School name: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Location: Champaign, IL
Mascot/nickname: Fighting Illini
School colors: Navy blue & orange
Distance from College Park: 692 miles
B1G Member since: Founding Member (1896)
Notable achievements: Five National Championships in football (1914, 1919, 1923, 1927, 1951), 1915 National Champions in men's basketball, five Final Four appearances, 17 Big Ten Conference titles in basketball.
We’ve been in the ACC since forever. Tell us which ACC school this is most similar to and why.
Illinois is ranked #41 in in U.S. News’ 2014 rankings. The closest ACC schools to that would be Georgia Tech, which checks in at #36, and the University of Miami, which comes in at #47. Athletically, Illinois is actually similar to Maryland, with both schools having a strong basketball tradition and struggling on the football field in recent years They even last won a B1G Football Conference title in 2001, the same year the Terps last won an ACC title.
Let me phone a friend about this
Our new B1G palls at The Champaign Room, SBNation’s Illinois blog, gives us their answer on what ACC school they’re most similar to:
Mark Primiano from The Champaign Room: This was actually a much harder question to answer than I thought it would be. The blue and orange bond made me want to force in a Syracuse or Virginia comparison, but those don't really fit well after the superficial, so no go. Then I figured I could go with one of the basketball schools, but Duke's football history is far too sad and UNC's is a bit too consistently good.
So after combing through the rest of the conference roster, the answer has to be Maryland. Traditionally good basketball school currently stuck in a bit of a rough patch. Football program that has shown the promise and ability to field good teams but somehow fails to string it together for more than three years at a time. Yeah, we're more or less you guys but without an ocean. We even have a turtle rivalry trophy!
The football team plays at the historic Memorial Stadium, which opened in 1923 and now seats 60,670. The stadium is dedicated to the Illinois students who lost their lives during World War I, as their names can be found on the columns on the east and west sides of the stadium.
The men's and women's basketball teams play at the newly named State Farm Center, which was formerly called Assembly Hall (constructed in 1963). The arena seats 16,616 and is currently being renovated to include premium seating and state-of-the-art player facilities. At men's basketball games, you'll find a sea of orange in the stands, led by the student section, nicknamed the Orange Krush. Like at Comcast Center, the students occupy the seats around the floor making it a tough environment for road teams. In 2006 -- the year after the Illini last made the final four -- it was named the second best student section in the country by Sports Illustrated. First? The Cameron Crazies of Duke.
Illinois has seen recent success in several non-revenue sports, most notably baseball, men's golf, women's soccer and volleyball. The baseball team has made 10 NCAA Tournament appearances, the most recent coming in 2013. In 2014, they finished third in the Big Ten, and should be a good opponent for a Maryland baseball team that should hopefully be competing near the top of the B1G next season. Men's golf won five straight B1G Conference Titles from 2009-2013, while women's soccer made the Sweet Sixteen in 2013 and has made the NCAA Tournament in all but three years since 2000. Women's volleyball made the Final Four in 2011 and has 21 NCAA Tournament appearances since 1985.
Food, beer, & Town:
For this, we'll ask our SBN partner site to give us the best food locations, tell us what is awesome about Champaign and more.
Mark Primiano from The Champaign Room: Champaign tends to get looked down upon by other fanbases in the conference, which doesn't really feel fair. Sure, it's no Madison or Ann Arbor, but it's not like Evanston, East Lansing, Iowa City, or West Lafayette are very nice either. The thing to remember about Champaign (and sister city Urbana) is that you are in the middle of Illinois. You're two hours away from any major cities and you are surrounded by corn. It's a city that wouldn't really exist without the university.
The best food near campus is Black Dog Smoke & Ale House in Urbana. Black Dog has some of the best BBQ I've ever eaten and I currently live near Kansas City. It's a must eat for visitors. But if you want to stay in the Campustown area and mingle with students and drunken alumni on Green Street, your best bet is Murphy's Pub. The pub is much bigger than it was only a few years ago, but all the food is still the same. Fantastic burgers and wonderful Irish nachos.
How likely is Maryland to develop a rivalry with this school?
In football, a rivalry seems unlikely with Illinois in the West Division and only on Maryland's schedule once over the next six seasons, in 2018. Basketball seems more likely given both schools tradition in the sport, but even there there are probably other schools higher on the list of "most likely rivals."