University of Illinois


The nickname “Illini” first appeared in 1874 as the name of the school newspaper, and was used to describe the students, faculty, staff and alumni. The term “Fighting Illini” began to refer to the sports teams during a 1921 fundraising campaign for the building of Memorial Stadium. It is unclear whether the term was originally intended to refer to the Native Americans that once resided in what is now Illinois. However, Native American imagery began accompanying the term “Fighting Illini” in the early 1900s, and became a topic of fierce controversy in the early 2000s.