Who really is Chicago's Big Ten team?
Northwestern — which has geography on its side in that argument — has used the slogan for years now, but someone is always trying to claim the Windy City as their own. Most recently, that was Lovie Smith, the new head football coach at Illinois, and after coaching the Bears for nine years, he might have a better case than anyone who preceded him.
Last month during Big Ten Media Days, the Illini coach claimed his squad was "Chicago's team," further fueling this mostly meaningless debate.
More Land of Lincoln rivalry news came out of Media Days, too, when Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald welcomed three new coaches to the Big Ten, forgetting to welcome Smith, an error he quickly fixed on Twitter.
But as for which school, Northwestern or Illinois, is Chicago's Big Ten team, Fitzgerald figures the answer is pretty obvious, and he was asked about it Wednesday during the Wildcats' media day in Evanston.
"I've got a ton of respect for coach Smith, and obviously, as I said, as I walked off the deus I fumbled the ball not welcoming him to the league," Fitzgerald said. "He's a great friend and someone I've got a ton of respect for. He's kind of the next singer of the same song. I've heard that song a bunch, and I think it's great for fans and great for marketing people. But I don't know, I think we sent out a tweet yesterday of the skyline and our practice field, so I'll let that speak for itself. How does that sound?"
Yeah, that's a pretty good argument.
Fitzgerald went on to talk about the rivalry with Illinois further.
"From a rivalry standpoint, I think both teams need to improve. I think for this rivalry to have significance, I think both teams have to be better. For a lot of years, we weren't very good, and we've just got to continue to control what we can control and that's our improvement. I think our fans all enjoy it. But I think our rivalry is built on respect, without a doubt, 100 percent from our perspective. And that's the way that we've always operated."
The teams have met 109 times, with Illinois holding a 55-49-5 edge in the all-time series. Since Fitzgerald took over at Northwestern, though, the Cats are 6-4 in those 10 contests.
Smith's first taste of the battle for the Land of Lincoln Trophy comes Nov. 26 in Evanston.