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UIC Flames

UIC Flames
UniversityUniversity of Illinois Chicago
ConferenceMVC (primary)
MAC (men's swimming & diving & men's tennis)
NCAADivision I
Athletic directorMichael Lipitz
LocationChicago, Illinois
Varsity teams18 (8 men’s and 10 women’s)
Basketball arenaCredit Union 1 Arena
Baseball stadiumCurtis Granderson Stadium
Softball stadiumFlames Field
Soccer stadiumFlames Field
Other venuesCog Hill Golf and Country Club
Flames Athletic Center
Flames Natatorium
Flames Outdoor Tennis Courts
UIC Dorin Forum
Fight song"Fire Up Flames"
ColorsNavy blue and fire engine red[1]

The UIC Flames are the intercollegiate athletic teams that represent the University of Illinois Chicago, located in Chicago, Illinois, in intercollegiate sports as a member of the Division I level of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), primarily competing in the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) since the 2022–23 academic year.[2] The Flames previously competed in the D-I Horizon League from 1994–95 to 2021–22; in the D-I Mid-Continent Conference (Mid-Con, now currently known as the Summit League since the 2007–08 school year) from 1982–83 to 1993–94; as an NCAA D-I Independent during the 1981–82 school year; and in the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference (CCAC) of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) from 1949–50 to about 1980–81. Michael Lipitz joined UIC in October 2019 as the athletic director. [3]


UIC Athletics is known as the Flames in reference to the Great Chicago Fire. The school's primary colors are fire engine red and Navy Pier blue, as Navy Pier was the original location of UIC's campus. The Flames regularly incorporate the light blue and red stars of the flag of Chicago and the iconic Chicago skyline into their uniforms and branding.[4]


UIC athletics began with the College of Physicians and Surgeons (P&S) in the 1880s with their basketball and football teams whose team colors were red (blood) and iodoform (iodine). P&S eventually affiliated with and then became absorbed into the University of Illinois forming its College of Medicine.

In 1946, the Chicago Illini represented the two-year University of Illinois undergraduate division located on Navy Pier. In 1965 the Chicago Illini moved to Harrison and Halsted to represent the University of Illinois at Chicago Circle campus. Upon this move the team became known as the Chicas, a shortening of Chicago; this was changed "Chikas" due to taunting from other teams knocking them ("chicas" means "girls" in Spanish). This spelling was rationalized as being a reference to the Chickasaw tribe. It was dropped in the seventies.

When the university joined the NCAA Division I in 1981, it had no nickname for its athletic teams and just used the phrase "Chicago Circle".[5] The following year, the University of Illinois at Chicago Circle merged with the University of Illinois Medical Center and became known as the University of Illinois at Chicago, dropping "Circle" and later the preposition "at" from its name.[6] The consolidated university adopted Flames as its athletic nickname by student votes at the two predecessor schools.[7]

UIC was a charter member of the Association of Mid-Continent Universities which was established on June 18, 1982 and changed its name to the Mid-Continent Conference seven years later in 1989.[8][9] It was one of six universities along with Cleveland State, Northern Illinois, Wisconsin–Green Bay, Wisconsin–Milwaukee and Wright State that left the Mid-Continent in 1994 to join the Midwestern Collegiate Conference which rebranded as the Horizon League on June 4, 2001.[10][11]

UIC announced on January 26, 2022, that it would join the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) as its 12th member institution effective July 1 that same year.[12] The Horizon League initially banned UIC student-athletes from its conference tournaments for the remainder of the year, but reversed its decision eleven days later.[13] The MVC does not sponsor men's swimming and diving or men's tennis, however, so the Flames also became affiliate members of the Mid-American Conference in men's swimming and diving as well as the Southland Conference in men's tennis, before moving that sport to the MAC the very next year as well.[14][15][16]

Varsity teams

Men's sports Women's sports
Baseball Basketball
Basketball Cross country
Cross country Golf
Soccer Soccer
Swimming and diving Softball
Tennis Swimming and diving
Track and field Tennis
Track and field
† – Track and field includes both indoor and outdoor

UIC competes in 18 intercollegiate varsity sports:[17] men's sports include baseball, basketball, cross country, soccer, swimming & diving, tennis and track & field (indoor and outdoor); women's sports include basketball, cross country, golf, soccer, softball, swimming & diving, tennis, track & field (indoor and outdoor) and volleyball.

