois Fighting Illini

Illinois Fighting Illini
University University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign
Conference Big Ten
NCAA Division I / FBS
Athletic director Josh Whitman
Location Champaign-Urbana, Illinois
Varsity teams 21 (10 men's, 11 women's)
Football stadium Memorial Stadium
Basketball arena State Farm Center
Baseball stadium Illinois Field
Other arenas Huff Hall
Nickname Fighting Illini
Fight song Illinois Loyalty, Oskee Wow Wow
Colors Orange and Blue[1]

The Fighting Illini (IPA /ɪ.l.n/) are the intercollegiate athletic teams of the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign. The university offers 10 men's and 11 women's varsity sports.

The University operates a number of athletic facilities, including Memorial Stadium for football, the State Farm Center for both men's and women's basketball, the Atkins Tennis Center for men's and women's tennis, and Huff Hall for the women's, the men's wrestling, and the men's teams. The Fighting Illini lay claim to over twenty-five National Championships dating back to 1900.

Conference and affiliations

The University's Division of Intercollegiate Athletics administers the official athletics teams of the University. All of the University's athletics teams participate in the NCAA's Division I, and form the Big Ten Conference with 13 other primarily Midwestern universities. The football team participates in a subdivision within the Division I known as the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS).


NCAA team championships

The University of Illinois has won 18 NCAA national championships:[2]

Other team championships

Below are 7 national team titles that were not bestowed by the NCAA:

Varsity sports



Men's varsity sports

The University of Illinois carries varsity sports in Baseball, basketball, cheerleading, cross country, football, golf, gymnastics, tennis, track and field, and wrestling. The men's Cross Country team carries the title for Big Ten Champions in 1921, 1947 and 1984. With titles in the Fencing as National Champions from 1956 and 1958. Fencing was dropped as a varsity sport in 1993. In addition, Men's swimming and diving was dropped as a varsity sport until 1993 but also carried titles as Big Ten Champions in 1911, 1912 and 1913.


Illini baseball has 10 NCAA Tournament Appearances, 33 Big Ten Champions titles and 4 Big Ten Tournament Championships from 1989, 1990, 2000 and 2011.


Illini Basketball titles include Helms National Champions in 1915, 5 NCAA Final Four appearances in 1949, 1951, 1952, 1989, 2005, 17 Big Ten Champions and Big Ten Tournament Championships in 2003, 2005. Through the end of the 2013–14 season, Illinois ranks 11th all-time in winning percentage and 14th all-time in wins among all NCAA Division I men's college basketball programs.

A Bristow Adams poster of an Illini football player
1904 NCAA football guide featuring Illini Football. The guide was the official rules book and record book of college football


The University of Illinois has five national championships in football. The Fighting Illini now officially recognize the 1951 National Championship by the Boand selecting body,[12] but as recently as 2006 this was not mentioned officially by the school.[13] The team also has 15 Big Ten Championship Football victories with 8 Bowl Game Victories at the 1947 Rose Bowl, 1952 Rose Bowl, 1964 Rose Bowl, 1990 Florida Citrus Bowl, 1994 Liberty Bowl, 1999 Bowl, 2010 Texas Bowl, and 2011 Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl


The men's golf team play their home matches on the Stone Creek Golf Club five miles from the university's campus, and are currently led by head coach Mike Small. The Fighting Illini men's golf program has won 13 Big Ten championships and in 2013 finished as national runner-up at the NCAA Division I Men's Golf Championships, which was the highest finish in the program's history. 2014 was the third time in the past four years the program had qualified for the match play portion of the NCAA Men's Golf Championships in which the final eight teams compete in a bracket format.[14]


The men's gymnastics team have been invited to 44 NCAA tournaments and have won 10 team NCAA championships, which is second most all-time only to Penn State Nittany Lions 12 team titles. Additionally, the Fighting Illini have won an all-time record 53 individual NCAA titles.[15] The Illini hold their competitions at George Huff Hall on the Champaign side of campus, and the team trains and holds practices at the Kenney Gym on the Urbana side of campus.[16]

Track and Field

The men's Indoor Track and Field team has a total of 20 Big Ten Champion titles. For outdoor track and field the team has NCAA National Champions in 1921 1927[17] 1944, 1946, and 1947. In addition, the team carries a total of 29 Big Ten Championships.


