Her dad no longer is the coach. But for Emily Weber, cheering on the Illini remains a passion.
INDIANAPOLIS — The last time Emily Weber shook her orange and blue pom poms at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, things couldn’t have gone much worse.
First, the team she cheered for lost to Iowa in the 2012 Big Ten tournament.
Then, 24 hours later, her dad lost his job.
But there was Bruce Weber’s daughter Thursday, back doing somersaults in her Illinois cheerleading outfit while her father’s successor improved to 2-0 in Big Ten tourney openers.
“It’s kind of weird being back here because of it was kind of the end with everything with my dad,” Emily Weber, now a UI senior, said after rooting on John Groce’s Illini to a 64-54 win over Indiana.
You couldn’t blame her for being a little distracted Thursday. Her job was in Indianapolis but her heart was in Kansas City, where Bruce Weber’s Kansas State Wildcats had a conference tournament game of their own. Just her luck: Dad’s game tipped off at 11:30 a.m., midway through the first half of the Illini’s.
Her cheerleading coach, Stephanie Record, normally keeps her up to speed on what’s happening with Kansas State. Not Thursday, though.
“Her phone died, so it was a little frustrating,” Weber said. “I can’t wait to get back to my phone so I can find out what’s going on. I hope they won.”
They didn’t. The Wildcats lost their third game in a row, 91-85 to Iowa State, making the next three nights anxious ones for fans of her father’s team. Selection Sunday looms, and the Wildcats (20-12) are headed in the wrong direction.
It’s been a strange couple of years for the 2010 Centennial High School graduate. But despite what happened with her dad, Weber has maintained her loyalty to Illinois.
“At first, it was really, really hard to come back,” she said. “But this is my school and I have to be loyal to that. It’s a different feeling — obviously not as big a connection as when your dad is the coach — but I still love the guys on the team that I’ve known for all these years.”