Tag:Wrigley Field
Posted on: April 18, 2011 1:01 pm

Northwestern wants to keep playing at Wrigley

Posted by Tom Fornelli

The game played between Northwestern and Illinois at Wrigley Field last November was panned critically, and for good reason. Due to a lack of space behind the east zone, the game was played with the offense continually moving towards the west end zone where there was more space between the back of the end zone and a brick wall. Which made the game an easy target of jokes, but the fact is, the game was quite successful for Northwestern both in the financial sense and in a marketing sense.

So much so that according to a report in the Chicago Tribune this weekend, Northwestern would like to make its date at Wrigley Field an annual affair.

The Nov. 20 game was such a financial and marketing success that Cubs and Northwestern officials have talked about putting an annual Wrigley Field game on the calendar, sources told the Tribune.

But that won't happen until the Cubs renovate their ballpark. Once it secures funding, the team hopes to create space for a regulation 100-yard field by manipulating walls in at least one dugout area.

I was at the game in November, and while only one end zone being in play took a few minutes to get used to, it did not really hinder the game. The fact was that the atmosphere of the game at Wrigley easily surpassed any atmosphere you'll come across at Northwestern's Dyche Stadium in Evanston. The biggest difference being that the stands were packed, which just doesn't happen at Northwestern home games in Evanston. I said following the game that I'd like to see more football played at Wrigley Field, and that opinion still stands today.

If a way to include both end zones can be found, even better.


Posted on: April 8, 2011 3:45 pm
Edited on: April 8, 2011 3:45 pm

Friday Four Links (and a cloud of dust), 4/8

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Every Friday we catch up on four stories you might have missed during the week ... and add a few extra links to help take you into the weekend.


1. It's not easy for a school like Mississippi State to keep up with the Joneses of the SEC when it comes to the facilities arms race ... but $12 million worth of private donation sure helps. The artist's rendition of the future "Leo Seal Jr. Football Complex" (which will house practice fields a weight room, coaches' offices, etc.) looks like so:

2. It sounds like new Colorado coach Jon Embree isn't wasting any time reshaping the Buffaloes roster. Though a round of cuts (unfortunately) isn't exactly unprecedented for a new coaching administration, it will be interesting to see if there's any pushback from the Boulder media or academic types over his cancellation of scholarships for "effort"-related reasons that seem to straddle the "violation of team rules" line.

One player who won't mind Embree's arrival regardless: Buff kicker Justin Castor, who watched Dan Hawkins burn his redshirt last season to attempt just one field goal.

3. Unlike most sports teams, when choosing a design for their Rose Bowl championship rings, TCU went reserved, classy, tasteful :

Or, perhaps, the opposite of that. (Not that they don't deserve rings that would fit around this blogger's wrist, of course.)

4. After the success of last year's Illinois-Northwestern game at Wrigley Field (and that in the face of the "offense only faces one way" debacle), it's no surprise that the Boston Red Sox would consider hosting a college football game of their own at Fenway Park. Though such a game is still just a twinkle in the Sox executive's eye at this stage, it's no surprise that Boston College fans would like to volunteer their team's services.


Cal receiver Tevin Carter has left the Bears program citing a lack of interest in football; Carter did not catch a pass last season ... "Top-level donors" at Arizona State are getting a sneak peek at the team's new uniforms ... Minnesota signee Peter Westerhaus suffered a skull fracture and received 50 stitches after being hit in the face by a boulder on a family hiking trip in the Grand Canyon. He'll be fine for fall practice, though ... Staying with the Gophers, a bill to allow alcohol sales in TCF Bank Stadium's "premium seating" has made it through committee ... The intensity of the Iron Bowl rivalry extends itself to a gymnastics meet, not that you should be surprised by that ... And speaking of Auburn, reserve linebacker Jessel Curry and reserve safety Ryan Smith are not currently with the Tigers during spring practice, though the door to their return doesn't sound closed yet ... And speaking of Alabama, here's 50 photos (!) illustrating the process (pun intended ) of bringing the Tide's new Nick Saban statue to, uh, life ...  A useful look at the SEC's overall athletic program program margins, of which football is obviously the largest part ... Things got feisty at Texas A&M's practice this week ... The most in-depth 2011 preview of UL-Monroe you're going to find, courtesy of new stats-loving blog Football Study Hall .

Posted on: November 21, 2010 4:36 am

What I learned from the Big Ten (Nov. 20)

Posted by Adam Jacobi

1. Wisconsin fans shouldn't necessarily buy tickets to Pasadena, but they should at least be pricing them. We're sure that Badger fans weren't terribly excited to see their nemeses in East Lansing complete the comeback today, leaving the Big Ten title picture still in some measure of doubt, but Ohio State 's own comeback against Iowa later that day means that barring a sensational boost in the BCS rankings for the Buckeyes, Wisconsin is one win away from the Rose Bowl. Considering Northwestern -- the Badgers' last opponent -- clearly misses injured QB Dan Persa and struggles to stop the run, the likelihood of an upset at Camp Randall seems slim. Famous last words, yes, but still.

