“We have three distinct sets of memories,” says former coach’s kid Michael Rooney (’76), who now heads up the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education.
“We lived in Champaign during the 1959-60 school year when I was in sixth grade and my dad was on Ray Eliot’s football staff at Illinois. I attended Gregory Elementary School and we lived on West Park between the high school and West Side Park. We had band at the high school and my trumpet-playing buddy, Nathaniel Banks, and I would walk to our house for lunch, then on to the high school.
“He continued his musical endeavors — I quit after high school — and headed up the African-American center at UI for a time.
“The best building during those days was Memorial Stadium. I saw the Illini play Army there in the fall of ’59 and was quite impressed with the Corps of Cadets. No fancy press boxes for the coaches then, but I was thrilled to join my dad and a couple of other coaches on the unprotected roof of the northeast tower to watch the action from on high and report down to the bench.
“Getting up there was half the fun. The other half was hot sun, rain and cold wind.
“During law school from 1973 to 1976. the best place was Murph’s. I suppose it’s technically Murphy’s Pub, but to us it was just Murph’s and there were several in my class who were older than the others and we made it our HQ.
“After law school, from 1976 to 1992, I lived in Champaign and Mahomet. The best building was still Memorial Stadium — before the re-do — and the football teams during the Mike White/Neale Stoner era, before the NCAA issues.
“Remember Tail Great? I took my week-old grandson.
“The Assembly Hall also ranks a close second with great — and sometimes not-so-great — Lou Henson teams. I sat in the last row for the Illinois-Michigan State game against Magic Johnson and the place was rocking.
“I can’t forget to mention Katsinas at Green and Neil. All three sets of memories include that place and the after-law school years include running into former coaching buddies of my dad who were in town for various clinics and made the obligatory stop for ‘a’ beer at Katsis.”