Illini fans discuss major rivalries

By Matt Troher, Assistant Features Editor

Michigan and Ohio State. Duke and North Carolina. Manchester City and Manchester United. The Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears. Biggie and Tupac. The greatest rivals to ever do it.

But here in our little pocket of Central Illinois, a major question remains unanswered: Illinois and … who?

There is no clear consensus on who Illinois’ biggest rival is. Answers vary from person to person and sport to sport. 

With basketball season in full swing and the Illini finishing out the tail end of their nonconference schedule, many Illini fans turned their rivaling eyes toward the University of Missouri (Mizzou, for short) when answering the question of Illinois’ biggest rival.

Kilton Rauman, senior in AHS, said he thinks that when it comes to basketball, Mizzou is our biggest rival.

“The Big Ten teams, you’re going to play them every year, you’re required to,” Rauman said. “But Mizzou and Illinois can’t stand each other enough that they’ve played 42 years straight just to — it’s in the name — have bragging rights over each other.”

Despite being in two different conferences, Illinois and Mizzou have played each other in basketball annually since 1983 in a contest known as “Braggin’ Rights.” The game is played in St. Louis, an equal distance between the two schools’ campuses in Champaign, Ill., and Columbia, Mo. 

The rivalry stemming from the Braggin’ Rights game has only grown in recent years due to large numbers of Illinois and Mizzou graduates living in the St. Louis and Chicago metropolitan areas.

Nick Orr, senior in Business, lives roughly an hour outside of Saint Louis. According to Orr, his geographical proximity to Mizzou’s recruiting ground has only strengthened his investment in the rivalry.

“I hate Mizzou,” Orr said. “There’s not enough words in the dictionary to express how much that logo makes me feel.”

Illinois has won the Braggin’ Rights game 33 times throughout the basketball rivalry, compared to Mizzou’s 20. This year’s game was not in the Illini’s favor, with Mizzou winning the right to brag — 93-71.

While the two schools also periodically play each other in football and plan to restart a formal Braggin’ Rights football series in 2026, identifying Illinois’ biggest football rival proved a bit harder. 

Cooper Block, senior in ACES, rattled off a few different names when asked about Illinois’ biggest football rivals, including Indiana and Wisconsin. According to Block, it’s hard to name one biggest rival due to how different teams’ skill levels fluctuate from year to year. However, with Illini football improving through the Bielema era, Block pointed toward Iowa as a potential future rival.

“With football, it changes so much,” Block said. “With us becoming more competitive, I think that Iowa will come up to being a big rivalry. It (wasn’t) that long ago that we’d battle Iowa a lot too and be rivals with them, so I think we’ll get back to that too as we continue to get better.”

Rauman agreed that Iowa is our biggest competitor when it comes to football. While he also mentioned a few other teams in the Big Ten, Raumen noted that a lot of other teams in the conference have bigger rivals they care more about than Illinois.

“I think it’s gotta be Iowa,” Rauman said. “Nobody here likes Michigan, but I don’t think anyone considers Michigan to be someone we get along with less than Iowa, and obviously to Michigan we’re going to be third for them behind Michigan State and Ohio State. Indiana was more of a big deal during the Bobby Knight days for basketball, but their football program has never been too good, and they’re always going to care about Purdue more.”

 

[email protected]