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State Stix

100 years of football

Among the Illinois institutions that completed their first century in 1990 were the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the United Mine Workers and the Chicago City News Bureau. Although all of these have their backers, none can match in noise and number the fans of the University of Illinois' 100-year-old Fighting Illini. The Illini played their first game on October 2, 1890, against Illinois Wesleyan. The score was Illinois Wesleyan 16, Illini 0. In those early years faculty members were allowed to play, and schools even had paid athletes on their teams. However, everything got straightened out on February 8, 1896, when a conference of large midwestern universities (later to be called the Big Ten) was created in Chicago to supervise the conduct of athletics.

Sources: UI Sports Office. Urbana-Champaign;Illinois College Blueboys 1990 Official Football Game Program, Jacksonville.

Oskee wow-wow, Illinois!

Lake Forest College, an early member of the Big Ten, was soon replaced by Michigan State. The University of Chicago defected from the Big Ten after the 1939 season so that it could spend more time on other activities, such as building the world's first nuclear reactor under the west stands of the athletic field. This meant Chicago's coaching genius, Clark Shaughnessy, had to go to Stanford to perfect the T formation. His departure was just the beginning of what later came to be called the brain drain. But in Urbana-Champaign, the Fighting Illini are still fighting. As of November 5, they seemed bound for another winning season, tough they'd probably lost their bid for the Rose Bowl. Their all-time Rose Bowl record is 3-1. They beat UCLA 45-14 in 1947, Stanford 40-7 in 1952, Washington State 17-7 in 1964 and were defeated by UCLA 45-9 in 1984.

Sources: Blueboys; 1990 Illinois v Southern Illinois University, September 22, 1990; and Hikok, Ralph, New Encyclopedia of Sports, 1977.

Another centenarian

The Illinois College Blueboys played their first football game against Whipple Academy in Jacksonville on November 8, 1890, winning by a score of 6-0. They played two other games that year against the Illinois School for the Deaf and lost both of them, thus ending the season with a 1-2 record. This year the Blueboys have won 4 and lost 5. Among their great wins was a 1963 upset of the Washington University Bears, a St. Louis team with about as many players as Illinois College had students.

Source: Jim Murphy, Public Relations. Illinois College; and Blueboys.

How the Blueboys got their name

The Blueboys probably got their name from Illinois College's strong Union sympathies. In pre-Civil War days, the college was well-known in Jacksonville as an abolitionist stronghold and was part of the underground railroad. One of the campus houses had a tunnel running to nearby Mauvaiseterre Creek. During one of the Civil War years, there were hardly any students on campus because they had all gone to fight for the Union.

Source: Same as above.

Mr. Illinois football

Ray Eliot coached the Fighting Illini from 1942 - 1959. His record was 83 wins, 73 losses and 13 ties for a career average of .532. His great players included three-time All-American guard Alex Agase; All-American halfback Buddy Young, who in 1944 tied "Galloping Ghost" Red Grange's 1924 record of 13 touchdowns in a season; and kicker Dike Eddleman, who played in the 1947 Rose Bowl, the 1949 NCAA Basketball Final Four and won a bronze metal for high jump in the 1948 Olympics.

Before Eliot went to UI, he coached for Illinois College, including a 6-1 season in 1934. During his stay at Illinois College, he changed his last name from Nusspickel to Eliot. As Ray Nusspickel he had been an Illini guard under coach Bob Zuppke in 1930 and 1931.

Sources: 1990 Illinois: and Blueboys.

Football's first huddle

There's a very good chance that the huddle, as used in football, was invented during an 1893 game between the Illinois School for the Deaf (ISD) and Jacksonville High School. The first half had gone badly for ISD's Tigers because many of the Jacksonville players and their fans knew sign language and were picking up on the plays. The Tigers decided that in the second half they would get close together in a small group when they gave out the plays so that nobody could see what they were signing.

Source: Jim Bonds, LSD football coach (1957-1981: 117 wins, 64 losses); 1969 M.A. thesis. History of Football at the Illinois School for the Deaf, 1969 University of Missouri, Kirksville.

The Taylorville Independents

Christian County's football king, just before and just after World War I, was coach Grover Hoover of Taylorville High School. In 1907 and 1910 he had 15-0 seasons, earning the Taylorville Tornados the title of "Champions of Illinois." Later Hoover forged his former high school stars into the Taylorville Independents. They fielded teams from 1914 through 1917, winning 46 out of 47. Their defeat came at the hands of another independent team, the Moline Indians. After time out for World War I, play resumed in 1919 with a 7-1 season. The single loss was to Decatur's Staley team, which went to Chicago to become the nucleus for the Chicago Bears. Hoover retired in 1921 after another no-loss season.

Source: Scott Hoover, History of Christian County, Sesquicentennial Edition. 1968: Production Press, Jacksonville.

The famous Carlinville game

During Hoover's final season, football fans in Macoupin County decided to make a little money on the Carlinville-Taylorville game by bringing in nine Notre Dame varsity members to wear Carlinville's jerseys. Learning of this strategy, Taylorville retaliated by bringing in an equal number of Illini. Hoover held them in reserve, however, and played his hometown boys, leading at the end of the first half by a score of 7-0. The Illini then went in to mop up Notre Dame for a final score of 16-0.

Source: Same as above.

General funds: Time to punt?

The general funds end-of-month balance in October was $150.527 million; the average daily available balance was $230.279 million.

Source: Office of the Comptroller.

State jobless rate plunges

In October the nation's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate remained at 5.7 percent. Illinois' rate fell to 5.9 percent from 7.2 percent, the biggest drop since August 1983.

The state's civilian work force consisted of 6.034 million people; 5.676 million had jobs (a record for the month, thanks to construction, education and retail trade); 358,000 were unemployed.

Final unemployment rates in August for the state's metro areas were:

Aurora-Elgin, 6.0 percent.
Bloomington-Normal, 4.2 percent.
Champaign-Urbana, Rantoul, 3.9 percent.
Chicago, 6.2 percent.
Davenport, Rock Island, Moline (Illinois sector), 6.6 percent.
Decatur, 7.1 percent.
Joliet, 6.9 percent.
Kankakee, 7.2 percent.
Lake County, 4.0 percent.
Peoria, 6.3 percent.
Rockford, 6.0 percent.
Springfield, 4.6 percent.
St. Louis (Illinois sector), 7.7 percent.

Source: Department of Employment Security.

Margaret S. Knoepfle

December 1990/Illinois Issues/5

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