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Nothing says University of Illinois Fighting Illini like Squirrels. Wait, what?

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Seriously, this story is the best

Valspar Championship - Round Two Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

I have to admit that I have not traveled to other Big Ten campuses like I wish I could have. Now that I’m in the heart of Texas, the opportunity to make those trips happen seems to be much more difficult. Nonetheless, one of the interesting parts of our yearly B1G series is researching and understanding the nuances of each school despite never actually traveling.

For example, did you know that our friends at Illinois apparently have a lot of squirrels? No? Well, let’s talk about it.

This search started innocuous enough. I jumped on Google, typed, “best majors UIUC” and started looking through the results. Most were pretty dumb and I questioned if Google had any idea what it was I was looking for.

Nonetheless, I kept going through the list until I came across a fun Noodle link. Now, I have no idea what Noodle is, but they were here to answer why a person should attend UIUC. One of the first answers? “The squirrels! They are super friendly. They will come up to you and eat out of your hand if you let them.”

This seriously had to be a thing that would be investigated and I was off. “Squirrels + UIUC” and what do you know? This article from the Illinois archives. Apparently the squirrels were domesticated on campus by University President Andrew Draper in 1901. If you want to read his thoughts, the archives have a copy of the statements here. Basically, he loved the idea of squirrels being on campus and then made it happen. So there you have it.

All of that in mind, tell me something awesome about your campus that someone high up decided to do that you just take for granted. Maybe it’s having a live animal on campus. Maybe it’s a fistulated cow. Perhaps it’s something super dumb like a plaque that says, “Through these gates...” Also, if you could add a random animal to your campus that just roamed free, what would it be? For me? I’m going with pygmy goats.

MNW: I take it for granted less now that I’m not a student there anymore, but as an undergrad I definitely didn’t adequately appreciate the Lakefill.

The Lakefill, for those of you who haven’t been to Northwestern is exactly what the name implies: A big, filled-in portion of Lake Michigan that Northwestern reclaimed in the 1960s with a seawall and put a whole bunch of green space on.


Back when I was a student, the Lakefill represented a whole bunch of the stupid undergraduate nostalgia that I hated: “Paint a rock and immortalize your shitty a capella group forever!” “Hashtag Northwestern bucket list: Watch the sun rise on the Lakefill!” “Get exercise with a great view of Chicago!”

Gag me.

Even in retrospect, I don’t wish I would’ve done those things. But I do wish I would have been a little more appreciative of how that space merely existed for us—that in the 1960s a university president (J. Roscoe Miller) had the vision to not only make Northwestern a destination, but one with world-class recreation space highlighting all the environmental jewels the campus has to offer. I’m sure our Northwestern commentariat can tell me other things I’ve completely forgotten about.

Also bring back the Goose Island beer tent. If I’m gonna watch this new Pat Fitzgerald commitment to MANBALL, I deserve to be slobberknockered on 10 free cups of Honkers Ale beforehand. [I never got to take that for granted, though, because I was in the fucking marching band and no one would ever slip me beer. THANKS FOR NOTHING, DAD.]

BRT: They decided to melt the Lil' Red costumes and secretly bury the remains under the field at Kinnick Stadium! Man, that was a great day...what? It was a dream? Damn. Well, if I was in charge, that's what I would do.

Nebraska already has a large population of feral cats on city campus. Since cats are the best animals, I would not change this.

MNW: Wait...BRT, are they like, friendly? Would they come up for a little scratch behind the ears? I’d risk the disease. The minute this research year is over I’m getting a cat.

Candystripes: I guess the thing at IU that most qualifies for this is the “World’s Greatest College Weekend”, more commonly known as Little 500, or Little 5. If you’ve seen or really just heard of the movie Breaking Away, that’s a heavily dramatized version of the focal point of Little 5, a 200 lap bike race held (currently) at Armstrong Stadium on campus. What it really ends up being is a semi-legitimate excuse to day drink for an entire week near the end of the spring semester, culminating in a daylong party on Saturday. I’ve never really heard a reason for why it happens other than “It just does”, but it keeps on rolling anyway.

Creighton M: I used to work for KRUI student radio at Iowa. It was awesome. I made a lot of cool friends, met some cool musicians for on-air interviews, got backstage passes to see Chuck Berry on homecoming and played El Scorcho so many times my director had to ban it.

The best part about working there though, and something I wish I had done way more often, was that I had roof access at Slater Hall. The transmitter for KRUI is located across the river at Slater, so we just happened to have some keys to get us up there. Every once in a while I would go up there with some friends at night and just hang out. The view is amazing; you can look east and get a great view of Iowa City. A block or two northwest is the landing pad for the hospital, so helicopters fly right over your head. It was like a secret little hangout for music snobs who didn’t get invited to cool parties.

Also one Saturday I was walking a friend home at like 5:00 AM for some ungodly reason, and strutting down the street was a tiny little fox dragging a giant rabbit with it. I hereby propose that U of I brings in many more foxes for the following reasons:

  1. This particular fox was adorable.
  2. Fewer rabbits means fewer suspended wrestlers.

Aaron Yorke: The Mifflin Streak! 40 years ago, some guy started running around naked the week before finals, and it’s been a Penn State tradition ever since. I’ve heard it’s a great way to blow off steam if you’re in one of those majors that has difficult finals. I’m also glad that Jesse brought up squirrels, because State College is also famous for the dirty little rodents. Stop feeding them, people. There’s more than enough acorns to go around.

Townie: We don’t talk about Mifflin Streak at my house... One thing PSU has is the Obelisk. A local stone mason put together the old pile of stones in 1896. As a geologist, I think it’s kinda cool, in a nerdy way. It has 281 the stones in their geological order, from oldest to youngest.

For the most part, these were building stones, used as foundations and facades in the major cities.

It has three “legends” attached to it. First, that its the market for the grave of “Old Coaly”, the mule. Old Coaly was a Kentucky mule that hauled the stone to build the Old Main building. The university bought the mule from its owner for $190 in 1863. He spent thirty years working around Campus and was the first informal mascot. He died in 1893 and the university preserved his skeleton...which is kinda gross.

The second legend is that the Obelisk marks the exact geographic center of Pennsylvania. Which is just nerdy enough to be possible.

The third legend, and the most common, is that the Obelisk will fall the first time a virgin walks by...which I know is B.S. because IceIce walked by it a million times and we know he has no game.

Kidding, just kidding.

Thumpasaurus: I’m so glad that that’s all you found related to squirrels and UIUC.

Anyway, all things considered I am reasonably happy with two things the previous athletic director did. Though he hired not one, not two, but three coaches that were quite bad and were fired, Mike Thomas implemented the Grange Grove tailgating area to liven up football pregame and get more students towards the stadium. He also was instrumental in the State Farm Center deal, and while that may have slapped a corporate name on an iconic venue, it secured the necessary funding to renovate the beloved concrete mushroom formerly known as Assembly Hall. There had been debate leading up to the deal about renovating the building, keeping it as-is or knocking it down and building a new one. I think the SFC solution is as close as possible to an optimal fix for the aging icon.