Sept. 11, 2009
The legend of Harold "Red" Grange will now be on display for as long as football is played at Memorial Stadium with the placement of a majestic statue on the west side of the historic stadium. The 12-foot, one-ton bronze statue made by University of Illinois graduate George Lundeen culminates the Memorial Stadium Renaissance project that began following the 2006 season.
Grange¹s performance in the Dedication Game of Memorial Stadium on Oct. 18, 1924 stands as perhaps the greatest individual performance in the history of college football. When he scored a total of five touchdowns, including four in the first 12 minutes, against Michigan, Grange became a nation-wide sensation and superstar. Following his career at Illinois, Grange is generally credited with saving the fledgling National Football League with a nation-wide barnstorming tour that drew hundreds of thousands of fans.
Red Grange will forever be a focal point as fans enter Memorial Stadium. Director of Athletics Ron Guenther said the UI had several great men to choose from for the proposed statue, but Grange stood out from all others.
"The University of Illinois has had many outstanding football players in its history, however, Red Grange stands alone as the greatest," Guenther said. "His 1924 performance against Michigan during the dedication of Memorial Stadium was one of the great performances in the history of college football. Additionally, the role he played in the early development of the NFL makes him truly special."
Guenther also drew a parallel with Grange and the current facility opportunities at the UI Division of Intercollegiate Athletics. Whereas Grange took advantage of the situation presented to him during the game against Michigan and the opportunities he had with the NFL, Guenther feels the UI is poised to continue growth with several facility projects on the planning board.
"Several factors are in place to position Illinois for success," Guenther said. "We have just completed our best athletic year, finishing No. 20 in the All-Sports Trophy. Our budget is stabilized and the debt service is under control. And, the sports programs have the right coaches with experienced administration. The Assembly Hall project, a 4,000-seat competition arena and an Olympic sports training center are all at the top of our list and I believe we¹re ready to take advantage of the situation and get these done."