The Chicago Fighting Illini?
According to a report from the Champaign News-Gazette's Matt Daniels, the Illini basketball team will be forced to play one exhibition game and four regular-season non-conference games away from the State Farm Center at the start of the 2015-16 season, due to planned unfinished construction on the arena.
“It’s really construction-driven,” Illinois executive senior associate athletic director Jason Lener told Daniels. “We don’t have a location finalized, but we are working on some options. We will have something finalized in the next couple of months."
So where will the Illini play those games?
“We’re looking for different venues throughout the state," Lener said, "but it would be off-campus."
[MORE BIG TEN: Big Ten, basketball, America: The B1G's star-spangled hoopsters]
"Throughout the state." Call me crazy, but does a Chicago-based location immediately come to anyone else's mind? The Illini frequently play non-conference games at the United Center, typically once a season. The Allstate Arena in Rosemont is also no stranger to hosting college hoops games. Aside from serving as DePaul's home arena for years, it was the site of one of the greatest moments in Illini hoops history: the comeback game in the 2005 Elite Eight against Arizona. Some nice memories in that building for the orange and blue.
Plus, the Illini were kind enough to host the Bears for their home games when Soldier Field was under construction in 2002. How about returning the favor?
Another cool idea could be kind of a tour of the state that would allow the Illini to reach out to fans all over the Land of Lincoln.
This is all just conjecture and suggestion, but given the school's massive Chicago-area alumni base, you'd have to figure this isn't the first time this suggestion has been made. If the Illini need a temporary home in 2015, surely Chicago-based fans would like to see a few extra games in their neck of the woods.
UPDATE: Daniels updated his report, mentioning that Illinois has reached out to Illinois State University in Bloomington and the Peoria Civic Center (home of the Bradley University Braves) regarding available dates. Allstate Arena told Daniels they had not been contacted.