Illini football to play at Soldier Field in 2013

When Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas was hired in August 2011 he made it clear that one of his goals was to increase the Illini’s presence in Chicago.

His latest stride in that effort came on Tuesday, when the Illinois football team announced it will take on the Washington Huskies on Sept. 14, 2013 at Soldier Field in Chicago.

This will be the second time the Illini have traveled to the home of the Chicago Bears and the first since 1994, a 10-9 win over another Pac-12 team, Washington State.

“This is a great opportunity for our football team to play in one of the most historic football venues in the nation,” Thomas said in a press release. “Soldier Field is in an incredible location that will allow our fans in the Chicagoland area and from around the state an opportunity to watch the Fighting Illini take on an outstanding Pac-12 opponent in Washington.”

Illinois will become the third Big Ten team in as many years to host a game at Soldier Field. The others including Wisconsin and Iowa.

This announcement comes just four days after Illinois athletics unveiled a new logo and theme: “Illinois. Our State. Our Team.”

Expect to see that slogan in advertisements, street banners, team posters, video graphics and just about any other Illini promotional tool. Thomas said he wants Illini fans to be able to rally behind the concept of Illinois being the flagship institution in the state.

That includes “the team up north” as Illinois head coach Tim Beckman has named the Illini’s Big Ten and state brethren Northwestern.

The last time the Illini football team played in Chicago was a 48-27 victory over the Wildcats at Wrigley Field in 2010. Beckman has tried to push a rivalry with the Wildcats in his first few months as head coach, including crossing out a sign with a Northwestern logo that still remains in the Illini locker room and meeting room.