Today marks the start of our student section Q&A series. Over the next few weeks we'll be taking an in-depth look at the various student sections at Illinois--first up on our agenda is football's Block I. Block I's VP Josh Carlson along with Co-Chairs Jen Woodyard and Nick Robinson took the time to answer a few questions for us about the heart and soul of Illinois football.
The Champaign Room: So to start off, what exactly is Block I? How is it different than regular student season tickets?
Josh Carlson, Block I VP: Block I is the official student cheering section for the University of Illinois football team; this season marks our 104th year. We've been nationally recognized for our excellence as a student section and we pride ourselves on our history/tradition. Block I is student run and is one of many cheering sections that belongs to Illini Pride. Our oldest game day tradition is our famous Card Stunt Show at halftime of each game (Nick will go into more detail about that later on). Block I may sit in the North Endzone, but we're responsible for creating the atmosphere in Memorial Stadium and leading the support for our boys in Orange & Blue.
The Champaign Room: Being 104 years old, Block I is one of the oldest football student sections in the nation. Are there any ongoing traditions that the group has?
Nick Robinson, Block I Chair: As you said, Block I has been in Memorial Stadium for 103 going on 104 years now. One of our longest running traditions and part of our claim to fame is our halftime card stunts. We've been doing these card stunts every game since 1925 (capes were used instead of cards from 1910-1925), and they've changed a lot since then. Block I is one of three student sections in the country that does halftime card stunts. The others are the University of California and some school from Columbus, Ohio whose name escapes me. We've got some stunts that are traditions within the tradition as well, such as the fan favorite "CHUG" stunt. Besides card stunts, William Tell is one of our older traditions. It looks really cool up in the North Endzone.
Lastly, there are a few newer things that you can call "tradition". One such thing would be the Block I Dance which was started two years ago. Another recent addition would be the Illini Walk, which isn't really Block I specific, but often sees us as the last line of people slapping five with our players as they head into the stadium.
Interested in Card Stunts? You can check out all the stunts from the 2013 season here on Block I's Facebook page.
Jen Woodyard, Block I Chair: If they want, members can start the day off at our tailgate where they will get free food (usually hot off the grill or griddle) and we have games to play and footballs to toss around while they hang out with friends and make new ones! The atmosphere inside the stadium is exciting as the players get pumped and Block I members file into the North End Zone. Once the game begins and the band gets going, Block I fills with noise and movement as everyone does the cheers and dances. Card stunts at the half make for a very unique Illinois experience. Overall, game day is full of excitement and fun cheering for our guys!
The Champaign Room: Does the Block I experience extend beyond Saturdays?
Josh: YES, the Block I experience is more than just cheering on the Illini every Saturday. We start earlier in the week with our weekly (on weeks of home games) Sideline Sessions. This newly rebranded tradition was formerly the Block I Pep Rallies. Now, Block I meets on the sideline every Thursday night in Memorial Stadium before starting a unique session that will change every week. For example, last season members had the opportunity to live out their dreams of being on the football team by trying on actual Illinois football equipment. Expect some great new events and experiences at Sideline Sessions this year! Block I also hosts watch parties for some of the bigger games of the year (Nebraska this season for sure).
The Champaign Room: So how exactly do you join Block I?
Jen: Block I is actually quite easy to join! When students buy their season tickets, they should opt to buy Block I instead of the regular student season tickets. While the initial extra cost of $35 for Block I tickets might seem like a lot, the benefits are worth it. Upon purchase, students automatically receive their Illini Pride membership, which gives them access to all the other Olympic Sports, in addition to all the great benefits you've read about above. If you ask me, it's well worth the extra money!
The Champaign Room: Do you have any other unique information that you'd like our readers to know?
Nick: Block I is also one of a few student sections that takes an annual all-expense-paid road trip with its members to an opposing Big Ten campus--we're really excited that we can offer that to our members. It's a chance that not a lot of college students get to have! We go spend a day on another campus to explore, find some unique college town restaurants, and experience the all-around atmosphere of other college game days.
Lastly, and this is one of Block I's best/unknown opportunities, is the Blockhead tradition. We've had Blockheads since Block I started, and Block I is what it is today and what it has been for these 103 years because of their contributions. Blockheads keep the student section running behind the scenes whether it's preparing for tailgates, card stunts, or any of our other events. All of us (Jen, Josh, and myself) were blockheads and it was a great experience and was a major influence on our love for Block I. It's a great tradition and we can't thank our past, current, and future blockheads enough for everything they do.
The Champaign Room: One last question for you all to answer (and it may be the most important). Do the Illini go bowling this year?
Josh: Rose Bowl 2015!
Jen: I say yes! I think 6 wins is definitely within our reach this year and I think Coach Beckman, his staff, and all the players have been working really hard to make that goal a reality.
Nick: Yes! We have a great home schedule coming up this year and the conference slate sets us up nicely to do well on the road.
I'd like to give a HUGE thank you to Jen, Josh, and Nick for taking the time to answer these questions! If you're interested in more information, you can follow Block I on Twitter at @IllinoisBlockI.
I can't stress enough how amazing the Block I experience is--and I'm not saying that just to say it. Nothing else in the world comes close to a college football game day. I enjoyed Block I so much my freshman year that I'll be participating in Blockheads for this upcoming season. My advice for incoming students is to buy your Block I tickets; it'll be one of the best decisions you make during your time at Illinois!