Collins Will Heat Up The Illinois-Northwestern Rivalry

Friday’s column from CBS Chicago

(CBS) Northwestern and Illinois have always been in-state rivals.

But they’ve never really been big rivals.

In December 2011, Fighting Illini football coach Tim Beckman tried to make some noise in that regard when during his introductory press conference in Champaign, he announced that he would only call Northwestern “that team up north.”

He ended up sounding more tone-deaf than anything, however.

In both football – where NU and Illinois never seem to be up at the same time – and basketball, the schools’ Big Ten rivalry is tepid, at best.

Heck, their dueling marketing campaigns probably inflame fans’ passions more than their actual games.

But that could all be changing on the hardwood now that Northwestern has hired Chris Collins as its new head basketball coach. The key to intensifying a Wildcats-Illini rivalry is getting Illinois fans – who might outnumber NU ones by 100 to 1 in – worked up enough about “Chicago’s Big Ten Team” to intensely care about defending “Our State. Our Team.”

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