One for-sure on Iowa's schedule: Illinois in '14

With the schools headed to Big Ten West, 5-year drought will end

Published: May 14 2013 | 2:46 pm - Updated: 28 March 2014 | 3:21 pm in

CHICAGO -- Five things that have happened since the last time Iowa and Illinois met on a football field (Nov. 1, 2008):

1) Barack Obama was elected.

2) The Chicago Blackhawks ended a 49-year Stanley Cup drought.

3) Craft beer became a thing.

4) A TV show called "Jersey Shore" came and went.

5) Justin Bieber.

Illinois beat Iowa, 27-24, at Memorial Stadium in '08 and then, through a series of circumstances -- mainly the Legends and Leaders -- the rivalry shut down. Despite the fact that the schools sit 243 miles apart, five years will have passed when the two schools next meet in 2014.

When the Big Ten welcomes Maryland and Rutgers into the conference in 2014, Iowa and Illinois will be placed in the West Division, ending the five-years of no football between the two schools.

It seems insane the schools haven't met.

"It does," Illinois athletics director Mike Thomas said. "Us being in the west with Iowa made a heckuva a lot of sense for me."

Thomas is one half of the new football equation at Illinois. When he was hired in '11, Thomas fired Ron Zook. He hired Tim Beckman away from Toledo. The reviews are mixed, with the Illini finishing 2-10 and 0-8 in the league last season.

Still, Thomas knows there's great potential with Iowa-Illinois.

"I've always thought of it that way," said Thomas, who began his career in athletics administration as an intern at Iowa 25 years ago. "We should be playing Iowa and having a steady diet of that. I'm absolutely a fan of that."

When the Big Ten added Nebraska in 2010, B1G commissioner Jim Delany put a premium on competitive balance when deciding on divisions. That led to some geographical curiosities, namely no Iowa-Wisconsin every year and no Iowa-Illinois at all.

The 2014 divisions are based on geography. Iowa will play five schools from bordering states on its West Division schedule. This is something Iowa athletics director Gary Barta very much endorses.

"I'm excited about playing all of the schools around us on a geographical bases," Barta said, "and I know our fans are, too."

The '08 game was intense. Illinois receiver Arrelious Benn dropped the "hate" bomb in the postgame.

“Iowa is a team that thinks it’s so much better than us, and we just came on and beat them,” Benn said. “Our team’s never beat Iowa, and it’s just something about Iowa that I personally don’t like. Through the week they talk a lot of trash through the media and stuff. … I just hate Iowa.”

The hate is understandable.  Iowa owned Illinois in the 2000s, beating the Illini a series-record five straight times, including a 10-6 win in 2007, which kept the Rose Bowl-bound Illini from a 10-win season.

Despite the five-year absence, no introductions will be needed in 2014.

"Even back when I was at Iowa, I was in my early 20s and didn't have a real history with Iowa, but I think back then, it was quite a rivalry," Thomas said. "I would anticipate that happening in the future."

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