License To I-L-L

Apr 25, 2023

The 2010's were... forgettable. Illini football went 46-78. Illini basketball went 181-159 (squeaking out that 18x-15x). And as I type that I realize that Illini basketball went 181-159 over an entire decade and I watched nearly every game. The 2020's? 88-40 (.688) so far. The 2010's? 181-159 (.532).

OK now I need to do the same with football. 46-78 (.371) in the 2010's. So far in the 2020's? 15-18 (.454). Progress.

A historically great basketball program put up a .532 in the 2010's and a "way-back-when we were great but lately we're just not good" football program put up a .371. A very forgettable decade.

And as a result, the fanbase has forgotten everything. Not only things like "who was the quarterback in 2017?" (Chayce Crouch, then Jeff George Jr., then Cam Thomas), but also things like "how does the I-L-L thing work?" No, really, we've forgotten how to I-L-L.

I'm not talking about the simple I-L-L in the grocery store when you see someone wearing an Illini shirt. I'm talking about the stadium I-L-L. You people who moved far away from Champaign years ago and haven't been back to a game in more than a decade will be surprised by this, but the fanbase no longer knows how to I-L-L. Seriously.

And here's the funny thing. Some 21 year-old junior reading this is just as confused. They don't even know that an I-L-L call-and-response used to be a thing. They're aware that when someone yells "I-L-L" in the State Farm Center you're supposed to collectively yell "I-N-I" back, but they're completely unaware of the "these people yell I-L-L, those people yell I-N-I" thing. So I'll have to give everyone a history lesson.

Let's start in Memorial Stadium this past fall. The DIA tried to get the crowd to do it again. They'd get someone on the mic to lead it for every game, and they'd get the cheerleaders involved (holding up "I-L-L" signs for the west stands and "I-N-I" signs for the east stands), but no one obeyed the signs. Everyone would hear the person on the mic say "I-L-L" and then the rest of the stadium (both sides) would respond with "I-N-I." And all the while I'm up in the west balcony saying "no no no no NO."

Why did we forget how to do this? Because the 2010's were so forgettable. I-L-L I-N-I has morphed into "one person says the first part and everyone else says the second part." There are honestly people reading this and saying "right, that's how it's always been." Wrong.

I-L-L I-N-I has always been a full-on call and response. In Memorial Stadium, with two main stands, it was always yelled across the stadium (with the horseshoe split down the middle). In the State Farm Center, although there were some successful "half the arena yells this, the other half yells that" in the past, it's typically been the Krush yelling the I-L-L and the rest of the arena yelling I-N-I.

But it's not that anymore. Let's break down how it works in 2023. For both sides of Kirby.

In Memorial Stadium, despite the efforts of the organized "we have to get back to the east-west I-L-L" this season (with cheerleader signs and everything), it's always one person (or a group of people) yelling "I-L-L" and then everyone else responding. If it's just some guy in section 224 yelling "I-L-L" then the people around him in 223, 224, and 225 will respond. Every now and then you'll get a "student section yells I-L-L, rest of the stadium yells I-N-I", but that's very rare. I sat as close to the student section as possible this year, and I can report that nearly every student-led I-L-L was met with I-N-I's within the student section.

And it was absolutely the same with Krush in the State Farm Center. Nearly every I-L-L from a group of Krush students was met with an I-N-I from other Krush members (and fans around the arena). It's no longer a stadium-wide thing like it used to be. The chant never spreads. It's always contained.

If you're in Krush and you don't know what I'm talking about, for decades, if you heard someone in Krush start the I-L-L, you would join on the next I-L-L. Today, if you hear an I-L-L, everyone (and I mean everyone) will respond with the I-N-I. There's no "OK, so Krush is doing the I-L-L part and the olds are doing the I-N-I so I'll join in for the next I-L-L" anymore.

Same in Memorial Stadium. If one single person on the west side starts an I-L-L, in the old days, everyone else on the west side knew they were I-L-L and the east side would be I-N-I. They'd wait a beat, join the next I-L-L, and wait for the east side to respond. Today? People in the west stands will immediately respond with I-N-I. Nobody gets it.

