Fighting Illini Overview

Fast facts

League: NCAA Football

Head Coach: Bret Bielema

Team Mascot: Kingfisher (unofficial)

Year Opened: 1922

Capacity: 60670

City / State: Champaign / Illinois

Rivalries & Top Games to Attend

Land of Lincoln Trophy

Rival Team: Northwestern Wildcats

Northwestern and Illinois play each season for the Land of Lincoln Trophy and have been playing annually since 1927. The intrastate rivalry has blossomed due to the proximity of the two schools, which makes for a great game as many fans will travel to the opposing school for this match up.

Purdue Cannon

Rival Team: Purdue Boilermakers

The Purdue Canon is presented to the winner when Illinois takes on Purdue. The trophy dates back to an incident in 1905 when a group of Purdue students brought the canon to U of I in hopes of firing it off after a victory, only to get it confiscated. After an eleven year hiatus, the rivalry resumed in 1943 and has been an exciting game to watch ever since.

Illbuck Trophy

Rival Team: Ohio State Buckeyes

The winner of the rivalry game between Illinois and Ohio State receives the Illbuck trophy; a wooden replica of a once live turtle with the series results etched into its back.With the addition of Maryland and Rutgers in 2014 these two schools will no longer play each season making it that much more special when these two rivals face off.

Fighting Illini Tailgate Guide


Illinois is a great place to tailgate, as there is a fun mix of family friendly and college party atmosphere in Champaign. You can feel free to pull out the grill and the portable tv and talk with some of the great alumni of Illinois, many of whom have gone on to very successful careers and present great networking opportunities. Or, you can join in with the students in a case race before the game; whichever you choose you can’t go wrong.

The Illini Walk gives fans a chance to greet their favorite Illinois players as they arrive at Memorial Stadium. Two hours before game time, all of the players and coaches walk from 1st street to the football complex and greet fans along the way.

The best time of year to go is either during the first weeks of the season when Illinois plays cupcake games against other small Illinois state college like State, Eastern, or Western, or during Big Ten conference games such as Iowa, Wisconsin, and Indiana and Purdue which are all border war games.  The best game of the year comes typically during the last week of the season as Illinois takes on Big Ten in state Rival Northwestern in an Illinois Civil War,  which is when you’ll find the best crowds as everyone hits the stadium to get one last good look at the team before the season ends.


Red Grange Statue

Red Grange is a notable figure in the Fighting Illini’s history: in 1924 in a game against the University of Michigan, he scored six touchdowns in the first twelve minutes and was nicknamed the Galloping Ghost. In 2011, he was voted the Greatest Big Ten Icon by the Big Ten Network and is immortalized in a beautiful bronze statue outside the West side of Memorial Stadium.

Illini Walk

The Illini Walk gives fans a chance to greet their favorite Illinois players as they arrive at Memorial Stadium. Two hours before game time, all of the players and coaches walk from 1st street to the football complex and greet fans along the way. It’s a great thing to do for kids who idolize the Illini players, so make sure to check it out during your visit to Urbana-Champaign.

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Illinois Homecoming Game

Every year there is a big parade to celebrate homecoming, which dates back to 1910. It is mostly supported by alumni and maintains a family-friendly atmosphere. Bring your friends because there are lots to see and do. The band, cheerleaders, and Greek life will all be a part of the parade making it well worth your time.

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Illini Street Fest

Two and a half hours before kick-off, the area between Kirby Avenue and Irwin Drive is reserved for the Illini Street Fest. The Fest is free, open to the public, and offers a variety of entertainment such as live performances by the cheerleaders and marching band, as well as a mini golf course and face painting for the kids. This family-friendly tailgate is enjoyable for all who attend Illini games.

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Where to tailgate

Fighting Illini Stadium Guide

In Game

The Illini student section, also known as Block I, is located in the north end zone, and when the team is good, the stands are packed to the brim. In the second half, they do a display of colored cards that make pictures representing the Illini football nation. Lately, the Illini have struggled. However, the student section remains active and vocal throughout the games. These are some of the best fans to sit with as they are very up to date on how the team is doing and have a lot of passion for anything and everything Illini.

The mascot of the Fighting Illini is Chief Illiniwek, but he has been banned recently from making appearances at games. The students do not like this little banning of their famed hero and like to continue to chants they did when he was present. It’s nice to see the students do their part to keep the team’s history alive and well.  This is an excellent way to join in with the fans as it has not only been a hot issue for the fans at the University, but also for fans across the state of Illinois as Chief Illiniwek was a major symbol of the program for as long as most fans can remember.

Another great tradition to be a part of is the singing of the Oskee-Wow-Wow fight song. The song gets the crowd charged to cheer on the Illini, so join in with the fans. The lyrics are posted below, and you can find a music track here

Things to check out

Tribute to World War I Soldiers

There are nearly 200 pillars surrounding Memorial Stadium that are engraved with the names of U of I students who served during World War I. Pay tribute to these fallen heroes by visiting these pillars.

