Doyel: Iowa basketball takes high road after busting Illinois' Orange Krush students

What is happening this week in Iowa – what has happened to the Illinois basketball cheering section, the Orange Krush – is a lesson in honesty and humility, leadership and accountability. It’s a lesson for the kids at Illinois, who don’t seem inclined to learn, and for any adults out there who would side with Illinois over Iowa because, hey, you root for Illinois. So the kids from Illinois are right!

No, the kids from Illinois are wrong, possibly criminally so, though this won’t escalate to that level. I’m just saying, not only as the son of a retired judge but as someone with a working brain, the kids from Illinois perpetrated a fraud on the Iowa athletic department, got busted, and then reacted in a way that (some) kids will react:

By mocking Iowa.

That really happened this week, and if you're just now hearing about it, I’ll sum it up as quickly as I can:

The Illinois student section, the Orange Krush, has tried to attend one Big Ten road game annually since 2002. This season they chose the Illini’s game Saturday at Iowa. They ordered the tickets in September, received them in October, paid and everything, then learned Wednesday the sale had been revoked. Their money would be refunded. It’s like that line from the 1998 Semisonic song, “Closing Time:”

You don’t have to go home

But you can’t stay here.

That’s the story the Orange Krush wants you to know. They want you to know, because they issued a statement on Twitter thumping their chest (“as the nation’s premier student section”) and feeling sorry for themselves (“it is highly unfortunate … because we were looking forward to this trip”) and bragging about their philanthropy (we “raised a total of $2,649.41 for local charitable organizations … to be invited on this trip”) only to be let down by those awful people at Iowa:

“It is highly unfortunate that the University of Iowa and their athletic department refuse to face the consequences of the mistake THEY MADE in selling tickets to a billing address in Champaign, Illinois.”

And, finally, the mocking of Iowa:

“We take it as a great compliment that the Orange Krush is a strong enough section to be so feared that an opposing athletic department is willing to sacrifice $5400 and ruin a sellout to turn us away. (Iowa AD) Gary Barta and staff, we issue great thanks to all of you for the adoration you have shown the Orange Krush through your cowardice.”

Those kids from Illinois seem to think they're victims. Believe that?

Iowa catches Orange Krush in lie

A story like this, you approach it with your biases. An Iowa fan probably sees it as an Iowa fan. A college kid could see it through that prism. Me, I see it as the father of two young men. And if my kids were in the Orange Krush, here’s what I’d tell them:

You got what you deserved.

Or, as explained by the 2022 “word of the year” according to the Washington Post: FAFO.

(Screw) around and find out.

Before we go farther, can we make something clear? This isn’t a world crisis. In the grand scheme of things, what is happening this week in Iowa – what happened to Illinois – is more interesting than important. And it’s importance is primarily in the lessons it can offer.

Here's the part of the story you don’t know yet, the part of the story the Orange Krush left out in its self-serving, self-pitying, self-flagellating statement:

The Orange Krush said they were from a Boys & Girls Club in Champaign.

They misrepresented themselves as disadvantaged kids to purchase tickets at a discounted group rate.

Orange Krush goes low, Iowa takes high road

They’ve done this before. The Orange Krush attended a Purdue game at Mackey Arena once by ordering 50 tickets for “Boy Scouts.” They made their way into another Big Ten arena as a “family reunion.” This isn’t funny, it’s fraud, and no telling how many frauds the Orange Krush has perpetrated on Big Ten teams since 2002. But this time they got caught.

And when Iowa had no choice but to issue its own statement, explaining the truth – because the Orange Krush version was inaccurate, unfair and viewed 5.9 million times (and counting) – the Orange Krush lashed out.

Again, I’m here as a dad as much as a sportswriter, which is why I’m not naming the kid I’m about to quote. Maybe he’d like to see his name in this paper, because all attention is good attention, right? Take a picture of it and post it on Instagram!

But no, I’m not doing it. Not to deny him, but to protect him. This kid’s name is everywhere already, and whether he realizes it or not, that’s not good for him. But this kid, this ranking member of the Orange Krush – this college senior – has admitted, yes, the Orange Krush misrepresented itself to get those tickets.

“I was shocked that it worked,” he told one group of reporters.

“What was said is that we were the Boy & Girls club, yes,” he said in another of his interviews, this one with in Cedar Rapids.


“The Orange Krush has been denied ticket purchase opportunities in the past,” he said, “and I’m confident that our athletic department wouldn’t sell to the Paint Crew from Purdue trying to come over.”

That, people, is called a “straw man” argument: Concoct a hypothetical situation, use it to justify your own behavior, and claim victory.

Here, kids, is the right way to respond to being caught and then called out:

“We’re sorry, and we won’t do it again.”

And here is how the adults at Iowa handled the rest of the story, trying to turn that chicken (bleep) from Illinois into chicken salad in Iowa:

By refunding the Orange Krush’s money – and donating those tickets to an actual Boys & Girls Club in Cedar Rapids.

Find IndyStar columnist Gregg Doyel on Twitter at @GreggDoyelStar or at

More: Join the text conversation with sports columnist Gregg Doyel for insights, reader questions and Doyel's peeks behind the curtain.

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Iowa basketball takes high road after busting Illinois' Orange Krush