Illinois hasn’t played a football game in Chicago since a 10-9 loss to Washington State at Soldier Field in 1994. Illinois (2-0) is heading back to Chicago to take on the No. 19 Huskies (1-0) on Saturday at Soldier Field in an important recruiting and marketing pitch for the Illini.
Hall of Famer Dick Butkus, a two-time All-American linebacker at Illinois who led the Illini to a victory over UW in the Rose Bowl 50 years ago, is the keynote figure of the weekend’s events for Illinois; he’ll host a luncheon and toss the coin before the game Saturday while helping to promote his alma mater.
“We need to do something for the Chicago area because so many kids are leaving the state,” Butkus told ESPN.com. “I just feel Illinois, with the largest number of alumni in the city of any school, we should be able to do a better job of recruiting kids out of here. We’ve got guys going to LSU, USC, the Michigans, Ohio States and Notre Dames, and even Northwestern.
“We’ve got to get back to getting our own kids to go to our own school.”
Asked why Chicago has posed such a challenge for Illinois, Butkus replied, “If I knew that answer, I’d be a goddamn genius.”
“That’s been baffling me for 48 years,” he said. “I don’t understand it.”
He hopes the Chicago homecoming can be a starting point, and the mood around the game and the events undoubtedly will be better after the Cincinnati win. The hope is that the good feelings will translate into more butts in seats on Saturday.
As of Tuesday, Illinois was approaching 40,000 tickets sold, according to Jason Heggemeyer, the school’s associate athletic director for ticketing and sales. Thomas said 50,000 “might be a little bit ambitious” but added that the school’s Chicago-based fans often wait to buy tickets for events like Illinois’ annual basketball game at the United Center. The walk-up crowd also could be good.
— From today’s paper: Sean Parker has turned his anger into production for the UW defense.
— From the UW Daily, a Q&A with the Illinois student paper.
— The Champaign News-Gazette with a position-by-position breakdown of the UW-Illinois matchup.
— With four matchups between the Pac-12 and Big Ten this weekend, it’s a pivotal weekend for conference power positioning.
— USC’s Lane Kiffin is expecting more boos when the Trojans host Boston College.
— A Tennessee defensive lineman has been ruled ineligible for Saturday’s game against Oregon after he was named in a Yahoo! Sports report.
— Breaking down the UCLA-Nebraska matchup, which will be played after a tragic week for the Bruins.
— Urban Meyer is “fairly optimistic” that star QB Braxton Miller (knee) will be able to play vs. Cal.