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Friday, November 11, 2011

Know Your Foe -- Illinois 2011

After their ugly loss against Iowa last week, Michigan travels to Champaign to take on the 6-3 Fighting Illini  tomorrow in their final away game of the 2011 season.  The Wolverines hold a 67-23-2 advantage in the series, including last season's 67-65 victory on the Xbox in The Big House.  Following their 6-0 start, the Fighting Zooks are doing their best Michigan 2009/2010 impression by dropping their last three games.  But of course you knew that.  What you didn't know you'll find below in the blog post your mother always warned you about...Know Your Foe.

Not sure if this is the seal...
or something from a notary public
History: Founded in 1867, the school was originally called Illinois Industrial University with half the people even way back then probably mispronouncing it as IlliNOISE Industrial University.  The school's first president was obviously injured in a farming accident as he dreamed of creating the "West Point for the working world" but instead wound up with "A place that would hire Ron Zook."  Classes began in the spring of 1868 with two teachers and a small number of students.  As with most land grant colleges of the time, the actual mission of the university was a hotly debated item between those interested in providing a classic liberal arts education and those seeking a trade focused school. Eventually that battle was decided in favor of the holistic liberal arts curricula, and the school was renamed as the University of Illinois in 1885 (with many people still mispronouncing it). In 1982 the name was again formally changed to The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, indicating the flagship status within the University of Illinois system and additional verbiage that nobody really pays attention to.

Location: The University is located in the twin cities of Champaign and Urbana (total population 180,000) in east-central Illinois. Situated about 140 miles south of Chicago, 125 miles west of Indianapolis, 180 miles northeast of St. Louis, but only 4 blocks away from the Middle of Nowhere.

Illinois is one of the few educational institutions to own an airport. Willard Airport is an integral part of their Institue of Aviation and they also recieve and launch commercial flights from American Airlines.  Best of all, the airport quickly helps folks get the hell out of Urbana-Champaign as soon as they graduate.

Nickname/Mascot: They call themselves the Fighting Illini. Today the school claims to the NCAA the name is used to honor the Illinoisans ( <-- real word) who fought in World War I. That has not always been the case.

From 1926–2007 Illinois also used the Fighting Illini moniker in reference to the Native American Indians that used to live in the area and had a mascot named Chief Illiniwek. In the 1980s this sparked significant controversy, with critics calling it a racist stereotype and a symbol of the oppression to Native Americans. Supporters claimed that it was inoffensive and a source of pride and reverence. The University remains deeply divided on this issue.

Chief Illiniwek is a fictional name and not based on an actual American Indian chief. Additionally, there was never an Indian tribe that went by the name Illini. The actual term is a used to describe the group of six tribes (Kaskaskia, Peoria, Michigamea, Moingwena, Tamaroa and Cahokia) that lived in the area. These Indian tribes were removed by the US government to settle in Kansas in 1832, then in 1867 when the US wanted to open Kansas to white settlers, they were removed to Oklahoma.

Whether Chief Illiniwek was a mascot of the university is a matter semantics. Most fans considered him such, but the university never officially called the Chief a mascot, instead using the term "symbol," claiming that a mascot hangs with the cheerleaders and cheers from the sideline, things the Chief never did. Regardless, the university started to get some appeals to remove the Chief in 1989. Those were rebuffed due to the passion of alumni. But when the NCAA deemed the mascot/symbol to be “hostile and abusive” in 2005, the Chief’s fate was sealed. After all, the designation was going to cost the university money. So despite some appeals, the university agreed to remove the Chief at university functions. His final performance was at a basketball game on February 21, 2007 before a tearful crowd at the Assembly Hall.

