From WCIA, even though the Illini didn’t win their Saturday game against North Carolina, it was a big night for Illinois football. For the first time since 2011, and Illini home game sold out, even after only one win so far this season. This includes a noticeably larger student section and what many call the return of the Illini spirit.
Most attribute the new faith in Illinois football to former NFL coach, now Illini head coach, Lovie Smith. Confidence is high that he can restore the Illini football program. Another factor is the presence of Tim Watson, a former NFL player, and his son Tre, who plays starting linebacker.
The U of I isn’t the only one benefiting from the newfound enthusiasm. Area businesses have reported massive increases in traffic. One local business which rents out parking space on game days saw three times more cars than normal for an early season game.