University of Illinois Organizational Spotlight

How Fighting Illini Athletics are Helping Student-Athletes Succeed

For University of Illinois Athletics, the I FUND serves as a way to fund scholarships for student-athletes, keep U of I athletic facilities in top-notch condition, and help student-athletes grow and develop. Furthermore, it helps to connect the Illini community with other members and athletes. Currently, I FUND Scholarships help to support the 500+ student-athletes that wear the Illini colors each year. Nearly 260 full ride scholarships are handed out each year, largely thanks to donation to the I FUND. “Capital Projects” take donated money and reinvest it in facilities for student-athletes, such as expanding the Ubben Basketball Complex, Atkins Baseball Training Center, Martin Softball Training Center, and renovating Memorial Stadium. Lastly, student-athlete development is a huge focus for the I FUND. Academic services, personal skill growth, professional training, community service (especially for children and schools), physical scare, physical and mental counseling, and travel costs are all covered in part or fully by the I FUND. 


The University of Illinois’ 50-50 raffle is sponsored by the Illini Rebounders Club. Proceeds from the raffle go to the I FUND to help student-athlete support and programming, according to the 50-50 raffle homepage. 

The Fighting Illini have created four main diversity and inclusion goals, which can be found on their webpage. The goals are to “develop an inclusive culture within the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics,” “help student-athletes navigate, learn, and grow from current controversial social issues,” “recruit and retain diverse staff,” and “diversify student spectatorship around athletic events.” Currently, the diversity and inclusion staff are helping student-athletes share their thoughts and gain exposure to different sensitive topics by hosting “Real Talk” sessions. They also post positive stories about diversity/inclusion and created a “You Can Play” video. They are also working with campus groups to “increase minority and international student spectatorship at athletic events.” Lastly, the Diversity and Inclusion Program Fund was created in 2020 to “help continue programming and education for coaches, staff and student-athletes.” 

DOORS OPEN serves as the mental health and wellness arm of Illini Athletics. Aside from debunking mental health myths and providing student-athletes with important information about mental wellness, student-athletes have access to professional consultations and services to keep themselves in the right mental state to perform well in both school and sports. 

The University of Illinois also highlights their celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Title IX being passed on their website. This includes a comprehensive career biography of Dr. Karol Kahrs, who was a driving force behind women’s athletics at the U of I and National Association of College Women Athletic Administrators Lifetime Achievement Award winner. The webpage also features information about the history of women’s sports at Illinois, women’s sports feature stories, influential moments related to Title IX and Illini Athletics, and podcasts. Lastly, University of Illinois Office of Athletic Development created the Karol Kahrs Women’s Excellence Fund to support female student-athletes by improving facilities and equipment, bettering training, and creating personal development activities. For more about the University of Illinois at Title IX, click here. 

In March, 100 Illini student-athletes participated in “Day Off Social” to raise awareness for the negative mental health that social media can have. People are asked to volunteer or participate in activities that bolster interpersonal communication and connection instead of going on social media.

Bailey Whitbeck

Bailey Whitbeck

Sports Philanthropy Network

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