National Spotlight Finds Fighting Illini Jan. 20
Jan. 15, 2009
Champaign, Ill. - The University of Illinois Division of Intercollegiate Athletics announced plans for "Illinois Day" on Jan. 20. The promotion places Illinois in the national spotlight once again as the state's flagship University sees its men's basketball team appear on ESPN on the same day that the state's junior senator is inaugurated as the 44th President of the United States.
The University of Illinois hosts Ohio State University at 6 pm CST at Champaign's Assembly Hall. All 16,000-plus fans in attendance are encouraged to wear orange, something most Illinois fans already do on a game-to-game basis. Fans will be handed a miniature American flag as they enter the building. Fans will be asked to wave the flags in the moments leading up to and including tipoff, creating the once-in-a-lifetime image at Assembly Hall.
"In effect, the Illinois men's basketball team is creating what we believe to be the largest inauguration party outside of Washington, D.C. in honor of an Illinois senator being sworn in as the 44th President of the United States," said Assistant Director of Athletics Chris Hanna. "We believe the visual of our fans wearing their orange to celebrate our men's basketball program appearing on national television and waving the flags to honor the incoming President will be powerful and memorable.
"This is a story that crosses beyond sports into news and if any program deserves that exposure, then it's Bruce Weber's outstanding men's basketball team. This is a great day for the state of Illinois."
The Fighting Illini have reached the NCAA Tournament in eight of the past nine seasons. Various media publications chose Illinois to finish in the middle of the Big Ten this season, but Weber's team has answered his call for "Hard Work, Heart, and Hustle" to achieve a 15-2 overall record and a 3-1 mark that ranks second in the Big Ten Conference. Weber's emphasis on his unique coaching instrument called the "Matto Play Hard Chart" that measures the team's dedication to diving for loose balls, taking charges, and other unselfish team-oriented disciplines has earned great praise. Illinois Day is sponsored by WDWS-AM1400, WHMS-FM97.5, and the Champaign News-Gazette. Fans are encouraged to arrive early in anticipation of the unique visual created by the orange shirts and American flags at tipoff.