Men's Basketball

‘Red Line Rivalry’ Divides Chicago Collegiate Athletics from Loyola to Fullerton

Steve Woltmann | Loyola AthleticsFormer Loyola guard Walt Gibler drives for a layup during the Ramblers' 2011 matchup with DePaul at Gentile Arena.

Loyola and DePaul University have been divided for years, not just by the 11 CTA stops that separate them, but by their athletics fanbases.

DePaul is part of the Big East Conference, while Loyola plays almost all sports in the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) except men’s volleyball. The Big East is one of the largest and most influential conferences in the NCAA and is part of the “Power Six,” in basketball.

As a result, DePaul typically hosts opponents in the “Power Six” conferences — the Atlantic Coast Conference, Big-10, Big-12, the Pacific-12 Conference, Big East and the Southeastern Conference. Being in the MVC, Loyola doesn’t often face off against these larger schools, regardless of geographical proximity.

However, Loyola gets the chance to play DePaul in frequent contests across several sports due to scheduling accommodations by both universities. 

According to Loyola women’s soccer head coach Barry Bimbi, the tradition of the Red Line Rivalry even bleeds into the way the team travels.

“When we go [to DePaul], part of our ‘Red Line Rivalry’ tradition is to take the L,” Bimbi said. “We can get on at our campus and get off right at their game field. It’s a neat experience.”

The Loyola women’s soccer team has played DePaul on a yearly basis since 2006, except in 2020 due to NCAA non-conference limitations during the pandemic. 

Loyola won this year’s contest 1-0 Sept. 9 to bounce back after losing the past two contests in 2018 and 2019.

The Loyola men’s soccer team was also triumphant over the Blue Demons this season with the Ramblers taking the Aug. 26 contest 2-1 on the road.

The “Red Line Rivalry” is also present on the volleyball court with the Loyola women’s volleyball team participating in the annual Chicago Cup. This tournament — which has been consistently hosted on a weekend in mid-September since 2018 — includes Loyola, DePaul, Northwestern University and University of Illinois Chicago.

The tournament was most recently claimed by DePaul in their sweep of University of Illinois Chicago Sept. 18. Loyola lost to Northwestern 3-0 in their final game of the tournament. 

The rivalry between the Loyola and DePaul men’s basketball programs will reignite later this year when Loyola travels to DePaul Dec. 4. This will be the teams’ first matchup since 2012 and sixth since 1996, though their rivalry goes back much further than that. The historical record between these two teams dates back to 1923, with the overall record being 18-38 in favor of DePaul.

Graduate guard and Chicago native Lucas Williamson said the matchup is especially exciting for players from the city who know the rivalry well — including DePaul senior guard Javon Freeman-Liberty, who played basketball with Williamson at Whitney Young High School in the Near West Side neighborhood and against him in the MVC while Freeman-Liberty attended Valparaiso University.

“It’s definitely a game I’m excited about, especially because I am from Chicago,” Williamson said. “It’s a great game for the city, a great event for the city…There’s a lot of Chicagoans playing in that game. Chicago will be out there in full force on the floor and in the stands.”

For the women’s basketball team, playing local rivals is more common as the two teams have faced off every year since 2004, with DePaul taking all but one out of 17 contests. The teams will face off again Nov. 12 in Lincoln Park — and if the Ramblers win, it’ll be their first against DePaul since their 88-75 win in 2015.

Steve Woltmann | Loyola Athletics The Loyola women’s basketball team is one of the teams that participates in the fabled “Red Line Rivalry.”

The “Red Line Rivalry’’ also extends to academics according to Loyola senior Jack Hutchinson. The information systems major and Chicago native, said the two universities contrast in both the academics and athletics they offer.

“They’re just completely different in my opinion,” Hutchinson said. “DePaul seems more artsy, while Loyola has a little bit more of a business school.”

Regardless of what happens on the field or court and in the classroom, Bimbi said this rivalry is based on respect across the board with both schools viewing each other as worthy opponents.

“For a Big East school to host a Missouri Valley School, we really appreciate that,” Bimbi said. “They don’t have to schedule us and we don’t have to schedule them. The respect that I have for them that they want to keep this rivalry going and fresh in everyone’s minds, I have a ton of respect for that.”

The Loyola women’s basketball team travels to DePaul Nov. 12 to play the Blue Demons at 7 p.m. Broadcast details have yet to be set.

The men’s basketball team will be the next to take a trip down to Lincoln Park for its own matchup Dec. 4 at 3 p.m., which will be broadcast on Fox 1.

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