With the Big Ten Network nearing its first birthday, the channel has endured some good times, as well as bad ones (mostly good). Last season, the network followed the exploits of the Minnesota basketball program with a show entitled 'Minnesota Basketball: The Journey'. For those of you that either did not have the network, or chose not to watch the show, it went behind the scenes with coach Tubby Smith and went into practice sessions, and even team meetings. The coverage was pretty thorough, and entertaining television to say the least. To kick off their second season of coverage, the network will be following coach Ron Zook this fall with a show aptly named 'Illinois Football: The Journey'. They will begin at training camp in Rantoul and chronicle the season to give people a glimpse of what it is like to be in the inner circle of the football program. I have been fortunate the last couple of years to get a taste of this myself, but this show even goes deeper than I have access to, since normally we are not allowed into team meetings. Coach Zook is really capitalizing on the success of last season's Rose Bowl squad, and for some people, the sights and sounds of Camp Rantoul cannot get here fast enough.
The renovation of Memorial Stadium is coming along according to schedule, and with the first home game just a couple of months away, things are beginning to take shape. The promotions staff at Illinois are ahead of the game as well, as they plan on unveiling the "Zook Zone" towel (pictured at right), an orange towel to be waved at games this upcoming season. For just $7, fans can purchase one of these towels, which are currently on sale at Gameday Spirit locations across Champaign-Urbana, and will also be sold on game days outside the stadium. Of that price, $1 will go to Coaches vs. Cancer, getting Zook involved with Coach Weber and Coach Law on that front at the University of Illinois. What a sight to be seen this year with several thousand of those towels being waved in refurbished Memorial Stadium!
Speaking of the football season, if you haven't bought your season tickets for the 2008 season yet, you might want to get on that soon. The football office reported this week that season ticket sales have climbed over the 40,000 mark, which includes the reduced price horseshoe tickets, as well as the 'Zook Zone' student section. With the remodeling of the stadium, the capacity of the stadium has been decreased, leaving less tickets to be had for this season. It is amazing as to what a successful season can do to a program. Looking back at the basketball team in 2004-05 and their miraculous final four run to the national title game, and you can see how success breeds more success. Just as recently as three years ago, the football program was in near shambles, but a couple of seasons with promise, not to mention the addition of several key players to the mix, and the football program has elevated to the top of people's interest list at Illinois. Single game tickets go on sale July 22 at 9:00 am, so if you haven't purchased them yet, you still have time!