Chief Illiniwek was officially retired by the University of Illinois, under pressure from the NCAA in 2007. That ended a decades long tradition of the Chief dancing at halftime of college football and college basketball games. The very familiar, perfect circle Chief in a headdress logo was also retired, and if you wanted to get merchandise emblazoned with this logo, it was pretty much impossible.
But today, a new Chief Illiniwek logo, and with it, a new line of Illini merch, was released today. And the University had no objections to it.
So the Chief is essentially back, although he hasn’t been as dead as you might think the past 5 years. Illini fans have kept him going.
Each year, the Council of Chiefs still selects a student to portray Illiniwek (the current Chief, U. of I. junior Ivan Dozier, is part Cherokee). Fans still cheer him in absentia. And at the occasional Illini football, basketball or volleyball game in Champaign, the Chief will still make a brief appearance in the crowd even though he’s no longer allowed by the school to perform down on the court or field.
So, while the Chief may be gone from Illinois in an official capacity, he’s far from forgotten. And, starting today, he’s about to be remembered in an entirely new way.
In what’s been a long, dispiriting year for Illini fans, filled with frustrating losses, fired coaches and failed administrators, I’m pleased to finally share some good news. Great, even, for those who still cherish Chief Illiniwek and the proud tradition that he represents.
I agree with Wisch that I also see the border of Illinois, the one covered by the Mississippi River in this logo. The designers have hit a home run with the new logo- it’s recognizable enough to appeal to the jingoistic pro-Chief folks, but distant and removed enough from the original symbol to not offend the PC police gestapo.
It’s a good logo for alums like myself- those that have no zeal for either side of the debate.
Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net, an official Google News site generating millions of unique visitors. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker, MSN and Fox Sports
A Fulbright scholar and MBA, Banks has appeared on live radio all over the world; and he’s a member of the Football Writers Association of America, U.S. Basketball Writers Association, and Society of Professional Journalists. The President of the United States follows him on Twitter (@Paul_M_BanksTSB) You should too.