"I know - let's just write the name...then underline it!"
"Duuuude!  Nailed it!"
Colors/Logo/Helmet: Orange and Blue. For the first 25 years of its existence, the University of Illinois changed colors more often than the leaves on the campus trees. They originally used silver and cardinal. Then in 1891, blue and white. In 1892, yellow and black were used, while in 1893, Dartmouth green was used in an event by the Athletic Association. They had also previously used black and yellow, crimson and olive green, while the Alumni Association had used old gold and black or orange and black. Finally, with company coming over for the dedication of the Engineering Hall building in 1894, the university officially adopted blue (for steadfastness and stability) and orange (for freedom) as their official colors.  If you hadn't noticed, the NFL Chicago Bears employ the same combination. This is not a coincidence: Bears founder, long-time coach and owner, George Halas, is an Illinois alum.

For KYF's money, Illinois has the worst looking helmet in the Big Ten. The slanted "Illinois" is something my 9 year old nephew could create on an iPad...that he was using for 5 minutes while visiting the Apple store.

Fight Song: The official Illinois fight song is called Oskee Wow Wow, and no, it's not by Ke$ha. The song was written by two Illinois students (Howard Green and Harold Hill) in 1911 – but only after they decided the official school song (Illinois Loyalty) was not very good for getting the crowd fired up during a game.

It is the only fight song KYF knows of that refers to specific people like Teddy Roosevelt and three guys named Roberts, Artie Hall and Heavy.

Old Princeton yells her tiger, Wisconsin her Varsity.
And they give the same old "Rah-rah-rah! at each university.
But the yell that always thrills me, and fills my heart with joy
is the good old Oskee-Wow-Wow that they yell at Illinois.

Oskee-Wow-Wow, Illinois! Our eyes are all on you.
Oskee-Wow-Wow, Illinois! Wave your orange and your blue (rah, rah!).
When the team trots out before you, every man stand up and yell.
Back the team to gain a victory. Oskee-Wow-Wow, Illinois!

(There is also a second verse, which is rarely sung)
Teddy Roosevelt may be famous, and his name you often hear.
But it's heroes on the football field each college man holds dear.
We think with pride of Roberts, Artie Hall and Heavy, too.
Oskee-Wow-Wow for the wearers of the Orange and the Blue!

Academics: Thanks to Tom Cruise, Illinois has a national pop culture reputation as a "safety school" for midwestern kids that can't get into to their first choice college. The reality is Illinois is a pretty good school. According to the most recent US News' ranking of America's Best National Universities, Illinois is ranked as the 45th best school in the country, tied with the University of California - Irvine, Texas, Penn State and Yeshiva University (which, as you read this, is probably getting an invite to the Big East). That ranking is a slight improvement from the 47th spot the Fighting Illini sat in last year.

Football: The Illini started playing football in 1890. Over the years, the team has won 15 Big Ten championships, the last coming in 2001. They have been to 15 bowl games and won 6 of them. Their last bowl win was the 1999 MicronPC Bowl. They have won or shared five football National Championships, two of them before they were called the Illini. Their last national football championship was in 1951.  They are a charter member of the Big Ten, yet don't really seem to have any rivalries.  They're like that kid your mom used to make you play with because he lived down the street, but you weren't really buddies.

From an individual star football player perspective, it is hard to present better names at the top of the list. The Fighting Illini program has produced three of the greatest football players in the history of the game: Red Grange, Ray Nitschke, and Dick Butkus. For those of you that watch the Big Ten Network, current analyst Howard Griffith also wore the orange and blue.

Yes, this is a trophy game, damnit!  Got Turtle?
Like many B10 teams, Illinois plays in several annual "trophy games," not of which matter.  My favorite is the ever important IlliBuck trophy game with Ohio State. The Illibuck is the second oldest trophy passed between Big Ten Football programs (yep, the Little Brown Jug is the oldest). Originally the "trophy" was a live turtle picked for its long life expectancy as a symbol of the long life of the rivalry (no, seriously, there's a trophy game between OSU and UIUC). Since the original turtle died, there have been nine wooden replica Illibucks carved with the scores from games on its back (I swear to God, we're not f*cking with you on this).

Up until 1933, Illinois was always Ohio State's last game of the season. Ohio State has since replaced them on that last spot on their schedule with someone else.

