Illinois Football Has 5 National Titles, Yes Really



When you look at the record of the current Illini head coach Ron Zook (34-45, midway through his seventh season in Champaign) and his two predecessors (Ron Turner 32-49, 8 years) and Lou Tepper (25-31-2 in 5 years), you may not think that it’s a program that can boast of multiple national titles.

The fact that those three men kept their jobs as long as they did, despite that sub .500 performance only verifies your assumption that it’s not a national championship program. However, you couldn’t be more wrong. Illinois football has five, yes FIVE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS.

Of course, these were all in the days long before the polls, the Harris interactive, and the BcS, so the term national title had a slightly different meaning.

The last one was in 1951, when the orange and blue went 9-0-1, 5-0-1 in the Big Ten. This is relevant today, because the 6-0 Illini are off to their first 6-0 start since that magical season.

And the way things are going for Illinois (and the favorability of the schedule) means 10-2 or 11-1 could be a legitimate possibility.

So the ’51 team outscored their opponents 220-83, including Stanford 40-7 in the Rose Bowl. They were captained by a guy named Charles Studley. That’s not a joke. Let’s look at the other title teams.

1927- known as the year that produced maybe the greatest MLB team of all time in that year’s edition of the New York Yankees, the Illini thrashed Butler 58-0 (I guess that wasn’t “the Butler Way” but hey they played football back then) and out-scored their opponents 152-24. Illinois finished 7-0-1, 5-0 in the Big Ten. The tie was Iowa State.

1923-The only title team with Red Grange on it. The greatest player in college football history and one of the greatest players in NFL history, Grange led team that was 8-0 with no ties.

1919-We know this year as that of the Chicago White Sox throwing the World Series, the Black Sox scandal, round these parts. But the Illini took it all that year, finishing the job that the Sox didn’t want to.

1914- the most dominant Illinois team of all. 7-0, 224-22 in point differential.

Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports, an official Google News site that generates millions of unique visitors. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, Walter, Yardbarker, and Fox Sports

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