Illinois caravan to reach rival's backyard

Ever since Northwestern launched a major athletics marketing initiative in 2010, complete with the slogan "Chicago's Big Ten Team" I've written often about the competition between Northwestern and its rival, Illinois, for the coveted Chicago market.

Although the Wildcats-Illini rivalry on the field might not move the needle regionally or even locally, the rivalry between the two athletic departments is very much alive (and very entertaining for those in my position). While Northwestern has increased its presence in Chicago and formed a partnership with the Chicago Cubs and Wrigley Field, Illinois has started the "Our State/Our Team" marketing initiative, formed a Chicago athletics advisory board and scheduled a "homecoming" game against Washington at Chicago's Soldier Field.

Both sides claim that their marketing moves haven't been reactionary in nature.

That's a little hard to believe after Illlinois' announcement about its Chicago coaches caravan scheduled for May 8.

From a news release:

The Fighting Illini caravan will swing through Chicago on Wednesday, May 8. Illini football coach Tim Beckman, men's basketball coach John Groce and women's basketball coach Matt Bollant will join director of athletics Mike Thomas in the Windy City. They will host an evening reception at World of Beer, 1601 Sherman Ave., Evanston, from 7-9 p.m., after spending the day in downtown Chicago.

For those unfamiliar with the area, Evanston, located just north of the Chicago city limits, is the home of Northwestern University. When I went to school at Northwestern, there were barely any bars in Evanston (RIP, The Keg and 1800 Club). That's why we'd go to Chicago, where there are, I dunno, tens of thousands of them.

Illinois couldn't find a bar to host its coaches' reception in Chicago? Seriously?

The Evanston location clearly is no accident. Illinois wants to party in Northwestern's backyard. It's not as obvious as Michigan's coaching caravan bypassing Cleveland or Cincinnati to hold a reception in Columbus, but the motivation is the same.

Not surprisingly, some Northwestern fans already are planning to meet and greet their pals from Illinois. It should be an interesting scene, to say the least.

No word yet on Pat Fitzgerald's and Chris Collins' upcoming appearance at Kam's.