Ready or not … UI homecoming is here

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Ready or not … UI homecoming is here

Who invited Wisconsin's big, bad Badgers over for Illinois' homecoming?

In a break from college football tradition, the team on the other side of the field Saturday at Memorial Stadium will be 7-0, ranked No. 5 in the country and favored to win by a bundle. It's not a campus first (Michigan State wrecked the party in 2013, winning 42-3 here on its way to the Big Ten title) but it's hardly the norm (since 2007, Illinois' homecoming opponents have gone a combined 37-36 in league play).

While the conference office has a big say in who plays whom when, it's a campus committee — with representatives of the chancellor's office, student services, the alumni association and athletics — that slots dates for special events like homecoming and Dad's Weekend. "It really isn't opponent-driven," athletics spokesman Kent Brown said Sunday, but "more about dates."

Other storylines heading into the big weekend:

1. Among the 39 entries in Friday's parade around the construction zone that is Campustown: the self-described "Flying Illini" (not Kenny Battle & Co. but the Air Force ROTC); the fair queens of Fisher and four counties (including Champaign and Vermilion); and the UI chapter of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, whose float is described as Lovie Smith's head and shoulders "lowering a cage over a badger to symbolize dominating Wisconsin."

2. Also set to make a return appearance, riding in a blue convertible: Chief Illiniwek himself, accompanied by four candy-carrying helpers and brought to you by the Honor the Chief Society (but not the university).

3. For the first time since Champaign's Doug Lavey in 2013, the 20-student homecoming court includes a homegrown member: James Scholar Maria Climaco (left), the pride of Arcola. The community health major and chemistry minor has a resume as long as the parade route. The short version: co-coordinator of the Filipino Americans Coming Together Conference, research assistant at the Infant Cognition Lab, volunteer at Carle and intern at the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District.

4. Out-of-towners making last-minute plans to travel here should be prepared to pay a premium. Of the 17 C-U hotels with rooms available when we checked Expedia Sunday: Extended Stay America, where the rate for one queen bed for one night, with taxes, totaled $374.02.5 Your 2017 Lou Liay Spirit Award winner: global animal health consultant John Volk (Class of '67). Your Illini comeback guests: retired Sam Diego transportation engineer Tom Larwin ('65), MillerCoors sports/entertainment associate marketing manager Emily Gardner ('05) and 20-year CDC medical professional Robert Gaynes ('75). Ad your grand marshal for a parade that takes off at 6 p.m. from Sixth Street and Lorado Taft Drive: former All-Pro NFL receiver Brandon Lloyd.

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Pointblank wrote on October 23, 2017 at 7:10 am
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How can the university sponsor a parade and have Chief Illiniwek in it?

Illiniwek222 wrote on October 23, 2017 at 12:10 pm

Most of the people attending the parade as well as the vast majority of returning alumni will be Chief supporters, so why not?

honor9chief wrote on October 29, 2017 at 5:10 pm

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