Blue Demons vs. Illini? Not Anytime Soon

The rumors were running rampant. The internet was buzzing with a report that DePaul will play Illinois in men's basketball in an annual game at Chicago's United Center beginning in 2006. Fans at Illinois websites like IlliniBoard.com were debating whether playing DePaul would be a good thing for their team. Well, not so fast my friends.

While DePaul Athletic Director Jean Lenti-Ponsetto and University of Illinois AD Ron Guenther have a close working relationship, it doesn't appear as though a series between the two schools will happen anytime soon. "Ron and I have had conversations about it over the last couple of years," said Ponsetto. "But, what we both realized, a year ago spring, was that we had some scheduling deficiencies that we were both trying to get back in order based on some of our home and homes. We're trying to get back to the point where we have 15 home games. Moving forward for next year we're still trying to get another home game. We haven't talked to Ron because that wasn't the caliber of team that we were looking at replacing with."

For the 2006-07 season, DePaul has already scheduled home games with Wake Forest and California, return road trips to Northwestern and Bradley, and three neutral court games in the Maui Invitational in November.

"We really don't have flexibility right now with the schedule if we continue with the some of the other locals that we want to continue with, which are Bradley and Northwestern," offered Jean. "The other thing that we talked about was that we'd both wait and see as far as the Big East is concerned, is when our television contract is up. I think we have one more year left on it. Then we'll look at a scheduling model and determine whether or not we'll continue with 16 games or if we decide to play more conference games. We're trying to throttle back on making any commitments beyond what would be next year. Right now if you look at the men's conference schedule, in many ways it's probably going to mirror this year's opponents with the exception of Bucknell and Florida International, we're probably going to try and replace with a couple of other mid-major conference teams as opposed to picking up Illinois."

That's not to say that there isn't mutual interest in playing at some point down the road. "As much as we'd both like to get it done, we've both got different situations that we're trying to work through," remarked Ponsetto.

If the series ever does happen would it be played on a neutral court? "My perception is we'd try to do something home and home," opined Jean. "I don't think you'd have a Big East and a Big Ten team not playing a home and home series."

So, Fighting Illini and Blue Demon faithful may have to hope for a match-up between the two schools in the NCAA tournament to see their teams square off in the near future.

Stay tuned to WeAreDePaul.com as we continue to set the record straight.

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