We asked Redbirds to share some of their favorite memories and what they remember of their time at Illinois State University. With so many stories, the Redbirds Remember series showcases what Redbirds remember most about their alma mater. Whether you graduated five years ago or 50 years ago, ISU was, at one point, your home away from home. The ISU community would not be the same without the Redbirds who have come through and made their mark at the University.

Since ISU’s founding in 1857, athletics have been a key component in the University’s success. Some sports have been offered at ISU since the beginning, while others have been added or changed. Today, there are over 400 Redbird student-athletes that compete in 19 sports, primarily in the Missouri Valley Conference. Although Redbird student-athletes and fans have come and gone, their legacies live on with championship titles and Redbird pride from near and far. Many Redbirds reflected on their time being a part of Redbird sporting event.

Many remember watching wins from the stands of basketball and football games, especially those that took them closer to championships.

Rachel Taylor at a football game at Hancock Stadium.

“I attended every home football and basketball game,” said Jenn Harty ’98. “What was the most memorable moment? When we went to March Madness!”

“I loved going to the basketball games. The best was watching them beat Bradley with Coach Dick Versace,” said Wilburn Wilkins ’84.

Rachel Taylor ’18 reminisced on football in the fall and said, “We made it to the national championship in Texas my freshman year. All of the postseason home games were packed full, and it was so awesome to be a part of the student section!”

ISU women’s golf team huddling up before the Redbird Invitational at Weibring Golf Club in 2017.

The student section has always been renowned in the sense that they are the voice and passion supporting student-athletes. Other Redbirds also recalled their times cheering on Redbird sports teams, being faithful fans, and loving every second of it.

Some Redbirds also remember their time competing and look back on those memories fondly.

“Our home tournament was so special because so many people from the Redbird community came out to watch us compete,” said former women’s golfer Morgan Savage ’20. “It was the only time we competed at Weibring during the year, so it meant a lot to have so much support.”

The Doug Collins era of Redbird basketball is not lost on Redbird sports fans. Some Redbirds’ best memories with ISU basketball include Collins and the legacy he left in Redbird athletics.

Doug Collins on the court in 1970.

“I would sleep out on the sidewalk in front of the bookstore in order to score tickets the next morning for Redbird basketball with Doug Collins and Ricky Whitlow,” said Mark Wilkening ’74.  

“I didn’t miss a single home game or nearby road game of Doug Collins’ last year,” said John Fullerton ’76. “We became known as the Calvin Harper cheering section. He was Collins’ protector.”

“I only attended one basketball game, and it was to see Doug Collins play,” said Mary Stayner ’74. “I was always too busy studying, but I wanted to see him play basketball!”

Sporting events also brought unexpected, but memorable moments to Redbirds in the stands.

Redbird student section at a basketball game in Redbird Arena.

“I conducted the concert choir, band, and the fans in the bleachers on Parents Day in the ISU Hymn,” said David Reece ’82. He still remembers the opening words of “Glory hast thou, might and power.”

“I first went to basketball games at McCormick Gym,” said James Ensign ’65. “I remember seeing Fred Marberry diving into the stands trying to save a ball. A picture made national news!”

“In 2009, Reggie got hit square in the nose by the football that our team kicked from the other side of the field,” said Hannah Cottingham ’13.

As an alum, even though your time as a student at ISU has ended, you will always be a Redbird on and off the field, and you will have a place in the stands. It is safe to say that Redbird athletics would not be what it is today without you. Go you Redbirds!