Illini Replay: Big Ten Champions

Illini 2001 Big 10 Championships. (Image courtesy of UI Athletics)

It’s been 15 years since the Fighting Illini football team hoisted the outright Big Ten Championship trophy after a 34-28 victory over Northwestern University at Memorial Stadium on Thanksgiving Day 2001. With captains such as quarterback Kurt Kittner, ’02 BUS, and center Luke Butkus, ’01 LAS, who returned this spring as an offensive line coach on Lovie Smith’s staff, the Illini won their final seven games of the regular season en route to a 10-2 overall record and a 7-1 Big Ten mark. Illinois went on to play in the Sugar Bowl against Louisiana State University and stood 12th in that season’s final AP Top 25 Poll. Members of the 2001 team, including Head Coach Ron Turner, reunited at Memorial Stadium this past June to celebrate one of the greatest campaigns in Illinois football history.