Illini about to plant flag in Northwestern’s backyard?

There's rivalry shenanigans and then there's what the Illini are about to pull in a few weeks. Chicago has long been a fighting ground for the college sports fans hearts – after all, it's the number one location for grads of Big Ten schools in the country – but for decades it's been the battle ground for Northwestern vs. Illinois. However, yesterday the Illini decided to poke the Wildcat with their announcement of the "Chicago Coaches Caravan." 

Normally, no big deal, there's probably about 10,000 different places the caravan could stop inside Chicago. What's the big deal? Well, of those tens of thousands of places the Ilini deliberately chose a bar that's literally three-blocks from the Northwestern campus. 

The best part of all of this news? The $25 dollar a person event's registration has already been shut down. It's believed because the tickets were about to be taken over by Northwestern students and fans.

Instead according to this article, they have been taken down and those wanting to attend must get them through contacting the local Chicago I Fund chapter. 

Even better is that the Illini aren't backing down from the event, claiming it's about where their fans and donors are located via this article:

Brown said the school decided to stop in Evanston because it has a large number of fans and alums on the North Shore.

“We certainly anticipated a reaction of some kind to the event in Evanston,” Brown said in a statement. “Anything that heightens the exposure of college athletics in Chicago is fantastic."

Yep… you read that right… it's all about "heightening the exposure of college athletics" either that or…. 

It's a giant middle finger to the Wildcats. If it isn't I'd love to see what the Illini think is.

It's not often that marketing campaigns and gimmicks spark rivalry flames – especially since those in the athletic departments are usually smart enough to know better. That's not the case this time around as these two athletic departments are engaged in what can best be described as a bitter battle for Chicagoians hearts, minds, and dollars. 

Northwestern builds itself as "Chicago's Big Ten team" and being just on the northern edge of the city in Evanston they've got a point. They've also entered into a partnership with the Chicago Cubs for baseball games, football games and a few other events throughout the year – there's even an academic partnership between them.

Illinois, on the other hand, sees Chicago as a place where they can move into and claim, after all, the new marketing campaign says this is "Our State/Our Team." 

Those campaigns are innocuous enough, no big deal. There's nothing wrong with trying to win over news fans, thusly increasing your revenue sources.

But, the Illini are taking it to another level with their May 8th "meet and greet" with the coaches at the World of Beer bar. 

It sparked NU fans and students to respond with a concerted effort to make their presence known at the event, even creating a Facebook event with this description: 

“Let’s make sure Northwestern gives them a warm welcome — non-stop singing of the fight song, chanting of Go U-NU and general support of NU during the entire attempt at speaking. THERE WILL BE FREE APPAREL and OTHER GIVEAWAYS to those who attend.”

Ahh, nothing like a good old rivalry meet-up at a local drinking establishment to fan the flames of a growing rivalry between these two teams, right? I mean, what could possibly go wrong there…. Hell, while Big Ten rivals are at it the Badgers and Gophers might as well plan on having these kind of meetings just blocks away from each others campuses. 

I'm suuurrreeee nothing would go wrong there. Or if you really wanted to up the ante, put UofM and tOSU events right next to the campuses of each other – that'll go over real well too, huh?

Whomever at Illinois thought this would be a wise move was a fool. Instead all they are doing is asking for trouble. You seriously can't tell me this was the only place or the best place to have this event. Instead this was a deliberate planting of the flag on your rivals turf. As if the Chicago area needed more beef? 

Chicago has it's own share of insane "turf wars" going on on the streets, don't you think a university of "higher learning" should be above the fray and perhaps show people how you can get along? Instead they went and did the exact opposite. Way to be a role model there Illini… rrrreeeeaaaallll SMART!

Andrew Coppens

About Andrew Coppens

Andy is a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA). He is the Managing Editor of MadTownBadger and associate editor of Bloguin's World Cup site, 32flags.com as well as Publisher of Big Ten site talking10.com