Tate: Chicago hope

Tate: Chicago hope


Win Chicago!

Good luck. It’s a pro city but each collegiate enterprise is welcome to try. And they all do ... try.

Northwestern University, seated alongside Lake Michigan in Evanston, posted a bowl-winning, 10-victory season in 2012, confirmed its Top 25 ranking by devouring Cal in the opener at Berkeley, and yet drew just 38,033 (paid) in Saturday’s 48-27 home bashing of Syracuse.

That’s not much payback for Jim Phillips’ expensive billboards and marketing campaign geared to sell Northwestern as “Chicago’s team.”

Perhaps the Wildcats will get traction if they handle Ohio State at their Oct. 5 homecoming. Meanwhile, it’s the UI’s turn as the Illini welcome Dick Butkus and friends back to Chicago for Saturday’s 5 p.m. date with Washington’s 1-0 Huskies. A crowd larger than 40,000 is expected, the ultimate count aided by the fact that all UI students with a season ticket will be counted whether or not they actually attend.

Illinois rocked the landscape and undoubtedly awakened late-deciding doubters when Bill Cubit’s new offense produced 87 points and 986 yards in the first two games.

Question is: Did it cause Chicagoland’s prospective recruits to glance up and view the Illini any differently?


City slickers

At this point, the so-called “prime recruiting territory” is shockingly unproductive for the state university.

Students flow downstate by the thousands for education, but the football pickings have become incredibly thin.

There are more than 3,000 varsity athletes in the 76-team Chicago Public League and, while there are three on the Illini basketball team, there’s not one on the 109-man UI football roster.

And of the 22 UI starters on offense and defense, there are only two from the suburbs: defensive tackle Austin Teitsma and converted quarterback Miles Osei, who shares time at receiver with juco transfer Martize Barr.
This does not include Joliet Catholic’s versatile Josh Ferguson, who leads the team in rushing and receiving yards, and deserves starter status as he rotates with Texan Donovonn Young at tailback.

Imagine: From the vast Chicagoland area, with its millions of people and hundreds of high schools, just two official Illini starters.


State your game

Never in the history of Illini football — to be honest, I only researched this for 30 years — have there been so few regulars from the Chicago metropolitan area.

Even when Mike White filled the lineup with Californians in 1985, the standout offensive line included suburbanites Jim Juriga, Mike Scully, Brian Ward and Scott Kehoe. Among those who drew starting assignments in the defensive front four for White’s 1983 champions were Illinoisans Don Thorp, Mark Butkus, Ron Bohm and Terry Cole.

If you retrace history, the UI has always been packed with standout athletes from northern Illinois. Ray Eliot’s 1951 Rose Bowlers, some of whom will be honored with the 1953 champs Sept. 28, had four starters from one school alone, South Shore ... quarterback Tommy O’Connell, center Dan Sabino, end Rex Smith and halfback Pete Bachourus. 

In the 1950-51-52-53 seasons, 15 Illini were named All-Big Ten first team, and South Carolinian J.C. Caroline was the only non-Illinoisan.


Home coming

To ultimately be successful, the Illini must return to these roots. In recent years, thwarted by Chicagoland’s best, the Illini have scrambled to seek help wherever they could find it.

Of the top six linebackers, none hail from Illinois, nor any of the four top defensive backs. Of the 11 listed defensive linemen, Teitsma and McHenry’s Jake Howe (just inside the Wisconsin border) are the only in-staters. Offensively, Michael Heitz of Vermont and Patrick Flavin of Benet Academy are the only Illinoisans in the two-deep line. And of nine players with at least three catches, Osei and Ferguson are the only state products who have been on the receiving end for Kansas Citian Nathan Scheelhaase.

So, in the case of Saturday, the Illini return to Chicago with a lineup of mostly foreigners trying to win back the city ... or at least change the flavor a bit.

One more chance to take a step where it is most desperately needed. 


Loren Tate writes for The News-Gazette. He can be reached at ltate@news-gazette.com.



News-Gazette.com embraces discussion of both community and world issues. We welcome you to contribute your ideas, opinions and comments, but we ask that you avoid personal attacks, vulgarity and hate speech. We reserve the right to remove any comment at our discretion, and we will block repeat offenders' accounts. To post comments, you must first be a registered user, and your username will appear with any comment you post. Happy posting.

Login or register to post comments

walker wrote on September 10, 2013 at 11:09 am

no 'Chicago or fan bashing' here moonpie.  Only bringing out the fact that we are attempting to showcase our state team at a significant venue in the City.  A win here, especially against a ranked opponent would excite the fan base up there, alumni and possibly turn a few heads of players still in high school.   

EqDoc wrote on September 10, 2013 at 11:09 am

I'm sure hair-pie will come up with something to nit-pick about...

azfan wrote on September 10, 2013 at 1:09 pm

I did not see it, but I'm sure Tate got on the fans and must have done some cheerleading. Right Cowpie.

Moonpie wrote on September 10, 2013 at 2:09 pm

What's hilarious, but also telling and sad, is that instead of compelling counter arguments, you guys just rely on being nasty and finding different variations on moonpie -- like grade school bullies. Maybe some of those Chicago athletes who didn't come to C-U read a Sir Tate Legend column and realized he lives in the 1800s in the middle of a cornfield with an irrational fear of anything outside the hamlet of Champaign or the ideology of the Tea Party.

jdstieg wrote on September 10, 2013 at 3:09 pm

Moonpie/Cowpie.  .Hope you didn't get your feelings hurt.  You are a moron.  "Maybe some of those Chicago athletes who didn't come to didn't come to C-U read a Sir Tate Legend column, blah, blah, blah..." Yeah, that was probably the reason. One of your dumbest statements ever.  And that takes some doing. You are a one trick pony.

billbtri5 wrote on September 10, 2013 at 5:09 pm

if they want to get serious, next time there is an assistant coach opening hire someone from up there who has a following...

jnaour wrote on September 10, 2013 at 6:09 pm

What's interesting enough is that if you do the research, two of the best teams '89 and '90 of the last 25 years had standouts that most were from Indiana, Cali, or Mizzou, or the 'burbs.  VERY FEW from CPS or what is considered Chicago.