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Illinois Spring Football: Tips to Enjoying the Spring Game

The Illinois Spring Game offers Illini Football fans a unique experience. Here’s how to take advantage of your time there.

NCAA Football: Illinois Spring Game Mike Granse-USA TODAY Sports

Illinois Football’s 2019 Spring Game Details:

When: Saturday, April 13 at 2 p.m. CT

Where: Memorial Stadium

What: An Orange and Blue scrimmage followed by a 45-minute long autograph session with the players and coaches on the field. Prior to the game, beginning at noon, there will be a “Family Fun Fest” where kids can test their abilities and play football-related games and drills.

There’s also a merchandise sale from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. that day with official Illini gear from GameDay Spirit Fan Store. The temporary popup will be located on the north end of the Great West Hall of Memorial Stadium.

Price: Free admission and parking for those wanting to sit on the West side of the stadium. There is a “Premium Seating” experience available in the Colonnades Club and the 77 Club for $10. For more details regarding that, see the press release.

Tips To Enjoying The Day

Get there early and walk around the stadium, inside and outside

Illinois gamedays in the fall can be hectic and getting inside, depending on the particular Saturday (or Friday night), can be stressful and crowded. The Spring Game offers Illini fans and students a chance to get up close and personal to the stadium with a smaller crowd and a more open, lax experience.

The 96-year-old stadium is historically significant in the context of college football lore. The features such as the columns, the Grange Rock and the illustrations of former players high above the entrance gates are things fans usually don’t get the time to see in detail and appreciate during a game day. At the Spring Game, take it slow. Get there early and marvel at all of the nuances of the structure that make Memorial Stadium (despite its common name) unique.

Sit close

Photo from my seat at the 2015 Spring Game

This is pretty obvious, but seating is first come-first serve at the Illini Spring Game. Sit closer than you normally would during an actual game. The earlier you can arrive to the stadium, the better your chances of sitting as close to the field as possible.

Take the roster printout and try to follow along, make your own observations

Upon entering the stadium, someone will likely hand you a sheet of paper listing the entire spring football roster, along with the players’ numbers, year in school and their hometown/high school. No matter what you do, TAKE IT!

Maybe this was the aspiring sports journalist in me, but whenever I’d go to an Illinois Spring Game as a student and then as an alumnus, i’d always try to follow the game as closely as I could with the corresponding roster in my hand. Who’s playing quarterback and which of the quarterbacks is most accurate? Which offensive player seems to be the most dangerous with the ball in his hands? Who are the coaches “coaching up” the most on the sidelines?

On defense, how do the new linebackers look? Do last year’s freshmen seem to be more comfortable in their more solidified roles as sophomores? Which unit (linemen, linebackers, secondary) looks the strongest? Which defensive ends explode off of the edge fastest? Are any particular players getting in the offensive backfield repeatedly?

If you’re reading this blog, you likely are a knowledgeable fan who wants to know the answers to those questions leading up to summer practice. The Spring Game is a unique opportunity where you yourself can go and make judgements with no previous scouting experience necessary. For football nerds like us, that’s a pretty fun thing to do on a Saturday afternoon.

Bring the kiddos to get items autographed and meet the players and coaches

Take advantage of the autograph session offered once the Spring Game is over. The age gap between your child and the Illini college football players is pretty small if you think about it — yes, even those 300+ pounders are 18 to 21 years old!

Illini athletes do great things in the community. They visit the sick in hospitals, they help feed the homeless and interact with those with disabilities and special needs. Generally speaking, the athletes take great pride in interacting with and getting to know you and your family. Those relationships count for more than a signed poster or signed football, and at the Spring Game you can get both!

Last but not least, check the weather and be prepared

April and May are the two most unpredictable months when it comes to weather. Check the weather in the days leading up to the Spring Game and the morning of before you head out the door.

Be prepared. Check for updates on the football team’s official twitter account. Any last minute cancellations, moving around of certain events and all other updates will be posted there in real time.

Have a Blast!

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