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An Illini Student’s Guide to Football Gameday

Everything you need to know before your first game as an Illini.

NCAA Football: Cincinnati at Illinois Bradley Leeb-USA TODAY Sports

Read our Student Guide to Basketball Gameday here.

As an incoming senior, I have been a student at Illinois for some of the most successful years of Illinois Football in the past two decades. From top-10 victories to competing for a spot in the Big Ten Championship, Illinois football has provided me a fair share of joy, along with an overwhelming amount of heartbreak.

Unlike its more popular brother sport across the street, not every student considers themselves a “die-hard” football fan as some unfortunately become disenfranchised with the team. For those who stick with it, they find a dedicated fanbase where the joys are that much sweeter.

As this season draws closer, this article will provide a complete guide for incoming and current Illinois students about the typical student gameday for both the die hard and casual fans.

The Die Hard

The Illinois Student section, the Block I, has more than 100 years of history, as it began in 1910. It was called the Block I because, as the student section was in the middle of the stands, students would hold up wooden squares creating the design of a block I.

After being stopped for World War 2, the Block I was reinstated and gradually expanded. During these golden years of Illinois football, the student section became known for both being one of the best student sections in the country and holding up cards which created elaborate designs.

In 2007, after the construction of the North End Zone, the student section was moved from the stands to this standalone section, which it is placed to this day.

In an interview last October, Bret Bielema advocated for moving the student section behind the opponent’s bench but “it’s nowhere close.” Due to its placement right behind the Illinois band which is far away from the field, the Illinois student section isn’t one of the louder student sections in the country, even when at fully capacity.

Becoming a part of the Block I is a relatively easy task. For Illinois football student season tickets, it costs $85, which gives you access to all 7 home games. This is the 10th-cheapest offer among Big Ten Schools with Ohio State costing the most at $238 and Indiana one of the cheapest at $70. Season student tickets are still being sold today and for students who buy football season tickets, they will have early access to basketball student tickets.

Besides buying season student tickets, the university sells student section tickets for each individual game, or you can buy a ticket from a friend.


So you have secured a ticket for the student section. For die-hard fans, gameday can begin at a variety of places depending on the weather and time of game.

For games like Homecoming and Dad’s Weekend, Grange Grove is the main tailgating location. Often fraternities, clubs and other organizations host tailgate prior to gameday which is a great place to begin gameday, especially when the weather is nice. Around two hours before the game, the “Illini Walk” will occur where the team will walk through Grange Grove into Memorial Stadium. While tailgating is common, it is more popular for students to go to the bars before a football game and then slowly make their way to the stadium.

Regardless of where you begin your gameday, you have found your way to the stadium. When you enter the stadium, you will need to show your ticket and if the student section is sold out, they will require you to show your student ID.

Unlike basketball, the Illinois student section does not fill up very fast. I have gotten front row seats for a primetime game when arriving 20 before kickoff. Eventually, the student section and the general stands will (hopefully) fill creating a gameday atmosphere.

Once the game begins: you have one job, be loud.

The Casual

Unlike a diehard fan, the casual fan will buy their ticket the week of the game or the day off. The chances that a casual fan will attend the game will significantly increase if it is a Homecoming/Dad’s Weekend game or the weather is nice.

Similarly, to a die-hard fan, the casual will start their day just like the diehard, expect probably much closer to gametime spending significantly more time enjoying the bar and the gameday atmosphere.

Around 5 minutes before kickoff, the casual fan will find their way into the stadium and eventually find seats towards the top of the student section if it’s a busy game. As these students have probably never been to an Illinois football game before, lets preview some traditions and chants prior and during the game.

Pregame Chants

As it gets closer to gametime, if it is a big game like Iowa or Minnesota last year, the student section will fill up. After the hype video, Illinois will run onto to the song Thunder by AC/DC while smoke flairs are lit in the student section and infront of the players. After the opposing team runs on the field to Imperial March from Star Wars, the game will begin shortly. While the ball is kicked off, it’s a tradition to shake you keys in the air. Not entirely sure why we do this, but hey its tradition.

In-Game Chants

  • ILL-INI: A classic chant (self-explanatory)
  • Oskee Wow-Wow (Clap left to right)
  • Three In One (From Marching Illini during Halftime)
  • William Tell- Put your arms around the neighbor and hop from the left to the right
  • Low Brass- Scream “Oh Yeah” while hip thrusting side to side. Probably the student’s sections favorite chant.
  • Card stack- Probably the most famous Block I tradition. This is done during halftime and for the middle two sections of the student section. As said before, everyone holds up a plastic card, creating a design.


For both diehards or casual fans, there are many places around campus to celebrate an Illinois victory. If you want to experience an Illinois tradition, icing out a blue guy at KAMs is a great way to celebrate a victory. If the line is around the block, celebrating at Red Lion or Joe’s will make due or a more chill vibe at bar’s like Legends or Murphy’s.

In the event of a monumental win, the Illinois student section will rush the field. The last time this occurred was the 2019 victory over Wisconsin. It is a bit awkward as the students had to run through the concourse to make it to the field. If the victory is at an away game, students will flood onto Green Street and throughout the Quad.


Now that you have a complete guide to Illinois football, you have no excuse to go to every game and cheer on the Illini. Even with a good team last year, the student section was rarely at capacity, even for crucial games against Michigan State and Purdue. For this upcoming season, it’s on you to attend as many games as possible to create the intimidating atmosphere that rival Big Ten Schools are known for.

And most importantly, enjoy every game. There are only so many games as a student, so scream as loud as you can and celebrate each victory.