Top of the Morning, Aug. 30, 2023

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With Mike White's Rose Bowl Illini headed back to campus for a 40-year reunion on Saturday, we're collecting stories from fans who enjoyed the ride in '83. Email Jim Rossow at with yours.


About to coach an all-important game on his team's run to the Rose Bowl, Mike White still made time to — of all things — tailgate with the orange and blue faithful.

Tom Widener's autographed pregame picture from 1983 sums up White's fan-friendly approach at Illinois: It shows the coach alongside Tom's late wife, Rose, and son, Todd, on the golf course east of Memorial Stadium.

"Coach White was riding around in golf cart tailgating," Tom said. "My son and wife got a ride.

"He was stopping and saying hi to everybody, thanking them for going to the game and getting everyone fired up. Typical Mike White."

Now 81 and living in Mahomet, Tom Widener doesn't attend many games due to a sore back and knees. In '83, however, he was a season ticket holder who followed the Illini all the way to Pasadena.

"The whole season was wild," he said. "We'd start tailgating at 6 in the morning, cook breakfast, cook lunch and cook supper because sometimes we stayed overnight. Good times."