Rivalry Intensifies

The Illinois coaching caravan will stop by Evanston on May 8. Northwestern's student section is already planning a response.

Really, what else did you expect?

Illinois announced Wednesday that major athletic staffers will be stopping by Evanston on May 8. Wildside, Northwestern's official student section, has already organized cheers and jeers to be directed at the Illini and their orange-clad following.

Among the Illinois coaches visiting Evanston bar World of Beer next month include football's Tim Beckman, basketball's John Groce and athletic director Mike Thomas. After spending the day in Chicago, Thomas and Co. will travel up north to Evanston for a two-hour reception.

Wildside has launched a Facebook event detailing a rowdy gathering of Cats fans. Among the planned festivities are renditions of the Northwestern fight song, back-and-forth calls of "go U, NU!," and free apparel giveaways. The event has over 200 attending guests as of Thursday afternoon.

It marks the latest chapter in a chippy back-and-forth battle between the two programs' athletic communications. After Northwestern campaigned itself as "Chicago's Big Ten team" in 2010, Illinois kicked off an "our state, our team" marketing plan.

Since then, the Land of Lincoln football trophy has exchanged hands twice, and both teams have snagged professional Chicago sports venues. Northwestern reached a partnership with Wrigley Field and the Cubs last February while Illinois readies for a football game at the Bears' Soldier Field this fall.

On the courts and fields, however, the instate rivalry hasn't been as prominent. The Wildcats knocked off Beckman's Illini by a lopsided 50-14 at Ryan Field Nov. 24, while the Cats split two games with Groce's squad this past winter.

But May's clash could take things up a notch. Stopping by Evanston was no coincidence, and you can bet the Wildside will let the Illini know about it.

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