The University of Illinois' Division of Intercollegiate Athletics, in partnership with Nike, introduced a new brand and identity system that set the visual direction for Fighting Illini Athletics. The updated identity provides a fresh look with the goal of developing an innovative and consistent athletic brand that pays tribute to the university's legacy and tradition.
Illinois and Nike collaborated on a nearly two-year brand evolution program to enhance and expand upon the celebrated marks of the university, honoring the history and integrity of academics and athletics. As part of the new program, all 19 of Illinois' intercollegiate sports teams will showcase consistent colors, logos, lettering and numerals that will debut with the football and basketball programs in 2014-15 and gradually expand across all sports in the upcoming seasons. The new designs were unveiled by student-athlete models on April 16 in front of a packed house at the Krannert Center for Performing Arts.
University of Illinois junior Jesse Delgado won his second straight 125-pound NCAA title with a 3-2 decision over No. 2 seed Nahshon Garrett of Cornell in the championship match. With the win, Delgado became the first Illinois wrestler to win back-to-back national titles in 56 years. His title in 2013 made him the program's first-ever national champion at 125 pounds.
Delgado posted a 30-2 record on the season and also repeated as Big Ten champion at 125, defeating No. 1 seed Nico Megaludis of Penn State, 3-2, in double overtime. In June, Delgado was named the winner of the prestigious Illinois Dike Eddleman Male Athlete of the Year award, becoming the eighth wrestler, and the first since 2003, to be named the top Fighting Illini male athlete.
Fighting Illini soccer forward Jannelle Flaws was an offensive force throughout the 2013 season, scoring 23 goals to lead the nation along with St. John's Rachel Daly. Her 23 goals shattered the Illinois school record of 18 by Emily Brown in 1999. Flaws was named 2013 Big Ten Forward of the Year and was a first-team All-Big Ten and All-Great Lakes Region selection.
Flaws found the net in 15 of 23 games and had six multi-goal games, including hat tricks against Illinois State and Northwestern. She also notched five game-winning goals, none bigger than her golden goal against Portland in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, sending Illinois to its first Sweet 16 since 2008. In June, she became just the second soccer player to win the Dike Eddleman Female Athlete of the Year award, joining Leisha Alcia in 2004.
Junior Jordan Valdez won a national title on high bar, capping a 2014 season that saw the Fighting Illini finish fourth at the NCAA Championships and bring home 10 All-America honors. Valdez put up the third-highest high bar score of his season with a 15.525 to claim the title. The last Illini to bring home the national high bar title was Paul Ruggeri in 2009, making Valdez the first champion in five years. Valdez earned All-America honors on high bar and parallel bars at the NCAA Championships, and was named second-team All-Big Ten.
Construction began this past winter on a $165 million renovation project for the State Farm Center, which is the home of Fighting Illini men's and women's basketball. Dubbed the Illinois Renaissance, the renovation of the historic building will seamlessly combine contemporary amenities and technological innovation with the traditions and history of its storied past.
In phase 2 (March-November 2014), there will be a significant amount of work to upgrade the mechanical systems in State Farm Center as well as the outside and entrances to the arena. Live streaming and photographs of the construction is available for fans interested in the progress at statefarmcenter.com.
As construction for the project is underway, donations have continued to pour in to fund the arena's updates. Illinois Renaissance is one of the most ambitious building improvement projects in U of I history.
It came down to the final putt on the final hole of the final match, but No. 8 Illinois fell just short against top-seeded Stanford as the Cardinal took a 3-2 win in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Championships. The Fighting Illini finish tied for fifth for the second time in the last four years, giving them three top-five finishes in that span (T-5th in 2011, 2nd in 2013, T-5th in 2014).
The golf team was named the 2013-14 Illinois Team of the Year, while Mike Small was selected as Coach of the Year. Illinois won a total of four tournaments on the year, including the NCAA Sugar Grove Regional, and qualified for the NCAA Championships for the seventh-consecutive year; the only northern school to accomplish this feat. Junior Brian Campbell was named Big Ten Player of the Year and was one of three Illini to earn All-America and unanimous first-team All-Big Ten honors, joined by sophomores Charlie Danielson and Thomas Detry.
