UPDATE: The Chicago Cubs have released a statement concerning the last-minute change to the Northwestern-Illinois game. Cubs President Crane Kenney had the following to say:
“The Chicago Cubs are surprised by the Big Ten’s last-minute statement regarding changes for tomorrow’s Northwestern-Illinois football game at Wrigley Field. Let there be no doubt: the safety of the student-athletes has been – and remains – the number one priority since the concept of this game was first discussed more than a year ago, and all parties have gone to complete lengths to ensure student-athlete safety for this contest.
LISTEN: Northwestern Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald Reacts To Changes For Wrigley Game
LISTEN: Northwestern Athletic Director Jim Phillips Talks About The Decision To Make The Changes
LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Mike Krauser Reports
“The essential item in our negotiations to host the football game at Wrigley Field was obtaining approval of both universities and the Big Ten for the field dimensions as related to player safety issues. The field dimension layout was delivered to the Big Ten approximately eight months ago and was approved by the conference. Last month, the field was built exactly to the dimensions previously approved by the Big Ten. Last week, a Big Ten official performed an on-site visit at Wrigley Field, participated in a field walk-thru and raised no issue with the field dimensions, painted lines and boundaries previously approved by the Big Ten.”
Updated on November 19, 2010 at 12:40 PM
(WSCR) – Almost all of the talk regarding the Northwestern and Illinois football game has been about the atmosphere in Wrigley Field and the safety of the players. Today the Big Ten announced that several changes would be made to the game format to help protect the players in the game.
The Big Ten Conference announced a series of adjustments to football playing rules in order to enhance student-athlete safety for the Illinois-Northwestern game to be played on Saturday, Nov. 20, at Wrigley Field in Chicago. The Big Ten worked with both Illinois and Northwestern to review a number of potential rule or field adjustments to provide the safest environment for the student-athletes. The conference requested and received waivers to several NCAA playing rules in the interest of student-athlete safety.
The following rule changes were determined to be the best of all options and will be in effect for this game only based on the unique layout of the field.
1) All offensive plays will head toward the West end zone, including all extra points and all overtime possessions.
2) All kickoffs will be kicked toward the East end zone.
3) After every change of possession, the ball will be repositioned for the offense to head toward the West end zone.
4) As a result of a coin toss held by the conference office Friday morning, Illinois will occupy the West team bench in the first half and Northwestern will occupy the West team bench in the second half and for all overtime periods.
“The health and safety of our student-athletes is of the utmost importance,” said Big Ten Commissioner James E. Delany. “Both Illinois and Northwestern did significant due diligence over the past 18 months, but after seeing the actual layout of the field, all parties felt that it was appropriate to adjust the rules to further enhance the safety of our student-athletes. Wrigley Field is one of the most historic venues in the country, and playing the Illinois-Northwestern game at this facility will provide a once-in-a-lifetime experience for student-athletes, coaches and fans.”
A Big Ten press release contributed to this article.