World of Beer cancels Illinois coaches’ event

Josh Walfish, Sports Editor

Illinois is not coming to Evanston after all.

A week after the Fighting Illini announced a May 8 stop on their Coaches Caravan tour at World of Beer, the downtown Evanston bar has called off the event.

Owner Ted Mavrakis said his decision to cancel the rally was influenced by Northwestern students organizing against it on social media.

“I don’t want to alienate the community in which we live, so I made the decision,” Mavrakis said.

Illinois athletic department spokesman Kent Brown said he did not know why Mavrakis nixed the party, “but it is his right as a bar owner.” The May 8 stop will be rescheduled at a yet-to-be-announced venue in Chicago, Brown said.

NU’s athletic department was mostly mum on the cancellation, saying it does not comment on other schools’ activities. “We’re focused on Northwestern,” spokesman Paul Kennedy said in an email to The Daily.

Wildside, NU’s official student section, made a Facebook event hours after the Coaches Caravan was announced last month, asking students to show up and protest NU’s in-state rival. The Facebook event had more than 250 attendees as of 5 p.m. Wednesday.

Wildside president Gram Bowsher said the cancellation proves NU students care about their teams.

“It really shows the progress that’s been made in the past few years for students on campus,” the SESP sophomore said. “We are taking things seriously, and it will change student culture on campus.”

Given tensions between Illinois and NU on and off the field, the event was controversial from the get-go. The two schools have both launched ambitious campaigns to attract Chicago-area fans, with NU crowning itself “Chicago’s Big Ten Team” and Illinois tying the Coaches Caravan to its “Our State, Our Team” initiative.

Illinois’ original justification for the World of Beer stop was to attract North Shore fans who wanted to cheer on the Fighting Illini closer to home. The caravan is designed for alumni and give fans across the state the chance to meet football coach Tim Beckman, men’s basketball coach John Groce, women’s basketball coach Matt Bollant and athletic director Mike Thomas.

Wildside is now urging NU students and fans to thank the bar by patronizing it over the next week.

“Operation: Ruin an Illinois Football Event accomplished,” Bowsher said in a Facebook status Wednesday afternoon. “Go ‘Cats!”

Patrick Svitek contributed reporting.