One thing has changed for the University of Illinois football team in 2016 — well, in addition to the fact the new coach is former Bears coach Lovie Smith.
It’s this: Camp Rantoul — whereby the Illini stayed in Rantoul for a group of preseason practices — is kaput. Now the Illini will train for the upcoming season in Champaign-Urbana. And, as such, we felt compelled to put together a few reasons why you might want to visit an Illini practice.
1. It’s free. Yes, you can get up close to the players and coaches without paying a cent. Practices begin Aug. 4 at Memorial Stadium in Champaign and continue through Aug. 20. Most of the practices are held on the practice fields on the east side of the stadium, adjacent to Fourth Street. (Beginning Aug. 21, practices will be closed to the public.) Make sure you check the schedule before venturing to the stadium. In the case of inclement weather, practice may be moved inside and closed to the public.
2. Free parking. No, that’s not a misprint. You can park for free in the northeast State Farm Center lot off of Kirby Avenue.
3. See Lovie. Some are calling it the “Lovie Effect” and if you’ve succumbed to it, you know exactly of which we refer. The new coach seems to have injected a dose of much-needed optimism and enthusiasm for Illini football, and this will be your chance to discover the type of impact Smith is having on his players. Smith’s first official game is Sept. 3 against Murray State at Memorial Stadium.
4. Autographs. You can stick around after practice for a chance to get the autograph of Smith or your favorite player.
5. Did we mention that it’s free?
Check here for info on visiting the Chicago Bears’ preseason practices in Bourbonnais.