While Illinois has dominated the overall series 21-12, it had been four long years since the Fighting Illini men's basketball hoisted the Braggin' Rights trophy. As one of the best rivalries in college basketball, this season's match-up lived up to the hype with the Illini taking back the trophy for the first time since 2008 with a 65-64 win over No. 23 Missouri in St. Louis.
It happened in thrilling fashion, with each team making big shots down the stretch and one side of the sold-out Scottrade Center erupting every time the game see-sawed back and forth. In the end, it was two free throws by UI point guard Tracy Abrams with 4.6 seconds left that provided the winning margin.
Senior quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase had one of the best offensive seasons in Illinois football history in 2013 and finished his career as the Illini's all-time total offense leader with 10,634 yards, a total that ranks seventh in Big Ten history. He led the conference in passing yardage (272.7 ypg), total offense (295.2 ypg) and completion percentage (66.7) during his senior season, while also breaking the school record for passing efficiency (140.7) to earn All-Big Ten honors.
Off the field, Scheelhaase was an unquestioned leader during his five years on campus. He was a four-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree, earned two degrees from the University of Illinois and was a member of multiple school organizations. To honor his success both on and off the field, Scheelhaase was awarded the Big Ten Medal of Honor, showing his commitment to athletics and academics.
Sweet 16 x 3
Volleyball: It was a season of ups and downs, as the Fighting Illini volleyball team took on the most difficult schedule in the nation and came out with an 18-15 record. With the help of the greatest fan base the program has ever seen, Illinois rebounded from a 9-12 record on Oct. 30 to win nine of their next 11 matches, advancing to the NCAA Regional (round of 16) for the fifth time in the past six seasons. The Illini run ended with a loss to Purdue in front of a packed State Farm Center crowd.
Soccer: Illinois soccer advanced to the Sweet Sixteen for the fourth time in program history, seeing its NCAA Tournament run come to an end with a 4-1 loss to Boston College in the Round of 16. The Fighting Illini wrapped up the 2013 season with an overall record of 11-9-3 and scored 54 goals, the most under Rayfield and third-most in school history. Redshirt-junior Jannelle Flaws tied for the national lead with a school-record 23 goals and won the Illinois Dike Eddleman Female Athlete of the Year award, while senior Vanessa DiBernardo closed out her decorated career by winning the prestigious Big Ten Medal of Honor.
Men's Tennis: The 2014 Fighting Illini men's tennis team provided several thrills in a memorable year, which saw them post a 24-9 record, the program's most wins since 2006. The Orange and Blue capped the year with its 19th straight NCAA Tournament appearance, reaching the Sweet 16 for the seventh time in Coach Brad Dancer's nine years at the helm. Illinois qualified for the ITA National Indoor Championships, finished second in the conference (10-2) and the Big Ten Tournament, were ranked as high as sixth in the nation and went undefeated at home (13-0) for the first time since 2004.
The Fighting Illini earned back-to-back trips to the NCAA Championships for the first time in school history, making their fourth appearance at Nationals in the past six years. Illinois recorded a 195.8 in Birmingham, its highest score ever in the NCAA semifinal session. As a result, the Orange and Blue tied the program's best finish and final national ranking of 11th.
The 2014 Illini set a new team total record and the program's first score above a 197 with a 197.1 at Gym Jam. Illinois placed five total scores on the all-time top-10 list, including three of the top-four. The Illini also set a new vault record by scoring a 49.425 at the State of Illinois Classic.
After fulfilling his dream of becoming a NASA astronaut in 2009, former Illinois defensive back and football captain Mike Hopkins earned his first chance in space only four years after being named an astronaut. Hopkins spent six months on Expedition 37/38 orbiting the International Space Station, departing from Russia in September 2013 and returning in March 2014.
During the Expedition 37/38 mission, the crew checked the condition of the station, performed a variety of biological experiments while on board and also for the Russian segment, installed a new MLM (Multipurpose Laboratory Module). While in space, Hopkins sent inspirational messages to the Fighting Illini football team.