The 2008-09 season was one of the most productive in school history. Of Illinois 19 teams, 15 went on to play in NCAA postseason action and seven teams finished in the top-12 nationally in their respective sports. Men's golf returned to the top of the Big Ten with their first championship in 21 years and the men's gymnastics team brought home another conference title, as well as three NCAA individual Champions. Angela Bizzarri of women's track and field was Illinois' third national title winner in 2008-09. Twelve teams averaged a 3.0 or better in the classroom and the athletic department continued to excel in fundraising numbers, allowing every sport to fund the maximum allowable scholarships. Financially, Illinois operated in the black for the 17th straight year with a $70 million budget.
This year takes a look at the Illinois football team's amazing run to the 2008 Rose Bowl, after posting the nation's biggest turnaround in college football. Illini linebacker J Leman was a consensus All-American, the first since 1995, and Coach Ron Zook was the Big Ten and national coach of the year. An outstanding seven Illinois teams finished among the top-25, including two up-and-coming teams in men's golf, which finished 17th and women's gymnastics, which posted their highest finish in school history at 15th. In the classroom, Illinois athletes excelled as 14 teams were over a 3.0 in GPA. Along those lines, Momei Qu of women's tennis won the coveted Arthur Ashe Award. On the business side, in the 2007-08 season, the Illinois athletic department operated on a budget of $61.1 million.
The 2006-07 athletic season saw three Illinois teams finish in the NCAA top-5, including the men's tennis team, which were NCAA Runners Up, and women's cross country and men's gymnastics, which took fifth-place at their respective NCAA Championships. The Illini women's track and field team won their second Big Ten Title in three years with the outdoor crown. Off the competition field, Illinois joined in the Big Ten in unveiling the Big Ten Network, a 24-hour channel devoted solely to Big Ten athletics and University programming. Many facilities continued upgrades, including Memorial Stadium, which began a $116 million construction project. The DIA operated on a budget of $51.0 million and academically 11 teams posted a 3.0 or higher GPA.
During the 2005-06 season, the Illini saw the careers end of two soon-to-be legendary athletes < Justin Spring of men's gymnastics and Dee Brown of men's basketball. Brown stole the heart of the Illini nation as a four-year starter for the Illini, taking the team to the tournaments in each of his four years. Spring finished his career with 12 All-America honors and four national event titles. He won the Nissen-Emery Award given to the nation's best gymnast and helped lead his team to an NCAA Runner-up title. Men's gymnastics was one of six Illinois teams to finish in the NCAA top-25 this season, including a men's tennis team who crowned NCAA Doubles Champions Kevin Anderson and Ryan Rowe. Academically, 13 Illinois teams scored a 3.0 or higher GPA and the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics launched a diversity outreach program called "Identify Illinois." In 2005-06, the Illini operated on a $46.2 million budget.
In 2004-05, Illinois athletics celebrated five Big Ten Championship teams, including the Final Four run of the Illini men's basketball team. Coach Bruce Weber was named the national coach of the year and Dee Brown was the Player of the Year. The wrestling team won its first Big Ten title since 1952; men's tennis jumped back to the league elite; women's track won the outdoor title in shocking fashion and the baseball team got back to the top of the Big Ten for the first time since 1998. Basketball celebrated it centennial, the Orange Krush garnered national attention and ground broke on the Demirjian Golf Practice Facility. On the business side, Illinois accomplished everything on a $41.8 million budget and 13 teams recorded a GPA over 3.0, academically.