You know, I miss that old warrior, Big Chief Illiniwek, who was banished by the NCAA in 2005. Here’s an explanatory excerpt from my article of November 11, 2005:
The NCAA had some good news and some bad news for the University of Illinois today. The good news is that the university will be allowed to use its existing nicknames, “Illini” and “Fighting Illini,” which were deemed to be connected to the name of the state and thereby, not offensive. ???? ??????? 365 The bad news is that Chief Illiniwek, the mascot, must go. The penalty for keeping the big chief will be a prohibition on playing in post-season tournaments.
Well, that was then and this is now. The NCAA extortion was effective. Giving up post-season bowl games and basketball tournaments means the loss of big bucks for the athletic program. (Don’t let anyone ever tell you that it isn’t all about money.)
The Illiniwekless Illini have been alternately wreckless and feckless ever since the Big Chief was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs to toil among his other nameless, tribeless colleagues there. (The Illini tried to get tight end Tony Gonzalez for him, but the best the Chiefs would offer was one of Dick Vermeil’s game-worn coaching jockstraps.) Blocking for heap big Larry Johnson, Jr. is a thankless job (in more ways than one), but the Mighty Illiniwek has made no complaints. In this economy, a job is a job. He even tolerates the Chiefs’ version of the Florida State Tomahawk Chop, never once grousing about the warlike tribes from the Southeast Territories. Truly, Liney (as we call him here at the Turkey) is a bighearted brave, and a fearless leader of men. In The Cave on Saturday, we will drink a toast to the Big Chief with the best firewater we can find.
Don’t stop me. I’m on a roll.