You might think that this is toothpaste we can't put back in the tube, but I disagree. It's such a simple adjustment. I believe we can Make I-L-L Great Again. If you're in Memorial Stadium for a game this fall, here's all you have to do:

If you hear an I-L-L near you, don't respond. Wait for the other side of the stadium to respond. Your job is to join in on the I-L-L until the opposite side of the stadium can't help but I-N-I in return.

That's it. Seriously. Fix I-L-L With This One Simple Trick. When you hear an I-L-L in your section, don't respond with I-N-I. Join the next I-L-L and let the people nowhere near you figure out the I-N-I. The moment you immediately I-N-I an I-L-L, you've effectively killed it.

Back in my day (cranky old man voice), it usually took three I-L-L's before we'd be loud enough for the other side to respond with I-N-I. So maybe impatience is the problem here. You don't want to leave an I-L-L hanging, so you immediately respond from 10 feet away. RESIST THAT URGE. Join the I-L-L and make it so loud that the other side has no choice but to respond.

The football program is on the mend, but our traditions have died (it still bothers me that only a few players touch the Grange rock when they enter the field). So I'm going to be doing a lot of this. 50 year-old man rants and raves about bringing old traditions back and building a true home field advantage again.

Next up? THE NACHOS.


uilaw71 on April 25, 2023 @ 06:54 AM

Most depressing response ever: Monday January 2, 1984, Rose Bowl. Mid-second quarter to I-L-L from by cheerleaders. Diehards’ I-N-I response was overwhelmed by adjoining UCLA student section echoing our true feelings at the moment: “So am I”.

ktal on April 25, 2023 @ 09:12 AM

Sigh el el.

SactownIllini on April 25, 2023 @ 09:45 AM

WTF are you serious people forgot how to proper I-L-L?!

Nick-Chainsaw-Smith on April 25, 2023 @ 10:47 AM

circa 2004: I-am-drunk! So-am-I!

LosAngellini on April 25, 2023 @ 12:00 PM

Wait, what's the Nachos situation?!

CAIllini on April 25, 2023 @ 12:58 PM

Seems simple enough to solve with some split jumbotron queues with "ILL" and an arrow to one side of the stadium lit up, then "INI" with arrow to the other-side lit up. Rinse and repeat. Student section could even do a student where they part the seas down the middle and and all standup during their "side" and point to their side's main stands. But the instructions maybe need to be in everyone's face for a season or two up on the the bigscreen as we've lost a generation or two....

illinois81 on April 25, 2023 @ 01:07 PM

It helped when the Block I, student section, and MI were in the East Stands. Students started, and the folks in the West knew to respond. Robert--you are nearly old enough to be cranky. This cranky old man remembers a second Block I section in the West Balcony. "West is Best!"

dsboyce on April 25, 2023 @ 01:46 PM

Show the newbies this, starting at about the 1:11:55 mark. Goosebumps.

Dan Allen on April 25, 2023 @ 01:55 PM

I was frustrated last football season by the I-L-L I-N-I chants led from the celebrity chanter. Half the games at least the cheerleaders didn’t even hold up the right sign on queue or held it upside down. Argh…so annoying. Thankfully we went 8-5 because annoyances like that would have just been salt in the wound if we were 2-10.

IlliniJoe81 on April 25, 2023 @ 06:02 PM

This makes my 1998-2006 student self a bit sad.

We were good and we knew how to be good fans.

Michigan 2000 Wake Forest 2004

Legendary crowds

Leechcass on April 28, 2023 @ 08:20 AM

Back in the Day,...I remember the Memeorial Stadium LITERALLY dancing -(Quick, go get an engineer)- from the stomping and fist waving-at-Schembechler going on. You could hear the chants of I-L-L * I-N-I out on the driving range of Savoy, for Gawd's sake!! The Illini fans have to get on board and fill that stadium for Bret and the boys. This period might just be more significant than The 80's. I-L-L !!!! Good call and great article, Robert !!

1978fan on April 28, 2023 @ 10:55 AM


Bring back the CHIEF!!!

Speak Your Mind

Please login or register to post comments on the IlliniBoard.

Post Preview