The Illinois men's tennis program was founded in 1908, but has enjoyed most of its success in recent years. The Illini have been one of the most successful men's tennis programs in the nation over the past twenty seasons, winning nine consecutive Big Ten Championships from 1997–2005; six of seven Big Ten Tournament Championships between 1999 and 2005; appearing in the NCAA Sweet Sixteen fourteen times, including eight years in a row (2002–09); advancing to three NCAA Final Fours between 2003 and 2007; and winning the 2003 NCAA National Championship. They have also won two ITA National Team Indoor Championships (2003, 2004)[18] and lost in the championship match three other times (1998,1999,2002). Illinois men's tennis owns the record for longest consecutive win streak in NCAA history at 64 matches, spanning from their first match of the 2002–2003 season and ending with a 4–2 defeat by UCLA in the semifinals of the 2004 NCAA Men's Tennis Tournament.


The current head coach of the University of Illinois Fighting Illini Wrestling team is Jim Heffernan under his 5th season, and 22nd with the University of Illinois. Huff Hall is the current home arena seating approximately 4,500.[19]

The University of Illinois has had National Champions with Isaiah Martinez in 2015 and 2016

Women's varsity sports

The University offers varsity sports for women in Basketball, cheerleading, cross country, golf, gymnastics, soccer, softball, swimming and diving, tennis, track and field, and volleyball. Titles for women's teams include:


Women's volleyball started in 1974[20] Since moving into Huff Hall from the Kenney Gym in 1990, the Illinois Volleyball team has remained in the top 10 in the nation for average home attendance. In 2013, the program broke its previous home attendance record, averaging 3,117 per match.[21] Kenney Gym served as the initial home court from 1974 through the 1989 season. Since the founding of the volleyball program in 1974, the Fighting Illini have had 31 winning seasons.

Club sports

Club sports include men's ice hockey, men's lacrosse, women's ice hockey, rowing, men's rugby, women's rugby, tennis, men's volleyball, men's soccer, women's soccer, men's ultimate frisbee, women's ultimate frisbee, men's and women's cross country, and men's and women's track and field.

Ice Hockey

The men's ice hockey team has played in the Division I Central States Collegiate Hockey League conference since 1979, which is part of the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA).

Men's rugby

The Marching Illini in USA Formation during Patriotic Medley from the traditional pregame show

Founded in 1963, the University of Illinois Men's Rugby Football Club plays in Division 1-A in the Big Ten Universities conference. The Illini have experienced success in college rugby, including winning several Big 10 championships in the 1980s and reaching the national semifinals in 1980, 1983 and 1985.[22][23] The Illini play their home matches in Urbana at the Complex Fields.

Wheelchair basketball

The men's wheelchair basketball team was founded in 1948 by Dr. Timothy Nugent in response to a large number of disabled veterans using the G.I. Bill to attend the University of Illinois.[24] Dr. Nugent later started a women's team in 1970. A total of 29 national championships are claimed between the men and women’s teams.

Marching band

Main article: Marching Illini

The Marching Illini is the marching band of the university. The Marching Illini is an organization which annually includes approximately 350 students. Part of the College of Fine and Applied Arts and the School of Music, the Marching Illini represent virtually every college, discipline, and major on the University's diverse Urbana-Champaign campus. The band primarily performs before, during, and after University of Illinois home football games. The band also performs an indoor concert at the Assembly Hall featuring special lighting effects, performances by individual sections, and slightly pithy comic routines. The Sousa Archives and Center for American Music houses a collection of University Band recordings and performances and recording sessions from 1940–1987.[25] The band has several traditions such as the Pregame Show, Three-In-One, Illinois Loyalty and Oskee Wow-Wow.


The State Farm Center
Memorial Stadium with State farm Center in background

Current facilities

Former facilities

Athletic directors


The University has a number of notable alumni and administrators in the world of athletics. In football, notable Alumni include Dick Butkus, Red Grange, Jeff George, Simeon Rice, Ray Nitschke and George Halas. Famous basketball alumni include Luther Head, Derek Harper, Nick Anderson, Chuck Carney, Brian Cook, Kendall Gill, Steve Bardo, Jerry Colangelo, and Johnny Orr. Notable athletes in baseball include Lou Boudreau,[26] Hoot Evers[27] and Ken Holtzman. The University has also a number of Olympic athletes that include George Kerr, Don Laz, Daniel Kinsey, Harold Osborn, Bob Richards, and Justin Spring,


Main article: Chief Illiniwek
The Chief Illiniwek symbol

From 1926 until 2007, a mascot of the university's athletic teams was a Native American figure, Chief Illiniwek, which sparked significant controversy beginning in the 1980s. Critics of the Chief, who was represented at games by someone dressed in costume, claimed that it was a racist stereotype and a symbol of the oppression to Native Americans which took place in American history. Supporters claimed that it was inoffensive and a source of pride and reverence to the Native American heritage of Illinois.

