Big Ten

New Illini AD Josh Whitman wants Chicago, in-state kids to 'bleed orange and blue'

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New Illini AD Josh Whitman wants Chicago, in-state kids to 'bleed orange and blue'

One of the biggest challenges for new Illinois athletics director Josh Whitman will be changing the perception of his department across the state as well as selling top-notch in-state high school talent on playing for the Illini.

In both football and basketball, recent recruiting cycles have seen the state's top high school prospects bypass Illinois and opt for out-of-state schools in the Big Ten, at Notre Dame and farther away from the Land of Lincoln.

So how does Whitman help his head coaches sell the state's flagship institution to the top recruits in Chicago, the suburbs and from all over the state?

"I think it starts a lot earlier than (high school). I think ultimately we want kids in our state to grow up being Illini fans, we want them to bleed orange and blue from the time they can remember," Whitman said in an interview Thursday at Comcast SportsNet. "To me, it's not dealing with them when they're 18 and 17 years old, it's when they're seven and eight years old and giving them something to be excited about and they reflect back and say, 'I grew up wanting to play for the University of Illinois, here's my opportunity.' And certainly there's more to it than that. We are going to have to do a good job of developing those relationships with the coaches, the student-athletes here in the city and across the state. I know that our folks can do that, and certainly that'll be an emphasis for us."

[SHOP BIG TEN: Get your Fighting Illini gear right here]

Whitman himself is a good template for kids who might be deciding whether or not to play in Champaign. He spent four years in the Illinois football program and worked in the Illinois athletics department when he returned to campus to earn his law degree.

He spoke with tremendous passion about the university during his introductory press conference on Thursday morning, and he told CSN that he hopes the Illini faithful can use his excitement and pride for his alma mater as a spring board to boost their own enthusiasm surrounding the athletics programs.

"We want our fanbase to be excited about what we're doing. We want them to buy into Illinois athletics and understand we're taking positive steps in the right direction," Whitman said. "And so, if nothing else, I hope that people see the intensity and the excitement that I have for the program and can use that as a spring board for their own feelings about what we're doing and the pride they have in the orange and blue."

Check out the video above for the full interview with Whitman, which includes Chicago sports' most hard-hitting question: Cubs or Sox?

Former Illini champion Kevin Anderson upsets Roger Federer in Wimbledon quarterfinal

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USA TODAY

Former Illini champion Kevin Anderson upsets Roger Federer in Wimbledon quarterfinal

Former University of Illinois tennis star Kevin Anderson completed a marathon upset against an all-time great on the highest stage of professional tennis.

Anderson came back from two sets down to beat Roger Federer in Wimbledon’s quarterfinals 2-6, 6-7, 7-6, 6-4, 13-11 on Wednesday morning. He will play in the semifinals of the tournament for the first time in his career.

As a native of South Africa, Anderson played three seasons with the Fighting Illini and won the NCAA doubles championship during the 2005-06 season as a sophomore. The 32-year-old was a three-time All-American in singles at Illinois.

Now, as the eighth ranked singles player on the ATP World Tour, Anderson is a force to be reckoned with at the professional level. He made it all the way to the US Open final in 2017.

The former Illini star will look to keep his recent success going when he represents Illinois in the semifinals of Wimbledon this Friday.

Northwestern set to play Wisconsin at Wrigley Field in 2020

Northwestern set to play Wisconsin at Wrigley Field in 2020

Weeks will separate a perfect 10-year anniversary where Northwestern will play at Wrigley Field for one of its regular season games in the upcoming years.

Back on Nov. 20, 2010, the Wildcats battled it out with Illinois, known as the “Wrigleyville Classic,” which saw the Illini take a 48-27 win.

Even though it’s still two years out, Northwestern still planned ahead and announced its opponent for its game at Wrigley Field on Nov. 7, 2020, against Big Ten rival Wisconsin.

“Obviously an exciting opportunity for our football program to come back to Wrigley Field, one of the Cathedrals of sporting venues in the world,” Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “When I announced it to our team, they were absolutely ecstatic.”

“The opportunity to play at Wrigley field is unique to us, being Chicago’s Big Ten team, and to have the chance to come down and play in an atmosphere like we did a few years back was a bowl game type atmosphere, and I look forward to this special opportunity.”

This game though will be a little different than it was back in 2010. Both the Wildcats and Illini played toward the west end zone due to a tight squeeze near the right field wall due to box seats that were added down the third base line.

Now, Northwestern and Wisconsin do not have to worry about that problem because the bullpens have since moved to the outfield.

Cubs president of business operations Crane Kenney spoke at a news conference earlier on Tuesday at Wrigley.

“So excited to welcome back Northwestern to Wrigley Field to talk about football again,” Kenney said. “We had an incredible experience with them back in 2010."

Kenney also mentioned new seating is on a temporary platform that can all be removed and the dugout tops can be removed as well, and the field will expand west, to allow for a longer field.

With a sellout crowd in the last go around for the Wildcats, don’t be surprised for another sellout at the Friendly Confines.