Just a few days ago, the University of Illinois decided to retire “War Chant,” a popular tune performed by Illini band members during athletic events.  The decision to part ways with the tradition was met with mixed emotions.

In an attempt to ease some of that tension, Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman wrote an open letter explaining the university’s decision to separate itself from “War Chant.”

Here’s what Whitman had to say about the situation on FightingIllini.com:

Because I am one of you, on a personal level, I share part of your sadness with our recent decision to discontinue playing War Chant at our athletic events.  Like many of you, I have fond memories of watching Chief Illiniwek perform, and War Chant was, to a large degree, the soundtrack of my football career.  For me, both events evoked feelings of pride, unity, and confidence.  As a younger man, I assumed the thousands of people around me experienced similar emotions – and, in fact, I think many did.

Today, I understand that my emotions were not shared by many connected to our University.  And as I have spent more time around these issues, my feelings have evolved.  For some, Fighting Illini Athletics has been a source of division, not unity.  Segments of our University have felt unwelcome at our athletic events.  Regardless of whether you agree with these sentiments, at a minimum, we must acknowledge that these feelings matter.  How we make people feel matters here at the University of Illinois, where we strive to be a beacon for inclusion in an increasingly polarized world.

Illinois decided to retire “War Chant” because the university wanted athletic events to be as inclusive as possible and it “did not add much to the football experience.”

“War Chant” joins Chief Illiniwek, who was retired in 2007.

Whitman closed his letter by saying he’s never been more confident in the future of Illinois athletics and is optimistic about the direction the department is heading.