In 1982, Oglala Sioux elder Frank Fools Crow sold an authentic ceremonial costume and headdress to the university. Since 1992, the Oglala Sioux tribe demanded the costume and headdress be returned to Fools Crow's family. The university was unable to locate the feathers and a grandson of Fools Crow has stated he disagreed with the way the University used his grandfather's gift.[28]

The university remains deeply divided on this issue; while some of the faculty condemned the symbol, the administration remained supportive of it. The university's Board of Trustees announced on February 16, 2007 that the Chief's last public performance would be the final home game of the 2006–2007 Men's Basketball season. The name "Fighting Illini" was retained because the NCAA rescinded its criticism of the term.


  1. "Illinois Athletics Unveils Updated Brand Identity". 2014-04-16. Retrieved 2016-03-24.
  3. ESPN, ed. (2009). ESPN College Basketball Encyclopedia: The Complete History of the Men's Game. New York, NY: ESPN Books. p. 533. ISBN 978-0-345-51392-2.
  4. 1 2 "WATER POLO AND BASKET BALL TEAMS ORGANIZED". Daily Illini. 1905-11-11. Retrieved 2015-11-13.
  5. "A Fencing Meet". Daily Illini. 1911-03-04. Retrieved 2015-11-13.
  6. Figueroa, Joey (2015-11-05). "Athletic scholarships at Illinois by the numbers". Daily Illini. Retrieved 2015-11-13.
  7. "HOCKEY- COACH". Daily Illini. 1937-12-18. Retrieved 2015-11-13.
  8. Roberts, Glenn (1945-07-20). "AFTER THE DEADLINE". Daily Illini. Retrieved 2015-11-13.
  9. Adams, Jack (1941-10-08). "Illini Polo Rises After 9 Year Struggle". Daily Illini. Retrieved 2015-11-13.
  10. Talbot, Phil (1934-04-10). "Sport Formerly Closed to Men not in ROTC". Daily Illini. Retrieved 2015-11-13.
  11. 1 2 Stoffel, Ron (1970-07-01). "UI sports started small , now big business here Just check the ticket price". Daily Illini. Retrieved 2015-11-13.
  12. "The Record Book" (PDF). Retrieved 2014-05-29.
  13. "Records" (PDF). Retrieved 2014-05-29.
  14. "Illini Advance to NCAA Match Play for Third Time in 4 Years". University of Illinois DIA. May 26, 2014. Retrieved June 25, 2014.
  17. The Illini were unofficial NCAA National Champions in 1927, as the NCAA did not officially score a team national championship at the competition that year.
  19. "2013–2014 Wrestling Quick Facts". University of Illinois Athletics. Retrieved 2016-03-09.
  20. 2012 Illinois Volleyball Record Book (PDF). Champaign, IL: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. 2012. p. 68. Retrieved 2013-12-14.
  21. "Illinois' Most Well-Attended Season Ends at the Hand of Big Ten Foe". Champaign, IL: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. 2013. Retrieved 2013-12-14.
  22. U of I Rugby, Illinois Men's Rugby Football Club,
  23. Rugby Mag, DII Bottom Dweller to DI-A, Illinois Opens BTU Conference Play Saturday, Sep. 27, 2012,
  24. Savitz, Harriet (2006). Wheelchair Champions: A History of Wheelchair Sports. Lincoln: iUniverse. ISBN 978-0595385225.
  25. "University Bands Tape Recordings, 1942–1987 – The Sousa Archives and Center for American Music".
  26. "Lou Boudreau Stats". Baseball Almanac. Retrieved October 30, 2012.
  27. "Hoot Evers Stats". Baseball Almanac. Retrieved October 30, 2012.
  28. "U of I says Chief Illiniwek feathers returned; tribe disagrees". Sioux City Journal. Associated Press. 22 January 2007. Retrieved 3 March 2011.
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