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Know thy enemy, Rutgers: Why they love Illinois

Yes, this week they’re the “enemy”. But they are also fans - nay, people - who love their school. And as we’re doing all season, we’re telling you why. Today: Oskee-wow-wow! (don’t ask)

NCAA Football: Murray State at Illinois Mike Granse-USA TODAY Sports

We love Rutgers. Why? Lots of reasons, personal, professional, emotional. But the people we play, their fans, love their schools, too. Why? Each week we’ll tell their story. Today with go with this week’s Homecoming opponent, the University of Illinois. Doing the honors, this week we got the Illini’s NYC Alumni President Kelly Belford to compile some consensus responses from a group of alums gathered for a watch party earlier this season.0

OTB: Why did you decide to go to UI ?

The NYC Illini: Illinois was ranked higher academically in more fields than any other school I applied to. Fell in love with the campus on my first visit.

OTB: Do you love Illinois now and why?

The NYC Illini: Of course, because of all of the great memories I have of being there.

It is consistently ranked high in many fields, particularly Engineering and Accounting, and is in the top 25 universities in THE WORLD in number of Nobel prize winners.

Illinois is important to millions of people and they don't even know it - our alumni are responsible for many Internet platforms that we use every day: YouTube, PayPal, Yelp!, Safari, Firefox, just to name a few.

OTB: Were you a sports fan while at UI ?

The NYC Illini: Yes, we were in "Block I" (the card stunt section within the student section at football games, which has 2000 members and performs during halftime).

OTB: What was the best thing about being on campus? (e.g. location, the people, the food, whatever)

The NYC Illini: Good mix of campus-related and local Midwestern activities (apple picking, corn mazes, barn dances, etc.)

Everything you needed (academics, social life, sports) was within walking distance - it's very self-contained.

OTB: What was the best thing to happen to you (or in general) while you were at Illinois ?

The NYC Illini: Had the opportunity to organize and lead a Habitat for Humanity relief effort, for those affected by the Alabama tornadoes, through the University.

Got an Internship at the New York Times.

Driving across the country (from Illinois to Pasadena) with my best friends when Illinois was in the Rose Bowl!!

OTB: Tell me one or two really cool or important things about the Champaign ?

The NYC Illini: The University brings diversity to the town that is evident in its school districts, restaurants, and cultural events.

OTB; How does/did Illinois make you feel a part of the school as an undergraduate? How about now as an alum?

The NYC Illini: On the envelope of my acceptance letter, the word "BELONG" appeared in big letters - it really made me feel like I belonged there.

There are so many diverse RSOs (Registered Student Organizations) that you can always find others with similar interests. Or, if you want to start your own RSO, you can get financial help from the University.

OTB: How important is it to you personally being a graduate of UI ?

The NYC Illini: It's one of the top five most important things in my life, and helps to define me as a person.

I'm extremely proud to be an alumnus of the U of I, because it continues to be one of the most respected universities in the world.

Kelly was an enthusiastic supporter of our effort in this series - one of the first to reply, in fact - and we truly appreciate her taking the time to gather the information.

Now what does Oskee-wow-wow mean?

Illinois at a glance

History: The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is one of the original 37 public land-grant institutions created after President Lincoln signed the Morrill Act in 1862.

Enrollment: 32,579 undergraduate, 11,024 graduate

Location: The university is in the twin cities of Champaign and Urbana (total population 207,000) in east-central Illinois, situated about 140 miles south of Chicago

Academics: 15 Colleges and Instructional Units

Athletics: Ten men's and 11 women's (NCAA) teams with 14 major facilities including Memorial Stadium (62,000 seating)