Northwestern vs Illini Rivalry Ramps Up Again

Northwestern vs Illini Rivalry Ramps Up Again

Maybe Northwestern and Illinois can be the Big Ten version of the West Coast vs. East Coast ’90s hip-hop feud?

Remember, that rivalry started as a one-on-one individual bloodfeud between Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G. before blowing up into true bi-coastal beef. The Illini vs. the Wildcats aren’t anywhere near Death Row Records vs. Bad Boy Entertainment.

And the relationship between Illini A.D. Mike Thomas and Northwestern A.D. Jim Phillips isn’t anything remotely close to Biggee and Pac.

However, this rivalry is getting much more interesting by the day.

The Fighting Illini Caravan had planned to set up shop in Northwestern’s back yard next week. But then the Evanston bar World of Beer canceled the Illini event on May 8, sending the two-hour get together to a tavern/public house/establishment/bar and grille/box social in downtown Chicago that is TBA.

Northwestern kids from the students’ college basketball seating section “The Wildside” claimed on their Facebook page that they were going to crash the party, and drown out Mike Thomas, college football coach Tim Beckman and Illini men’s basketball coach John Groce by singing the fight song and chanting Northwestern slogans.

With this cancellation, The Wildside claims victory, with president Gram Bowsher telling some obscure  NU blog: “We applied some pressure, and we made a statement.” (h/t Teddy Greenstein)

Again, this is another shot across the bow in a rivalry which is gaining more momentum recently.

On May 12, 2012 I received a mass email from the Illinois Alumni Association, with the subject heading: ILLINOIS: Chicago’s Big Ten University. That was an obvious snipe at Northwestern’s marketing slogan “Chicago’s Big Ten Team.”

When Illinois beat Northwestern in 2011 they improved to 5-0 on the year. (They went 2-6 the rest of the season)  After the game, Illinois football poked some fun at Northwestern’s branding phrase, with the Memorial Stadium audio playing this set list: “Sweet Home Chicago” (Blues Brothers), Frank Sinatra’s “Chicago, Chicago” and Kanye West’s “Homecoming” as the scoreboard read “the state of Illinois’ undefeated team.”

And then last year, regime change from Ron Zook to Tim Beckman brought a severe decline to the program. Northwestern beat Illinois in Evanston by like 40 or 50 points. This, despite the fact that the NFL Draft last week selected four Illini and zero Wildcats. What that says about disparity between recruiting ability, coaching ability, talent level, I don’t know. I'm not even going to try and figure out how that head-scratcher happens.

That fact still makes zero sense to me.

Whenever recent football history between the two is discussed, Illinois alums usually change the subject to basketball.

Paul M. Banks is the owner of The Sports He’s also an author who also contributes regularly to MSN, Fox Sports , Chicago Now, Walter and Yardbarker

Banks has appeared on Comcast SportsNet and the History Channel, as well as Clear Channel, ESPN and CBS radio all over the world. President Barack Obama follows him on Twitter (@PaulMBanks)

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