Aug. 8, 2000
The Illini in 2000 begin their third year of two-a-day fall drills at Camp Rantoul. Head Coach Ron Turner implemented the idea in 1998 to give Illinois practices a professional atmosphere. Many aspects of the set-up resemble NFL training camps.
Three full 100-yard football fields at the former Chanute Air Force Base give the team plenty of room to practice. The site is complete with a locker room, a training and sports medicine facility and a weight room all in one location. All of these amenities are located just across the street from the Fanmarker Inn.
All 105 players as well as the coaches, support staff and members of the media call the Fanmarker Inn home for two weeks. The spacious hotel allows everyone to live as close as possible to all of the necessities of training camp. Three meals a day are served at the adjacent Fanmarker restaurant.
A large team meeting room and separate rooms for offense and defense are a short distance away at Virgil I "Gus" Garisson Hall located on the Chanute Air Force Base. The rooms are complete with marker boards and video equipment.
Coach Turner believes holding training camp in Rantoul provides the best setting for his team for a variety of reasons. The professional setting allows the team to make the most of its practice time. Keeping the team together in one location leaves little room for distractions and is the optimal setting for 105 players to become a team. Rantoul is location only 12 miles north of Champaign-Urbana, which provides easy access to campus for special events such as the annual media and fan appreciation day.
While one day is set aside for Coach Turner and the Illini to meet the media, many of the local and national media follow the squad to Camp Rantoul. The site not only allows easy access to the coaches and players, but also first class accommodations, meals and entertainment are available as well.
Although the purpose of Camp Rantoul is to prepare for the season, Turner and his staff firmly believe in a positive team atmosphere. For both fun and competition, the team takes part in an annual Camp Rantoul bowling competition. Long snapper Pat Rouse was dethroned of his individual title in 1999 by redshirt-freshman defensive tackle Jeff Ruffin, however the specialists were able to defend the team title they also won in 1998.
While the team and media descend on the area, Rantoul welcomes them all. The community adopts the football program. Businesses bring out their orange and blue and hang signs to welcome all camp visitors. Fans can even catch a glimpse the team before the season starts.
The easiest way for the fans to watch the action is at the annual Orange and Blue scrimmage. Every year the skills of the squad are tested in a scrimmage at Rantoul High School. Last season, over 1000 fans came out to take a first look at what the 1999 Illini had to offer.