Lettering On Luxury Suites/Press Boxes

In honor of the Fighting Illini’s football accomplishments, lettering has been added to the stadium that reads “Welcome to Memorial Stadium Home of the Fighting Illini,” as well as listing National Championships, Big Ten championships, and retired numbers.

The Grange Rock

A tribute to Harold “Red” Grange sits near the northeast end zone in the form of rock from the stone quarry in Indiana used to create the granite columns in the stadium. Players will often touch the Grange Rock on their way into the stadium.

Block I

This is the name given to the student section inside Memorial Stadium since 1926. Throughout Illini games, Block I will perform creative card stunts during games.

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I-L-L-I-N-I Cheer

At every U of I game, you will hear half the stadium shouting “I-L-I” while the other half will shout “I-N-I” in response.

Fight Songs

  1. Illinois Loyalty

    We’re loyal to you Illinois We’re “Orange and Blue,” Illinois
    We’ll back you to stand
    ‘Gainst the best in the land
    For we know you have sand, Illinois
    Rah! Rah!
    So crack out the ball Illinois
    We’re backing you all Illinois Our team is the fame protector; On boys, for we expect a
    Victory from you Illinois
    Chehee, Cheha, Cheha-ha-ha
    Go Illini Go Chehee, Cheha, Cheha-ha-ha
    Go Illini Go Illinois, Illinois, Illinois
    Fling out that dear old flag of Orange and Blue Lead on your sons and daughters, Fighting for you; Like men of old, on giants Placing reliance, shouting defiance
    Amid the broad green plains That nourish our land,
    For honest labor and for learning we stand,
    And unto thee we pledge our heart and hand, Dear Alma Mater, Illinois  

  2. Oskee Wow Wow

    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 Blue, Rah! Rah! When your team trots out before you
    Ev’ry man stand up and yell
    Back the team to gain a victory Oskee-wow-wow, Illinois  

  3. Hail To The Orange

    Hail to the Orange.
    Hail to the Blue. Hail Alma Mater,
    Ever so true.
    We love no other,
    So let our motto be
    Victory, Illinois, Varsity.

Fighting Illini Bars & Restaurants

  1. Farren’s Pub & Eatery

    Farrens Pub and Eatery

    Whether you're a student, blue-collar, white-collar, or a dry waller, Carolyn invites you to come to relax with your friends, enjoy a burger and have a beer!

    117 N Walnut St, Champaign, IL 61820, USA


    Bar website

    american - $$

  2. The Red Lion

    The Red Lion

    Typical pub grub, beer & cocktails offered in easygoing surrounds with a large wraparound bar.

    211 E Green St, Champaign, IL 61820, USA


    Bar website

    american - $

  3. Joe’s Brewery

    Joes Brewery

    Campus-adjacent bar with basic pub food, live bands & DJs in a casual setting with a beer garden.

    706 S 5th St, Champaign, IL 61820, USA


    Bar website

    american - $$

  4. Legends


    Collegial sports bar with burgers & other American grub, plus an outdoor beer garden & a pool room.

    522 E Green St, Champaign, IL 61820, USA


    Bar website

    sportsbar - $

  5. Murphy’s

    Murphys beer

    As the highest rated bar on campus, we know that you will enjoy your Murphy's Pub experience!

    604 E Green St, Champaign, IL 61820, USA


    Bar website

    american - $

  6. Maize Mexican Grill

    Maize Mexican Grill

    We share our food. We share our home.

    60 E Green St, Champaign, IL 61820, USA


    Bar website

    mexican - $

  7. Papa Del’s Pizza

    Papa Dels Pizza

    Heaping, deep-dish pizzas, pasta & craft brews round out the menu at this stylish, spacious outpost.

    1201 S Neil St, Champaign, IL 61820, USA


    Bar website

    pizza - $$

  8. Jarling’s Custard Cup

    Jarlings Custard Cup

    Decades-old frozen-dessert shop serving housemade treats in cups, cones, sundaes, shakes & floats.

    309 W Kirby Ave, Champaign, IL 61820, USA


    Bar website

    american - $

  9. Wingin Out

    Wingin Out

    Take-out & delivery chicken-wing outfit known for its many sauce flavors & boneless options.

    301 E Green St, Champaign, IL 61820, USA


    Bar website

    american - $$

  10. Insomnia Cookies

    Insomnia Cookies

    Bakery chain known for late-night deliveries, with some locations selling ice cream.

    502 E John St, Champaign, IL 61820, USA


    Bar website

    cafe - $$

  11. Rosati’s Pizza

    Rosatis Pizza

    Excellent pizza, excellent customer service, and excellent location.

    701 S Gregory St H, Urbana, IL 61801, United States


    Bar website

    pizza - sportsbar - $$

  12. Fat Sandwich

    Fat Sandwich

    Quirky counter-serve cafe featuring hearty sandwiches with creative ingredients & irreverent names.

    502 E John St, Champaign, IL 61820, USA


    Bar website

    american - $

  13. Green Street Café

    Green Street Cafe

    Everything you heard great about Green Street Cafe? They're all true!

    35 E Green St, Champaign, IL 61820, USA


    Bar website

    cafe - $