Today, you know the student support group of the Fighting Illini Men’s Basketball team as the Orange Krush. However, the section has endured many namesakes in its long history. Formed before the 1975-76 Men’s basketball season, the Orange Crunch, as it was then known, is one of the oldest cheering sections in the nation. It was future Hall-of-Fame and long time Illini coach Lou Henson’s first season in Champaign. Dedicated to creating support for a struggling program, he invited four students together to discuss a possible student group. The four students, representing fraternities, sororities, the residence halls, and the Athletic Department wanted to name the group the “Orange Crush”, but with impending legal issues, that idea was modified. After that historic lunch at the Illini Union, the Orange Crunch was founded. With about 100 members from around Campus, the inaugural season was a success.
Notables from the Inaugural Season:
- There were no requirements to join. The representatives recruited the students personally.
- Each section of the Crunch was assigned a specific player to cheer for.
- The signature taunting of opponent’s free throws began with the classic “Bounce, bounce, bounce,” when the players would dribble.
- Garcia’s pizza would award free pizza to the row of the Crunch that matched the point spread of the game. Since big wins were rare, the first 3 rows were very popular.
By the second season, there became more organization as the Athletic Department took the Crunch under their control. Instead of cotton t-shirts, 70’s style polyester shirts were made with the Crunch logo.
By 1979, legal issues were ironed out, and the Crunch became the Orange Crush, using the logo of the Orange Crush soda bottle on their shirts.
Notables from 1979:
- To join the Crush, you were required to take an Illini Trivia Quiz. Only students that passed were allowed in.
- Bobby Knight refused to exit the tunnel at Assembly Hall until one of the members of the Crush was removed from the arena. This was only the beginning of the annoyance that the Orange Crush has caused to opposing players and coaches.
The Orange Crush thrived through the 80’s, until more legal issues caused the name to change to the Orange Krush, as we know it today.The Orange Krush, as part of Illini Pride, has drawn it’s members through the student athletic board for many years. As a member of Illini Pride, a student has eligibility to join the Orange Krush. Until 1997, students were interviewed before being allowed in the student section. During the 1997-1998 season, the Team Krush Foundation was established, creating an outlet for students to give back to the University, Campus, and Community. Members of the Orange Krush would now raise money to be a part of the Orange Krush. With this Foundation, the Matt Heldman Scholarship was established, and many charities around the Champaign-Urbana area have benefited.
Now known as the Orange Krush Foundation, the students of the University of Illinois are currently raising money for the Lou Henson Coaching Endowment Fund as well as other local and national charities. Past endowments established by the Orange Krush Foundation include: the Matthew Heldman Memorial Scholarship Fund, the Rod Cardinal Sports Medicine Fund, and the Louis and Dawn M. Weber Student Manager Enhancement Fund. For more information on the Orange Krush Foundation, please see the Foundation link above.
From a group of four students in the 70’s to one of the most recognized student groups in the nation, the Orange Krush has made its mark on the history of Illinois athletics. The Orange Krush strives to keep sportsmanship alive while making the Assembly Hall one of the best college venues in the nation.