New halftime tradition borrowed from volleyball
Documents show the new halftime tradition for men's basketball games was initiated by athletic staff borrowing an idea from the women's volleyball program.
An Oct. 27 email to athletic director Mike Thomas, from associate athletic director Warren Hood, explained that during the "Three-in-One," one of the UI's 19 athletic teams would walk on the court and lead the crowd in singing the "Alma Mater," also known as "Hail to the Orange," the second part of the so-called "Three-in-One." The plan was to have the team leave the court after the song.
"The volleyball team has a long-standing tradition of singing the 'Alma Mater' after their home contests, and I think this tradition can be incorporated at halftime of our men's basketball games as well," Hood wrote. "The crowd always participates in the song, and our teams will receive well-deserved recognition as well as being a great focal point on the court."
That idea, however, drew complaints from a retired administrator, Abigail Broga, who attended the Nov. 11 Illini game, according to emails released by the university. Broga was "extremely disturbed" to see members of the women's soccer team join the Orange Krush "in enthusiastically clapping during the 'chief dance' that ends the 'Three-in-One' halftime tradition' that the band continues to play."
She emailed Professor Christopher Span, associate dean in the College of Education, a member of the UI athletic board and a faculty representative to the Big Ten: "The team's behavior was not an exercise of an individual's First Amendment rights. It was an officially authorized and sanctioned university event."
"I truly hope the decision leading to last night's activities was made without considering all the ramifications and will be a one-time event. ... Student athletes who wish to individually support the chief have every right to do so. No student athlete should be placed in a position of having to publicly support the chief as a condition of their team membership."
Span forwarded the message to Wise and Thomas at 5:45 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 13. Wise responded to both, saying, "Need to work on this."
Thomas responded, "I will speak with the appropriate staff in the morning."
Jennifer Larson, assistant athletic director for sales and marketing, had initially advised team coaches to just let their athletes sing and "sway" to the "Alma Mater" and then come off the court.
"We need to be sensitive to not doing anything the Chief would do, so please let your team know that," Larson wrote in several emails in October and November.
She had written to soccer Coach Janet Rayfield on Nov. 11: "If you could convey to your players that the Chief is still a sensitive issue, and your team's presence in this song should not in any way imitate what the chief would do. Just need them to sing (and sway) the Hail to the Orange part and then clap to the last song."
Campus spokeswoman Robin Kaler said there are 19 athletic teams and 19 home basketball games this year, and "it just seemed like kind of a nice fit."
"There's nothing on the court during the 'Three-in-One,' and it seemed like a nice way to fill that void, and honor student athletes who do a lot to serve as ambassadors for the university," Kaler said.
This story appeared in print on Dec. 11.