Chief Illiniwek was the official symbol of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign associated with the University's intercollegiate athletic programs for over 80 years and was officially retired by the university in 2007.
Even though it has almost been five years since he last performed on the field of play at an Illinois sporting event, heated conversation and controversy still exists regarding this iconic figure.
The latest hot spot in the debate regarding Chief Illiniwek is the potential removal of the "Three in One" from the half-time performances of the Marching Illini. This arrangement consists of three original songs entitled "The March of the Illini", "Hail to the Orange", and "Pride of the Illini".
According to the Daily Illini's Hannah Meisel, Robert Warrior, director of American Indian Studies submitted a letter to Robert Easter, who was the interim chancellor, asking him to cease playing "American Indian-themed music".
In the letter, Warrior stated that the playing of such music serves no benefit other than inciting individuals with strong feelings regarding this matter. In the letter, Warrior stated that School of Music Director and faculty "are prepared to replace the current music with a march written by John Phillip Sousa."
Following the men's basketball team season opener against Loyola on November 11th, calls for change heated up.
After attending the game—and seeing the women's soccer team join the Orange Krush student section for the 3-in-1—Abigail Broga, a retired assistant dean, discussed via e-mail with athletic administration her being "extremely disturbed to see them stay and join the Krush in enthusiastically clapping" during the 3-in-1.
This thread was eventually shared with Chancellor Phyllis Wise and Athletic Director Mike Thomas. In response to the concern, Wise replied, “Need to continue to work on this."
An on-line petition entitled "Illinois Leaders: Stop The Presence of Chief Illiniwek. New Mascot Now!" which has now expired, had 527 signees.
While the petition letter focuses on the Chief, there is one paragraph that calls for the elimination of the Three-In-One.
It states as follows: “We demand an immediate end to the band’s playing the Chief’s Dance music—known as the ‘Three-In-One’—at halftime, and to create a halftime show that does not offer an opportunity for the current unofficial ‘chief’ to perform in the stands.”
Due to the recent correspondences, fans of the medley and the rich tradition of the song have been asked to sign an on-line petition titled “Chancellor of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: Stop Changes to the 3-in-1 Medley”. It has so far gathered more than 3,700 signatures.
Only time will tell if next fall the alumni and fans will get to hear the band play the 3-in-1 and sing:
Hail to the Orange,
Hail to the Blue,
Hail Alma Mater,
Ever so true,
We love no other,
So let our motto be,
Victory, Illinois Varsity