Despite being removed as the Illinois Fighting Illini logo, and mascot, following pressure from the NCAA, the Chief still holds a special place in the hearts of many long time Illini fans, and even former players.
At half time of every home football game, fans can still be heard yelling, “Chiiieeeeef”, at the appropriate time when the Fighting Illini marching band is performing their famous Three in One, and former players such as longtime NFL offensive lineman Dave Diehl who can often be heard during player introductions on live tv saying that he hails from “The University of Chief Illiniwek”.
Clearly, no matter what, the Chief is still associated with Illinois even though he actually isn’t, and it doesn’t look to be going away any time soon. It’s definitely one of the more polarizing topics surrounding Illinois, and people hold strong positions on both sides of the argument. So, why write about this now?
Well, first and foremost, Writing Illini is an Illinois fan slanted site where you come to get Illini news, but more importantly our biased opinions of everything Illinois. We enjoy writing about it, otherwise we wouldn’t be doing this, and some of us grew up with fond memories of seeing the Chief perform with respect, loyalty, and honor towards the tradition that began with his first performance on October 30th, 1926. Even though he has no official affiliation with the University of Illinois anymore, he will always be remembered by fans that had the opportunity to see him perform.
Personally, I understand both sides of the argument, but never once have I viewed this dance as a mockery, or an attempt to demean an entire race of people as some do. I’ve long viewed it as loyalty towards a tradition that lasted for 80+ years; nothing more, nothing less.
The bottom line here is that the Chief was officially removed in February of 2007, a full 2 years before my daughter was born, and because of that I never thought that she would have an opportunity to see him perform up close in person, let alone a few blocks from my house. All of that is going to change this Friday.
Writing Illini readers that are fans of the Chief that would like to see him dance at halftime of a basketball game are going to get a unique opportunity in a small town in Illinois. If you live near Paris, IL and you want to see the Chief perform up close, you need to make your way to Ernie Eveland gymnasium this Friday (12/20/13) for this special performance.
Upon hearing this news, I contacted Paris Tiger head basketball coach Shawn Nugent to find out how this came to fruition, and thought it might be interesting to get his opinion on second year head coach John Groce in the process.
RK: How did this come about?
Coach Nugent: “We are always looking to get more people in the stands and to bring more excitement to PCHS boy’s bball. I was speaking with a few other coaches I knew and one of them mentioned The Chief making appearances at games. After speaking to the athletic boosters, people in the community, and my AD, it seemed like something we wanted to try to make happen. There are a large amount of Illini grads in Edgar County and many Illini fans. So, it made sense.”
RK: Aside from taking photos/videos of the dance itself, will fans have any type of opportunity to get photos with the Chief?
Coach Nugent: “I’m not sure about photo ops. I know he will do his dance, but beyond that, I am not sure what all is offered. We are going to try to get him to make a couple laps around the catwalk in the gym like he does in Assembly Hall to get the crowd excited.”
RK: I know you are an IU fan, but is there anything in particular that you like about what John Groce has done in his first season plus at Illinois, or anything that he does that you try to bring to the Paris program?
Coach Nugent: “Coach Groce was a fantastic choice by the Illini administration and AD. I have seen him speak a couple times and he brings a lot of passion to the sport of basketball. Once he has his recruits in place, the Big Ten better watch out! We have tried to incorporate some of his offensive philosophy. His offense has great movement and spacing and that is what you need on the offensive end. We have also incorporated a few of his defensive drills into our practices.”
RK: What can Illini fans who know nothing about the Paris Tigers, or Charleston Trojans, basketball programs expect to see during the first half as they wait for the Chief to dance at halftime? Are there any particular players that they should keep an eye on during the game?
Coach Nugent: “It is always a battle when we play Charleston. They are a little down this season, but they will give us a game. Both teams like to run an up-tempo style of basketball so it should be fast paced. Paris hasn’t beaten Charleston in the last 3 seasons, but all the games have been within two or three possessions. Keep an eye on Audie Temples and Riley Spencer for Paris. They are our 2 key players.”
What: The Chief Halftime Performance
Where: Ernie Eveland Gymnasium (Paris, IL)
When: Friday December 20th, 2013 at halftime of the Varsity game
Time: JV Game Starts at 6:15 pm, Varsity Game Starts at Approximately 7:45 pm
Cost: $3 for adult / $2 for senior citizens & students k-12
Special Note: WEAR YOUR ILLINI ORANGE! It’s an Orange Out Game.