Men's basketball

Credit Union 1 Arena, home of the UIC Flames

The 8,000-seat Credit Union 1 Arena is the home of the Flames' men's and women's basketball teams. The men's basketball team has earned six postseason appearances: three NCAA Tournaments (1998, 2002, 2004), one NIT (2003), one CBI (2017), and one CIT (2018). Jimmy Collins was head coach from 1996-2010 and led the Flames to four postseason appearances (three NCAAs and one NIT) and a 218-208 overall record. Howard Moore, a former assistant coach at Wisconsin, became head coach in 2010 and upset #12/14 Illinois at the United Center in his first season. Moore was let go after five seasons in which the Flames went 49–111 overall.[18] He was replaced by Indiana assistant and former Wyoming head coach Steve McClain.[19] McClain compiled a 79-93 record in five seasons. Texas assistant Luke Yaklich was hired in March 2020.[20]

Women's basketball

UIC women's basketball has made three postseason appearances, including the 2007 WNIT and the 2014 (champions) and 2023 WBI tournaments. Missouri Tigers assistant and Oak Park, IL native Ashleen Bracey was hired as head coach in March 2022. In her first season, she led the Flames to the greatest win improvement in the history of the Missouri Valley Conference[21] and the second highest win total in program history. Joanne McCarthy (basketball), sister of actress/model Jenny McCarthy, is UIC's all-time scoring leader with 1,805 points.[22]

Men's soccer

UIC's men's soccer team is an 8-time NCAA participant and 11-time conference champion. The 2006 squad was ranked as high as #6 in the NCAA national polls and made it to the second round of the 2006 NCAA Tournament. The Flames reached the "Elite Eight" in the 2007 NCAA Tournament.

UIC opened the new $5M Flames Field in fall 2020. The only collegiate grass pitch in Chicago, it features a grass pitch with state-of-the-art irrigation and drainage systems, a new video board, grass berm seating behind each goal, and a grandstand with capacity for 1,200 offering fans panoramic views of the iconic Chicago skyline.[23]

Jay DeMerit played for UIC's men's soccer and captained the Vancouver Whitecaps FC in Major League Soccer, and was a former captain of Watford whom he played for in the Premier League and the Championship. Jay also is a former member of the US national team, whom he represented in the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Another Flame, Pat McMahon received an offer to play in Scotland in 2009.[24] Baggio Husidić is a former MLS player who played with Chicago Fire and Los Angeles Galaxy.


UIC Baseball has made six NCAA Regional Appearances and won 12 regular season conference championships. Former Major League player Curtis Granderson was an All-American for the Flames.[25][26] A three-time MLB All Star, four-time MLBPA Marvin Miller Man of the Year recipient (2009, 2016, 2018, 2019), and Roberto Clemente Award winner (2016), Granderson's $5 million gift to help build UIC's Granderson Baseball Stadium is among the largest known one-time donations by a professional athlete to his or her alma mater, according to Sports Illustrated.


UIC Softball has made 12 NCAA Regional Appearances and won 11 conference championships. The Flames' 1994 team reached the Women's College World Series.[27]


UIC Volleyball has made 5 postseason appearances, including the 2021 NCAA Tournament and the AIAW Championship (1972, 1973, 1974, 1975). The Flames have won 3 conference championships, including the 2021 Horizon League Tournament.[28]

Women's tennis

The Flames women's tennis program has been dominant for the past two decades, winning 19 conference championships and making 17 NCAA Tournament appearances.

Swimming and diving

UIC men's and women's swimming and diving have won more than 80 individual conference titles. The men's swim team won the Horizon League Championships in 2009. Swimming & Diving 2007 alumni Blake Booher qualified for the 2008 Olympic Swimming Trials in the 50 Freestyle. 2011 alumni Steve Yemm qualified for the 2012 Olympic Swimming Trials in the 100 & 200 Butterfly.

Discontinued sports

UIC previously sponsored a football team known as the Chicago Circle Chikas that played at Soldier Field from 1965-1973,[29] a men's ice hockey from 1966-1996, and men's and women's gymnastics teams until 2018-19. The Flames also previously fielded teams in wrestling, men's water polo, and men's golf.

