(WSCR) – Except for the final score, it appears as if the Northwestern Wildcats were thrilled with their Wrigley Field experience. Almost all of the talk leading up to the game revolved around that fact that both offenses would be heading in the same direction all game. The East endzone didn’t have enough room between the out-of-bounds line and brick wall in the outfield. But the big picture was that Northwestern received more recruiting and media coverage on a few days than they had all season. And because of that, the Wildcats might be taking a page from Ernie Banks’ book.
Northwestern might be willing to play two at Wrigley Field.
Athletic director Jim Phillips isn’t ruling out another football game at the Chicago Cubs’ historic ballpark after the Wildcats lost to Illinois under unique circumstances on Saturday.
“I can’t tell you that I would be committed right now to do another game, but I wouldn’t have much hesitation to jump back in,” he said Monday night. “That just means more vetting. I’ve got to think about it and talk with (coach Pat Fitzgerald) and talk to the Cubs and all the rest of it.”
Northwestern and Illinois were looking for publicity when they agreed to play at Wrigley and they certainly got their share.
Not only was it the first football game there in 40 years, there were some last-minute rules changes that turned more than a few heads.
The most unusual was this.
The Big Ten announced on Friday that the offenses would run only toward the west end zone near the third-base dugout because of safety concerns over the one in right. The back of that end zone came within a foot or so of a padded brick wall in right, and although Phillips acknowledged the timing of the announcement wasn’t ideal, he said the change was “absolutely the right thing to do.”
In the land of Bartman and black cats and Billy goat curses, maybe it was only fitting that there was some unique twist to this game. Then again, the fact that it was simply being played at Wrigley already made it special.
Not since the Bears left following the 1970 season had football been played at Wrigley and it had been even longer for a college game – 72 years to be exact.
Phillips realizes the novelty was a major selling point for this one, and that could wear off with more games. He said Northwestern has also discussed playing at Soldier Field and U.S. Cellular Field, but “we’re not close to making a commitment on doing anything at any of those places.”
He’s reluctant to move more games off campus. In fact, the point of playing at Wrigley was to draw more spectators to Ryan Field.
“We’re really trying to drive more fans to come to Ryan Field in Evanston,” Phillips said. “I guess I wouldn’t be so quick to give up a home game every year to do it at Wrigley. I don’t know if for us it would make a lot of sense to do it on an annual basis, but maybe semiannual or every four, five years. I just think a lot of that’s premature because we haven’t gotten to the final closure of this game.”
If there were another game at Wrigley, Phillips said it wouldn’t necessarily be against Illinois. He also said the position of the field, itself, would have to be addressed.
“We’d have to get the field, once and for all, in a position where there would be no question that it would be safe by all standards – safe by risk-management’s standards, safe by engineers’ standards, safe by all practical perspectives, safe by the NCAA and the boundaries and all of that,” he said. “So I would say that would be No. 1.”
Other issues involving ticketing and the placement of seats would be looked at. But the bottom line, he said, was the game on Saturday was a success.
“The litmus test is the fan response and the fan experience,” he said. “I just think what I heard today, though it wasn’t perfect and we had a couple things, that overall they felt it was just a tremendous experience.”
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