Fans and players alike know that Illinois sports just wouldn’t be the same without Illini Pride. One of the largest student organizations on campus, this group gathers all sports lovers together to cheer for our Big Ten, Division I athletic teams. We spoke to the current president of Illini Pride, Julia Greuel, to get an idea of what cheering on the Fighting Illini looks like.
Why did you get involved with Illini Pride?
“I randomly decided I was going to go to a soccer game my freshman year. They were super inviting and friendly—we even all got a picture together. The kind of environment that was at the soccer game showed me there’s a lot of spirit here at the university. That’s how I first started getting involved in Illini Pride, just as a general member.”
How many people are in Illini Pride?
“Overall, we have over 2,000 members. Any student who buys the season ticket—whether it’s the Illini Pride pass [basketball and football], basketball, or football—automatically becomes a member of Illini Pride.”
What do you think makes Illini Pride important?
“I think we really focus on promoting Illinois pride. Having pride for athletics has a strong connection to having pride for your university. Being involved in the student section is an easy way to get students from all different backgrounds in one environment where they’re all coming together to cheer for one thing.”
Can you give an example?
“Just last year our volleyball team went to the Final Four, and we brought six Spike Squad members to Minneapolis to cheer them on. A few of us knew each other fairly well, but there were three members I had never talked to. We spent a whole road trip to Minneapolis and back, and we all got to know each other super well. Now they’re some of my best friends. I think road trips are by far the best way we are able to come together, because you’re spending at least a full 24 hours together almost every trip.
“Everybody’s coming together, doing a lot of really fun things. We try and learn the other universities’ fight songs. A lot of times, especially for Orange Krush, we do incognito road trips. We’ll go to the other university and wear their school colors, try to fit in, act like students and everything. Toward the start of the game we reveal that we’re all in orange, and it’s a whole thing.”
Whoa. Are home-team fans usually shocked?
“Oh yeah. Recently we went to Indiana to watch our volleyball team play. We were sitting opposite of the student section because I actually knew some of the leaders in Indiana’s student section. I was thinking, ‘Oh no, if they see me, they’re going to know we’re here!’
“We sat on the opposite side of the gym, and a couple of actual Indiana students came to sit with us instead of them. We all felt so bad because it was just these two students who had no clue. When we revealed they just kind of awkwardly walked away, and all the parents around us were not happy that game. Some people take it well, and others get a little angry.”
What do you think sets Illini Pride apart from other school cheering sections?
“Something that is very unique to us is that we have by far the most individual sections . A lot of other schools may have a few, but no one else has as many. We have different names for all 12 of the student sections, and I think the athletes really appreciate having their own section and having that identity to connect with.”
How can new students join?
“The first step to getting involved would be to buy season tickets. I’d recommend getting the Illini Pride pass, which gets you season passes to both basketball and football. That automatically makes you a member of Illini Pride and puts you on our newsletter list so you can stay involved.
“To join Orange Krush, there is a donation fee that goes along with that, because it is actually a student-run philanthropic organization. There’s a minimum donation of $25 that you have to raise (or give yourself) to join Orange Krush. There are tiered levels of involvement, with the highest being $100. So that encourages our members to raise money. With this money we’ve supported community organizations like the Crisis Nursery in Champaign and Eastern Illinois Food Bank.
“So Orange Krush looks a little different, but when it comes to the smaller sections, you can just show up, because we’re always going to have representatives there.”
With over 1,800 registered student organizations (RSOs) at Illinois, the possibilities are endless. To learn more about Illini Pride and how you can get involved, check out their website and socials below.