Long wait is over, Illinois to play DePaul 

The last time the Blue Demons and Fighting Illini men’s basketball teams fought on the court, Dwight D. Eisenhower was president of the United States.

The number one song in the country was “Jailhouse Rock” by Elvis Presley. 

“The Bridge on the River Kwai” was the top film at the box offices. 

Ray Meyer was coach of the Blue Demons and Harry Combes led the Illini. 

Yes, it has been almost 60 years since the last time the two teams played.  The date was December 7, 1957.  It was the 16th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor.  The Illini prevailed 75-70 in Champaign. 

It wasn’t one of Meyer’s better teams. The Demons finished 8-12 that season. Their leading scorer was a 6-5 forward by the name of Paul Ruddy (12.2 points per game). 

For whatever reason, Meyer decided not to schedule any more games against the Illini.

Over the years, the possibility of resurrecting a series with the Illini was discussed, each time to no avail. 

In December of 1999, Illinois coach Lon Kruger took a shot at then DePaul coach Pat Kennedy saying "Business is done differently at the two programs." 

In later years, DePaul Athletic Director Jean Lenti Ponsetto wanted a true home-home series with the Illini. While Illinois Athletic Director Ron Guenther wanted a series that consisted of a home game in Champaign and a neutral court game at the United Center.  The two sides could not agree. 

It took a lifetime of waiting, but a game has reportedly been scheduled for Friday, November 17th in Champaign as part of the Gavitt Games.  The Gavitt Games honor former Big East Commissioner Dave Gavitt and match up teams from the Big Ten vs. the Big East.  DePaul hosted Rutgers in last year’s Gavitt Game. 

It took the Gavitt Games to force the two teams back to the same court.   For now it is the only game scheduled between DePaul and Illinois.  Here’s hoping that the game in November will spur the powers-that-be to bring about a regular renewal of games between the two state of Illinois programs. 

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