CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The University of Illinois chancellor says dropping the school’s “war chant” at sporting events was ultimately his call and that there aren’t plans to eliminate the Fighting Illini nickname or a popular band medley referring to Native Americans.
Chancellor Robert Jones told The News-Gazette the chant no longer motivated football fans as historically intended. He also said it was used less than in previous years and that some people found it offensive.
The decision to stop using the chant’s music was made at the end of last football season, said Kent Brown, a spokesman for the athletic department. It wasn’t publicized until last week when athletic department representatives asked members of the student group Illini Pride to stop playing the song on a drum at a soccer game. The school’s band, the Marching Illini, had played the cadence at football games.
University of Illinois Athletic Director Josh Whitman wrote an open letter Monday defending the university’s decision, saying the move “serves as a significant step toward a more unified University of Illinois.”
“I know that we are much bigger than a drumbeat,” Whitman wrote.
Jones said the school hasn’t had “systematic discussions” about the band medley composed of “Pride of the Illini,” ”March of the Illini” and “Hail to the Orange.”
“I can assure you I never had those discussions. It’s not part of what I’m thinking about, and I just want to be very clear about that,” Jones said. “That’s a tradition that’s critically important and predates a lot of the issues that people are concerned about.”
Information from: The News-Gazette, http://www.news-gazette.com