By Ryan Baker-
(CBS) We’re “Chicago’s Big Ten Team!” It’s “Our State, Our Team!”
The silly slogans sound kind of childish, don’t they?
Northwestern and Illinois came off like a couple of brats as they shouted their rallying cries on college football’s National Signing Day. It’s hard to call either one of them spoiled, since neither program has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to in-state talent. Yet, both schools feel the need to get their overly sensitive fan bases stirred up.
I’m all for a little good natured ribbing between rivals. Steve Spurrier was a master at needling Bobby Bowden in the hey day of the Florida-Florida State clashes. However, this ongoing feud between the Wildcats and Fighting Illini feels like it’s taken a nasty turn. It’s gotten personal.
After Pat Fitzgerald boasted that the Wildcats “dominated Chicago again” by signing three local four-star recruits, Tim Beckman took an unnecessary jab at NU by saying, “We signed four players out of the ‘state of Chicago,’ as we call it. That was more than the actual team that is in Chicago.”
C’mon boys, play nice.
Maybe the adolescent bickering is a distraction from the fact that both schools have failed at consistently keeping our best homegrown talent from fleeing the state. Besides the Wildcats keeping the Illini from taking back the Land of Lincoln trophy, this past season was nothing to brag about for the purple or the orange, who each won only one Big Ten game.
The best college football in these parts is actually being played in DeKalb. Over the last decade, Northern Illinois has played in eight bowl games (including the Orange Bowl), compared to six for Northwestern and three for Illinois. NIU has as many bowl victories (three) as the both of them combined, not to mention a Heisman Trophy finalist.
If you really want to pick fight, why not take on the bully on the block? I guess the Cats will get that chance when the Huskies come barking into Evanston in September.
Ryan Baker is CBS 2 Chicago’s lead sports anchor. You can follow him on Twitter @RyanBakerSports.