Spirit squads

The Flames feature both UIC Cheer and UIC Dance,[30] as well as the UIC Pep Band.[31] Sparky is the Flames mascot. With his Fire Engine Red fur, Navy Pier Blue head spikes, and a Champions Gold flame on the tip of his tail, Sparky fully embodies the UIC Flames spirit. His number '0' jersey pays homage to UIC's roots as the Chicago Circle campus. Chicago Blue accents and custom sneakers featuring UIC’s unique perspective of Chicago’s iconic skyline firmly ground Sparky in his hometown.[32]


  1. ^ UIC Brand Guide (PDF). November 10, 2020. Retrieved August 1, 2022.
  2. ^ "UIC to Join the Missouri Valley Conference" (Press release). Missouri Valley Conference. January 26, 2022. Retrieved January 26, 2022.
  3. ^ "Michael Lipitz - Director of Intercollegiate Athletics - Staff Directory". UIC Athletics. Retrieved 2023-02-19.
  4. ^ "UIC Brand Guide 2020 (PDF)" (PDF). UIC Athletics. Retrieved 17 March 2023.
  5. ^ Wolff, Alexander (1981-12-14). "Ray points the way". Sports Illustrated. pp. 56–57. Retrieved 2016-12-17.
  6. ^ Unger, Rudolph (1982-08-31). "U. of I. ties 2 campuses Wednesday". Chicago Tribune. p. A9.
  7. ^ "Flames". Chicago Tribune. 1982-06-23. p. D5.
  8. ^ "Valpo to join conference," The Associated Press (AP), Saturday, June 19, 1982. Retrieved March 8, 2022
  9. ^ Sun, Chun. "Mid-Continent Conference changing name to The Summit League," The Salt Lake Tribune, Tuesday, May 15, 2007. Retrieved March 8, 2022
  10. ^ "Report: Six schools ready to join Midwestern Conference," United Press International (UPI), Thursday, December 9, 1993. Retrieved March 8, 2022
  11. ^ Lee, Jennifer. "MCC changing name to Horizon League," Sports Business Journal, Monday, June 4, 2001. Retrieved March 8, 2022
  12. ^ "UIC to Join the Missouri Valley Conference," University of Illinois Chicago Athletics, Wednesday, January 26, 2022. Retrieved March 9, 2022
  13. ^ "UIC's Statement on the Horizon League's Reinstatement of Flames Student-Athletes to Conference Championships".
  14. ^ "UIC to Join MAC As Affiliate Member in Men's Swimming & Diving" (Press release). Mid-American Conference. August 30, 2022. Retrieved September 20, 2022.
  15. ^ "Southland Conference Adds UIC as Men's Tennis Affiliate Member". Southland Conference. July 14, 2022. Retrieved July 29, 2022.
  16. ^ "University of Illinois Chicago to Join MAC As Affiliate Member in Men's Tennis" (Press release). Mid-American Conference. June 5, 2023. Retrieved July 26, 2023.
  17. ^ "The Official Website of UIC Flames Athletics". University of Illinois Chicago Athletics. Retrieved 16 December 2016.
  18. ^ "UIC basketball coach Howard Moore fired". CSN Chicago.
  19. ^ "Illinois-Chicago to hire Indiana assistant Steve McClain as head coach".
  20. ^ "Luke Yaklich Named UIC Men's Basketball Head Coach".
  21. ^ "Women's Basketball Begins Two-Week Road Trip in Evansville Friday Night".
  22. ^ "WBB Record Book (thru 2022) (PDF)" (PDF). UIC Athletics. Retrieved 17 March 2023.
  23. ^ "Facilities".
  24. ^ "UICFLAMES.COM Cesar Zambrano Begins Professional Career With Colorado Rapids - University Illinois Chicago Official Athletic Site".
  25. ^ McCarron, Anthony (December 12, 2009). "New York Yankees have quite a catch in Curtis Granderson, who's a leader on and off field". New York Daily News. Retrieved December 13, 2011.
  26. ^ "2020 MLB Baseball Free Agent Tracker - Major League Baseball - ESPN". Current MLB Free Agents. ESPN. Retrieved 2018-12-21.
  27. ^ Plummer, William; Floyd, Larry C. (2013). A Series Of Their Own: History Of The Women's College World Series. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, United States: Turnkey Communications Inc. ISBN 978-0-9893007-0-4.
  28. ^ "UIC Volleyball Record Book (PDF)" (PDF). UIC Athletics. Retrieved 17 March 2023.
  29. ^ Circle Football
  30. ^ "UIC Spirit Groups".
  31. ^ "Athletic Bands School of Theatre & Music".
  32. ^ "Sparky - the Official Mascot of the UIC Flames".
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UIC Flames
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