CHICAGO (AP) _ Illinois schoolchildren won't necessarily be ducking their homework by tuning in to watch the Chicago Bears play football this season.

The team is sponsoring a new statewide program linking geography lesson plans with the cities where the Bears' weekly opponents are from.

Patrick McCaskey, the team's director of community involvement, said the goal is to boost interest in studying maps and learning about different cultures.

''The general impression is that students don't have much interest in geography,'' said McCaskey, brother of Bears president Michael McCaskey. ''We think there's a lot of interest in the Bears. That's the hook.''

Under the program, geography teachers would teach about the region where the Bears are playing, or - if the Bears are at home that week - about where the visiting team is from, McCaskey said.

Geography is one of the principal areas that Illinois schools need to work on, said Lee Milner, a spokesman for the state Board of Education.

''Anytime you can make learning more interesting and fun and also maintain the educational purpose, we think it's positive,'' Milner said.

The team decided to sponsor the program because other NFL teams have done it and had success in sparking student interest, McCaskey said.

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GOSHEN, Conn. (AP) - Work has begun on Ivan Lendl's home which is expected to cost more than $7 million.

The 40,000-square-foot house is being built on a 450-acre site in Goshen and Cornwall, Peter Ebersol, the tennis player's attorney, said.

Ernest Torizzo of O & G Industries, which was awarded the contract to build the house, said an indoor pool is included in the plans, but Lendl has not decided whether he wants an outdoor pool.

Torizzo said Lendl likely will make the decision about how many tennis courts to build and which playing surface to use.

The house will not be ready for about two years. Lendl and his wife, Samantha, live in Greenwich but plan to sell the house when they move.

Lendl and another man bought a 905-acre parcel for $4.1 million.

Half the land belongs to Lendl, about a quarter to Walzer and the remainder consists is protected under the state farmland preservation program which prohibits non-agricultural development.

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NEW YORK (AP) - Northwestern is No. 1 on the list of the ''20 Worst College Football Teams of 1990-91,'' published in the October issue of Penthouse magazine. Author Larry Linderman doesn't expect the Wildcats to be any better than last season when they lost all 11 games.

New Mexico State is No. 2 on the worst list, followed by Columbia, Kansas State, Fordham, Southern Methodist, Utah, Temple, Vanderbilt and Cincinnati.

Oregon State is ranked No. 11, and is followed by Rutgers, Texas El-Paso, Navy, Wake Forest, California, Richmond, Boston College, Maryland and Louisiana State.

The No. 1 ranking is a step backward for Northwestern, which was 13th last year. Kansas State, rated the worst team in last year's rankings, wasn't that bad. It won a game and lost 10.

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) - New York Mets shortstop Kevin Elster is back with the team but will not play for the rest of the reason while recuperating from shoulder surgery.

The operation was done Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala., but only after Elster consulted another surgeon, and was unhappy with what went on.

''The whole examination took five minutes,'' Elster said of the first doctor, ''and he didn't even know who I was. He asked me, 'are you a starter or a reliever.'''