Tales from Behind the Camera with Mark Jones, the University of Illinois Official Sports Photographer

Mike Cagley, IlliniGuy

July 4, 2022

All photos in this article including the cover are courtesy of Mark Jones, the University of Illinois Official Sports Photographer

In Illini Athletics circles, it's hard to find folks who've been around the program long enough to build a bridge from the Henson-White-Stoner era of the 80s all the way to the Underwood-Bielema-Whitman era of today. Sure, there's Loren Tate, but he's been around the program since his father took him to games back in the 40's. Beyond Loren's nearly infinite span of influence around Illini athletics, it's hard to find someone who has had a continuous presence with the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics at the University of Illinois since 1988. Mark Jones is one of those few.

He earned his title, the University of Illinois Official Sports Photographer, in 1988 through his retirement on June 30, 2022. That's an impressive run by any standard, especially when you take a look at all the changes the collegiate sporting world has dealt with over that span of time and add to it all of changes in the technology around photography. Consider all of that and you've got a guy who's managed to stay on the cutting edge for nearly 35 years. More importantly, Mark Jones is a man who earned the opportunity to build relationships with the head coaches who led Illini football and basketball teams, most of the key players, and the Athletic Directors who've driven the Illinois Athletics program. Mark's pictures would chronicle this era and become a large part of the Illini sports mythology. His presence at Illini football and basketball games was almost an institutional requirement.

Mark is one of the most engaging personalities in Illini athletics and as good as his photography is, he may have missed a dual calling. He would have been a fantastic talk radio host in his non-photography related hours. If you want to hear stories from Mark, please look for our "I on the Illini" podcast. We have two episodes dedicated to interviewing this Illini legend. The first is out today, July 4th. Part 2 is due on July 6.

Here are a few pictures that Mark supplied for folks to see selected photos. Some photos you might remember, there might be a few that you haven't seen, and most will make you smile.

Lou Henson and Mark Jones back in the day. Mark got a mention in Lou's book. That's a great honor for any Illini fan.

Anderson, Henson and Battle in 1989.

This photo was made on March 9th, 1989 just before we left for the Final 4 in Seattle that was referred to as BATTLE IN SEATTLE. Nick Anderson, Lowell Hamilton, a young Mark Jones, and Kenny Battle. The Chicago Sun Times arranged for the vintage car & I was asked to help. And when Kenny asked me to get in the photo, he didn’t have to ask me twice!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nick Anderson in the 1989 NCAA Tourney.

Bardo defensive stop that beats Indiana in1989

Kenny Battle was not known to have said "Thank You" on this dunk in 1989.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kendall Gill going up, up and away in the 1989 NCAA Tourney.

Stephen Bardo in 1989.

Kendall Gill in the 1989 Final Four.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Michael Jordan dunking in the Assembly Hall in the fall of 1989.

Michael Jordan with Kendall Gill after a Bulls exhibition game in the Assembly Hall in the fall of 1989.

The iconic photo of Bill Self.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Frank Williams beats Minnesota crushing the home fans!

Deron Williams against Arizona in the 2005 NCAA Tourney.

Wicked straight arm against Michigan State in 2019.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kofi goes for a dunk #1 in the sequence.

Kofi goes for a dunk #2 in the sequence.

Kofi goes for a dunk #3 in the sequence.

Kofi goes for a dunk #4 in the sequence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kofi goes for a dunk #5 in the sequence.

Kofi goes for a dunk #6 in the sequence.

Kofi goes for a dunk # in the sequence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kofi takes the ball to the hoop versus Northwestern #1

Kofi takes the ball to the hoop versus Northwestern #2

Kofi takes the ball to the hoop versus Northwestern #3

Kofi takes the ball to the hoop versus Northwestern #4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 6th, 2022-Illinois Wins Big 10 Conference with Victory Over Iowa

 

 

 

 

 

 

These were just a tiny sampling of the photos that have helped define the Illini's victories over the last 30+ years. So many of these memories were framed for the future by Mark's camera capturing the image for us to remember these great moments. There's a story behind those pictures and you can get a few of those by listening to the two-part podcast on the "I on the Illini" brought to you by the IlliniGuys. Part 1 releases on July 4 and Part 2 on July 6.

Podcasts

Illini Collapse at Penn State 90-89 #331

Listen

Victory Over Maryland 85-80 #330

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Quick Response - Illini Win at Maryland #329

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Feb 16 Weekend (S3,Ep27)

Listen

Illini Destroy Michigan 97-68 #328

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Disappointing 8 Minutes Leads to MSU Loss #327

Listen

Feb 9 Weekend (S3,Ep26)

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Special Episode - NCAA & Court Battles #326

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Illini over Huskers 87-84 in OT #325

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Nebraska Basketball Preview #324

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IlliniGuys Sports Spectacular - Feb 2 Weekend (S3,Ep25)

Listen

Illini 87-75 Road Win vs tOSU #323

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Illini Win 70-62 Over Indiana #322

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Illini vs Indiana Preview #321

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Jan 26 Weekend (S3,Ep24)

Listen