Information > History
Illini Pride was founded in 1977 with 300 members. Since then the University of Illinois’ Illini Pride has risen to become the largest student organization on campus. From the very start, Illini Pride has supporte all varsity sports teams on campus and continues to do so with a great fan base and cheering section for the Illini sports teams. Illini Pride has continued to grow since its inception, reaching 1000 members for the first time in 2000-2001, 2000 members in 2004-2005, and 3,000 members in 2007-2008. During the 2010-2011, Illini Pride boasted a membership of nearly 3,000 members and looks to increase this number in the coming years. Illini Pride has noticeably become not only a group of fans cheering on a remarkable athletic program, but also a group of students taking pride in the University of Illinois and giving back to the community.
Former president, Mark L. Aschermann, shares some Illini Pride history…
The Illini Pride (IP) was started by members of several fraternities, particularly AGR, Sigma Chi, and Alpha Chi Omega. I had been elected to Student Government and was on the Board that allocated funds to student organizations. Anything related to sports, particularly the Varsity Sports, or the Band was anathema to… [those] …on the Student Government at that time. Josh Grafton was on the relatively new Student Government Association and/or the Illini Union Board and they resurrected the Homecoming parade in the fall of 1980. It ended with a pep Rally on the Quad which was more fun than any other official campus activity since I had been in school. It was also the highlight of a dismal football season.
I was frustrated with the endless political squabbles of the Student Government and got together with Josh Grafton of the SGA. We went to the Athletic Association for a meeting. The AD had just been fired. Gary Moeller was on his way out as football coach and Ray Eliot was the acting Athletic Director. Mr. Eliot ushered us into his office at the Assembly Hall, and we stated that we wanted to create a Student Booster Organization. AD Eliot was thrilled, pumped us up, introduced us to the Executive Assistant of the AD’s office, and pledged his support.
We got some press in the Daily Illini, set a meeting in the Varsity I room, and Ray Eliot attended and told some stories. We were off to a shaky start. Basketball season was on its way and the Athletic Department had done a very loose job of allocating the Orange Crush seats, usually by referral to a few students that either they or the players knew. IP asked to take over the selection process and were granted the right to do so. Thus, the Illini Pride was given the best seats in the basketball arena and we were off.
Neale Stoner was hired. (LuAnn Metzger, one of our photographer members, took the photo of Neale Stoner at his introductory press conference that became THE photo of Stoner for his years as AD). The basketball team with Lou Henson, Eddie Johnson, and Mark Smith was very successful, and excellent recruits were on the way (Derek Harper). Mike White was hired as football coach, the junior college recruiting of White was underway and things were looking up. I coined the phrase, “The 80’s Belong to the Illini.” It first appeared in our Illini Pride newsletter, got talked about at our meetings, a Daily Illini sportswriter wrote a column about it and it slowly caught on.