This is the first in an 11-part series highlighting 10 things you may not know about Mizzou’s opponents in the 2009 football season. Please keep in mind that while everything below is true, it’s meant in jest.
Better Know An Opponent, Vol. 1: 2009 NCAA Tournament Opponents
Today’s profile: The Illinois Fighting Illini
1) The University of Illinois is located in two cities: Champaign and Urbana. The two cities form the Champaign-Urbana Metropolitan Area, which is a generous term considering it’s in the middle of Illinois. It’s also colloquially known as "Chambana," a clever combination of Champaign and Urbana.
Mistake number one was putting a major university – 10th largest in the nation! – in two freakin’ cities. What genius came up with that idea? "Hey, nevermind the obvious tax code problems and the fact that this is clearly going to confuse everyone who ever tries to address a letter, or, say, a college application, to the University; let’s spice things up!"
Mistake number two was giving it a silly nickname like Chambana. Hey, here’s an idea: since Columbia and Jefferson City are close to one another, let’s just call that part of Missouri "Cofferbia City." Sure, that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard in my life, but it’s cute, isn’t it?
2) You’ve heard of a land-grant university, institutions established through the Morrill Acts to focus on agriculture, science and engineering. These include places like Mizzou, Nebraska, Texas A&M, Tennessee and Illinois.
You may have even heard of a sea-grant university, institutions involved in scientific research geared toward conservation of the U.S coasts and marine areas. These universities include Southern California, LSU, Maine and, yes, Illinois.
But I know for a fact that you have never heard of a space-grant university. It’s a university designated to receive funding from the federal government for aeronautical and space-related research. And guess who’s on that list, too?
Yep: Illinois. Looks like someone bought a certain Marquette graduate’s book.
3) The more I read about Illinois, the more I realize that this is a dorky, dorky, dorky school. Five quick fun facts to illustrate exactly how nerdy the University of Illinois is:
-The university built the ILLIAC in 1952, the first computer built and owned entirely by an educational institution.
-The Ph.D. Computer Science program at Illinois ranks fifth nationally.
-The Illinois Web site actually brags about its "10 gigabits-per-second redundant connections to major research networks and over 2 petabytes of storage space."
-The school actually held a celebration on Jan. 12, 1997 as the birthday of HAL 900. You know, the robot in 2001: A Space Odyssey. That's because it claims it was born in Urbana, Illinois. But that's beside the point: IT IS NOT ONLY A ROBOT, BUT A FICTIONAL ROBOT. No, really. It happened. That’s not the joke.
-I’m relatively sure the University of Illinois has never kissed a girl.
(The last one. That was the joke.)
4) Oh, let’s stop ragging on Illinois for a second and take a look at their beautiful campus. After all, it can’t all be bad.
Oh, cool! The athletics portion of campus! Let’s see…Oh, A11, that’s Assembly Hall, where the basketball team plays! And what else…there, A3, the Activities and Recreational Center. Hmm, and M11, that’s Memorial Stadium, the football stadium. I7’s baseball, T5’s track, E3 is softball. Awesome! It’s all in the same area!
But what is that big red area with the question marks over it? I mean, I’m sure it can’t be anything too…
Well then. That’s unfortunate. Didn’t see that one coming.
5) Travel with me, won't you, back in time. The year is 1911. Two Illinois students, Howard Green and Harold Hill, think that Illinois' fight song is lame.
(Side conversation: when you read the names "Howard Green and Harold Hill", did you think of these guys?
Me too. Moving on.)
Anyways, these two dudes think that the Illinois fight song, Illinois Loyalty, doesn't adequately fire up the Illini faithful.
And when you look at the words, you can see why. "
We're loyal to you Illinois,
We're "Orange and Blue," Illinois
We'll back you to stan
Gainst the best in the land
For we know you have sand, Illinois
Yawnville, USA. And beyond that, it doesn't really make sense.
So, they want to write a new song, something that can really get the orange and blue pumped up. A novel idea! Tip-top! Cheerio! Insert antiquated early 20th century exclamation!
So Harold and Howard went to work, crafting a new fight song. And after what must have been minutes of thought, they came up with a song called "Oskie Wow Wow."
Oskie. Wow Wow. All because a song called Illinois Loyalty didn't adequately get the message across.
I don't even have a joke. Like...wow. Wow wow. Oskie wow wow.
Oooh, I get it now.
6) The University of Illinois claims that it created the idea of homecoming in 1910. The University of Missouri claims that it created the idea of homecoming in 1911. Let's get a ruling.
Thanks, Jeopardy Fatality Jesus!
7) What's that I hear coming 'round the bend? Why, it's Embarrassing Alumni Time!
Portly thumb enthusiast Roger Ebert.
Neurotic destroyer of Ferraris Cameron Frye. Oh, I mean actor Alan Ruck. (Hint: no, I don't mean that).
Delicious architect of Lincoln Memorial Henry Bacon
This dude who owes me $19.99. The Showtime Rotisserie does not make cooking easy or fun, you jerkass. But wait, there's more: you're a douche.
8) If we can get serious here for a second, I need to honor an esteemed alumni of the University of Illinois. This man has given so much to this world that it wouldn't feel right lumping him in with all those other losers. When we now think of innovation, of visionaries, of geniuses, this man, a proud alumus of Illinois, should be the first one of which we think. He's brilliant and courageous, and this nation...nay, this world... owes him a great debt of gratitude.
I'm speaking, of course, of this man.
9) Time to tackle the obvious thing: the mascot. Chief Illiniwek became the mascot of the University of Illinois in 1926 when an assistant director of bands decided it would be cool to have a Native American dance before the halftime performance. Because, you know, it's not horribly offensive to make a caricature of one of the most oppressed groups of people in American history.
For 81 years, Chief Illiniwek, dressed in authentic Native American gear, performed at athletic events, doing his own version of a Native American dance. That is, until someone (SPOILER ALERT!) complained. Soon, the NAACP, Amnesty International and basically everyone else decided that Chief Illiniwek wasn't cool, probably because he was misappropriating Native American culture. Or somesuch nonsense...I mean, c'mon! It's funny and clever and cute! Who cares if thousands of people are offended? Our kids think it's funny!
Finally in 2005, after years and years of debate and legislation, the NCAA decided to put a stop to Chief Illiniwek, banning "hostile and abusive American Indian nicknames." Illinois students fought the ban the only way they knew how: whining. But to no avail.
On February 21, 2007, Chief Illiniwek made his last dance. A movie was later made of the incident.
In a related note, Illinois, for some reason, rejected my alternative mascot suggestion.
10) This is Ron Zook, the head football coach at the University of Illinois.
His full name is Ronald INTENSITY Zook.
Tune in next week for the second installment of Better Know An Opponent!