They also play Purdue for the Purdue Cannon and Northwestern for the Land of Lincoln Trophy (which was originally called the Sweet Sioux Tomahawk and should now be called the Shit, Is This The Only Game On Trophy).

Athletics: Illinois is a charter member of the Big Ten. The university offers a surprisingly low number of varsity sports. There are only 10 men’s and 11 women’s sports teams. To make things a little more odd, they actually classify cheerleading as both a men’s and women’s varsity sport which, if you've seen the team under coach Ron Zook, I guess you can understand.

The Fighting Illini claim they have won twenty-five National Championships dating back to 1900. Surprisingly they have only won two National Championships in any sport since 1958 — Men's Tennis in 2003 and Men's Gymnastics in 1989. No women’s team has ever won a national title.

Most people think of Illinois as a basketball school. They have won 17 Big Ten titles and been to five Final Fours. Sadly, their basketball success seems to always end in ruin as they hold the record for playing in the most NCAA tournament games without a winning a championship. Most will recall the 2005 Illinois basketball team that went undefeated until the last game of the regular season (where they lost to Ohio State) and then lost again in the NCAA Finals game to North Carolina. Also, not many Michigan fans can forget how the Illini lost in the 1989 Final Four Semis – after they had beaten us twice in the regular season.

Like we were going to go with Larry Ellison's picture
Famous Alumni: Famous former Illinois athletes include NBA stars Derek Harper, Eddie Johnson, Nick Anderson and Kendall Gill. Baseball Hall of Famer Lou Boudreau. NFL top pick Jeff George and Pro Bowler Simeon Rice.

The list of non-athlete famous people that attended Illinois’ is pretty impressive. They claim to have 21 Nobel laureates and 20 Pulitzer Prize winners. Names you may recognize include Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, actor Gene Hackman, Oracle founder Larry Ellison, Congressman, Lincoln Memorial Architect Henry Bacon, Phoenix sports owner Jerry Colangelo, BET founder Robert Johnson, former GE Chairman Jack Welsh, and the creator of the Harlem Globetrotters Abe Saperstein.  ‘60s comedian, singer and satirist Allan Sherman was kicked out of U of I for being in a female dorm past curfew.

And all readers of this blog are indebted to several Illinois alums who made/make the MZone possible. This list includes Marc Andreessen, the creator of Mosaic (the first graphical Web browser) and Netscape; Steve Chen, the co-founder of YouTube; and Hugh Hefner, founder of Playboy magazine.

For those of you are keeping score: Illinois has had one alum, John Anderson, lose a presidential election but, alas, no U.S. Presidents...and no astronauts.

The Game: I'm not going to lie: last week stung.  A lot.  As noted in our autopsy, Michigan played its worst game of the season.  And while I believe - and believe strongly - that Hoke has us headed in the right direction, I'm getting tired of laying giant eggs on the road (and no, N'Western - in front of half full with U-M fans enjoying a weekend in Chicago doesn't count).  So I wouldn't be surprised either way tomorrow.  Thus, without much confidence, I'm going to go with my alma mater:

Michigan - 24
Illinois - 22 (Don't ask why 22.  It was probably Zook doing something stupid)


616goblue said...

"kind of like the kid down the street your mom made you play with but you weren't really buddies." One can only get such analysis from Know Your Foe by the Mzone.

Space bitches, space.


Ramona said...

These are fun to read on Friday afternoon before heading off to (ugh) work.

And THANK YOU for going with your alma mater, even though your heart may have not been all the way in. I do the same thing weekly on Pigskin Picks, and did so throughout the entire RR era. At Michigan we are TRUE BLUE

Mikoyan said...

I think I say this every time you guys do this one but I'll say it again. In the fictional world, HAL-9000 was created in Urbana-Champaign (presumably at the University).

Andrew said...

I hope we kick the shit of Zooker & his team.....cant stand zook.
Hug a Vet. Thank you for serving this great nation!!!
Yost, how about chicks in cameo??

Ramona said...

happy HAPPY happy dance!!
The O Line will get there