Three games to settle an age-old debate once and for all….Saturday, Saturday, Saturday…at Soldier Field in Chicago. Yep, the Illinois Fighting Illini will move its next three home games against the Northwestern Wildcats from Memorial Stadium in Champaign to the venerable stadium up in Chicago.
Finally, we’ll get a three-game series to settle the debate.
Is it “Chicago’s Big Ten Team” or the “State of Chicago?”
After all, the two schools have always fought for the hearts, minds and dollars of the Big Ten’s largest city (sorry New York City, Rutgers doesn’t count here) for some time now.
On Monday, the Illini announced a three-game agreement with Soldier Field that’s to start with the 2015 battle for the Land of Lincoln trophy between the Illini and Wildcats. The agreement will also include the same season-ending matchup in the 2017 and 2019 seasons.
“It’s exciting to seize the opportunity to further engage our incredible number of Illinois alumni and fans in the Chicagoland area with these three football games coming to Soldier Field,” Thomas said in a statement released by the athletic department. “As the flagship university in the state we are committed to all Fighting Illini, and as part of that mindset, we will continue to bring a variety of athletics events to Chicago where we have the largest alumni base of any Big Ten institution.”
The Illini are no strangers to playing in Soldier Field and college football has frequently been played at the home of the NFL’s Chicago Bears. Northern Illinois, Notre Dame and many other schools have played games there. Illinois last played there in 2013, playing host to the Washington Huskies out of the Pac-12.
That experience gave the Illini athletic department a test run for what they’ll be doing in terms of ticket prices for these three matchups in the future.
“We plan to offer our season-ticket holders at Memorial Stadium a special ticket price for this game, while also providing a wide-range of ticket prices for different areas of the stadium,” Thomas said. “The feedback from the fans who attended our game there in 2013 was extremely positive, and we will be working to provide a great game-day atmosphere for our fans and players.”
Playing the in-state rivalry matchup in Chicago isn’t new either, as both teams met in 2009 at Wrigley Field. It was the first appearance of the Land of Lincoln trophy, which replaced the Sweet Sioux Tomahawk after the NCAA mandate against any negative or abusive Indian stereotypes.
That game was won by Northwestern, but the two teams have split the series (3-3) since the introduction of the new trophy to the series. Overall, Illinois leads the series that dates back to 1882, 55–48–5.