Athletics and Popular Extracurriculars at the University of Illinois

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has many ways for students to get involved in campus life beyond their coursework.

While primarily academic, being in college also means meeting fellow students from different backgrounds and interests. This adds to the college experience through exposure to a more diverse group of people than most students were exposed to during high school.

College athletics and student organizations provide some of the best opportunities for social involvement outside the classroom. For new and returning the University of Illinois students interested in learning more about UIUC sports, social organizations, and clubs on campus, check out our overview below of athletics and popular extracurriculars at the University of Illinois.

What sport is the University of Illinois known for?

As with many other large public universities in the Midwest, the most popular sports at the University of Illinois are its football and men’s basketball programs.

Of the two, the men’s basketball program has historically been more successful within the U of I’s athletics conference and nationally. The Fighting Illini basketball team most recently won the Big 10 regular season championship in 2022 and was the Big 10 tournament champion in 2021. The University of Illinois had appeared in a total of 32 NCAA Tournaments for basketball, including one trip to the NCAA Finals in 2005, when the Illini lost to North Carolina 70-75.

The University of Illinois has a robust intercollegiate athletics program and offers 19 programs for undergraduate students.

The men’s athletic programs at the University of Illinois are:

  1. Baseball
  2. Basketball
  3. Cross Country
  4. Football
  5. Golf
  6. Gymnastics
  7. Tennis
  8. Track & Field
  9. Wrestling

Women’s athletic programs at UIUC include:

  1. Basketball
  2. Cross Country
  3. Golf
  4. Gymnastics
  5. Soccer
  6. Softball
  7. Swimming & Diving
  8. Tennis
  9. Track & Field
  10. Volleyball

Is the University of Illinois a Division 1 school?

Yes, the University of Illinois’ Fighting Illini is a Division I athletics program through the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and a participating Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) member for college-level football.

The University of Illinois is one of the founding members of the Big 10 athletic conference, the oldest Division I conference in the country, founded in 1896. The Big 10 was originally a Midwest-based conference but has grown recently to include schools on the east coast.

Despite its name, the Big 10 now consists of 14 member universities, including:

  1. Indiana University, Bloomington
  2. Michigan State University
  3. Northwestern University
  4. Ohio State University
  5. Pennsylvania State University
  6. Purdue University
  7. Rutgers University
  8. University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  9. University of Iowa
  10. University of Maryland, College Park
  11. University of Michigan
  12. University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
  13. University of Nebraska, Lincoln
  14. University of Wisconsin, Madison

The Big 10 is divided into two divisions, with the Fighting Illini playing in the West Division and Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Purdue, and Wisconsin. The Big 10 is set to grow to 16 schools with the additions of the University of California, Los Angeles, and the University of Southern California in 2024.

Who is the University of Illinois’s biggest rival?

The University of Illinois’ biggest rivals is the Indiana University Hoosiers in basketball and Northwestern University in football.

The Illini have been intra-conference rivals with the Hoosiers since playing their first basketball game against one another in 1906. The two teams meet annually since they are both in the Big 10 conference, and in their 100+ year history, the teams have played a total of 185 games. Indiana leads the overall series with 94 wins to Illinois’ 91 wins.

The University of Illinois’ football rivalry with the Northwestern Wildcats goes back even further than its basketball rivalry with Indiana. The Illini and Wildcats first played one another in football in 1892 and have played a total of 116 games since that initial meeting. The winner of each game takes home the Sweet Sioux Tomahawk, and throughout their rivalry, Illinois has won 57 games to Northwestern’s 54, with an additional five ending in a tie.

How many clubs are there at the University of Illinois?

There are more than 800 official student clubs and organizations at the University of Illinois.

Most of these clubs are overseen by the Office of Student Affairs and the Student Org Development & Administration (SODA), which registers student organizations on campus and manages a calendar of events available for U of I students. Student groups at the University of Illinois are organized into one of 14 categories to help students navigate all of the options available for campus involvement.

The 14 categories of student organizations at the U of I are:

  1. Academic, Honorary, & Pre-Professional
  2. Arts
  3. Athletic & Recreation
  4. Club Sports
  5. Cultural
  6. Environmental
  7. Faith, Region, & Spirituality
  8. Greek Life
  9. Ideology, Freedom Rights & Politics
  10. International
  11. Residential Life
  12. Service & Philanthropy
  13. Student Governance & Councils
  14. Veterans & Military Connected

Greek Life at the University of Illinois is also managed by the Office of Student Affairs

The most popular clubs at the University of Illinois are academic organizations focused on professional development within a student’s major or chosen career path, special interest groups, and Greek life.

More than 6,000 undergraduates participate in Greek life at the University of Illinois, making it one of the largest fraternity and sorority populations at any school in the United States.

Start your year off right at the University of Illinois

University of Illinois students of all backgrounds and interests find themselves in the same spot trying to find an off-campus apartment to call home. For the 2023 school year, there’s no better option for undergraduates than Illini Tower.

Located at 409 E Chalmers St in Champaign, IL 61820, Illini Tower is three blocks from the Main Quad and a short walk or bike from most academic buildings on-campus.

Illini Tower offers studio, two, three, and four-bedroom apartments, with single and double-occupancy options within each floor plan. The community has on-site dining, a study lounge, onsite management, and free wireless internet for all residents.

For information about pricing and availability, contact the Illini Tower team today at (217) 888-2060.