2. Don't mention fourth quarters to Iowa fans for a while. Or do if you want to anger them. In the Hawkeyes' game against Ohio State, the Buckeyes weathered Iowa's defense for three quarters before making a heroic drive in the last few minutes of the game to take the lead and win. For the Iowa fans, it was a broken record that desperately needs to stop; in each of Iowa's four losses, the vaunted Iowa defense has given up a go-ahead touchdown with less than five minutes on the clock, at which point the Iowa offense has failed to answer under pressure. In fact, Iowa would have five losses of that exact nature if Indiana wideout Damario Belcher hadn't dropped an easy fourth-down touchdown two weeks ago. It's to the point where "small sample size" just doesn't work as an excuse anymore: the Iowa defense clearly doesn't have the juice to play for 60 minutes, and that painful fact has snuffed out the high hopes of the Hawkeye faithful in Iowa City.

3. The Spartans might not be going to the Rose Bowl, but their season's pretty special anyway. Barring an Ohio State loss to Michigan next week, Michigan State will not be going to Pasadena; the fact that MSU and OSU didn't play each other this season means that their tiebreaker would be BCS ranking, and OSU was already comfortably ahead of the Spartans even before OSU took down a ranked Iowa team while MSU struggled with very-not-ranked Purdue. Michigan State's season-ender at Penn State isn't a gimme, but even if the Spartans lose, this is still just the third time in program history that MSU has hit 10 wins on a season (1965, 1999). The Spartans have never won 11 games in a season, and they have two opportunities to do that now.

The accomplishment isn't that much of a stunner, as the Spartans looked on paper to be at worst a darkhorse contender for the league title. It's just, well, they barely ever do this, so it was hard not to wonder how MSU would screw it all up this year. But credit Mark Dantonio and his staff for keeping the team on track, even through Dantonio's heart attack and other off-field problems, and en route to its best Big Ten record its best conference record in at least 11 (and maybe 45) years.

4. Okay, so football at Wrigley can be pretty cool -- even if one of the end zones is sort of a death trap. The Big Ten got it right when it forbade Illinois and Northwestern to run offensive series toward that now-infamous east end zone at Wrigley, and when Northwestern defensive back Brian Peters took an interception to the house, he had to be tackled by teammates before hitting that wall. No, he wasn't three yards away from certain doom, and the tackle by his pals was also nice and celebratory, but still: he was only about three or four yards away from impact before being taken down as he slowed from his sprint. Running offensive plays (like fade routes) toward that wall would have been just begging for injuries -- and lawsuits.

But past that, the fans in attendance got to see a special occasion, even if Illinois absolutely worked the Wildcats. Wrigley Field is one of the most hallowed sports arenas, and to see its famed scoreboard used to show Big Ten football scores and its marquee painted purple must have been a thrill for Northwestern and Big Ten fans in Chicago. Ron Zook said he'd "absolutely" have his team play there again, and Pat Fitzgerald was equally effusive in his praise of the event. Should the two teams play their rivalry game there every year? Well, that seems like an abuse of the novelty of it all, but have you ever actually seen Memorial Stadium or Ryan Field? Not exactly cathedrals of the sport, those. It might -- just might -- be worth keeping Wrigley on the table going forward.

Posted on: November 20, 2010 7:29 pm

Football at Wrigley: Let's play two

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Going in to Saturday's game between Northwestern and Illinois at Wrigley Field, all the talk surrounded the way the field was situated inside the stadium, and the fact that both offenses would move towards the west end zone due to safety concerns about the right field wall located directly behind the east end zone.

Because of all this, people were saying that the first football game to be played at Wrigley Field would probably be the last.  After seeing Illinois beat Northwestern 48-27, I'm not sure that should be the case.  Were there some odd circumstances surrounding this game?   Of course, when you're playing inside a 96-year old baseball stadium, things are going to get a bit weird.

The truth is, though, that once the game kicked off, there wasn't anything all that different from a game that had been played in Champaign or Evanston. Fact is, there may not have been as many people in the seats had this game been played at either school's home stadium.  Chicago is a big city, with a large contingent of college football fans. Fans that, for the most part, don't have much of a college football selection to choose from in town.  The most popular team in the city, Notre Dame, plays it's games over two hours away from the city.

So having this game at Wrigley Field, in a city that many Northwestern and Illinois students and alumni call home, gave those fans a chance to see a game and sleep in their own bed that night.

Besides, did having both teams move towards the west -- The Manifest Destiny Bowl -- really hurt the game?  Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald didn't seem to think so.

"I don't know how it looked on television," said Fitzgerald.  "It didn't affect the flow of our game."

There's no doubt that Illinois running back Mikel LeShoure would want to play in Wrigley one again, either.  The Illinois running back brought back memories of Gale Sayers running around Wrigley Field, rushing for 330 yards and two touchdowns.

LeShoure would love to come back next season.  "I think it'd be fun," he said. "Especially after this game."

I can't help but agree with him.
Posted on: November 20, 2010 6:10 pm
Edited on: November 20, 2010 6:14 pm

The east end zone remains a mystery

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Does it make me a bad person if I'm somewhat disappointed that nobody has run into the right field wall at Wrigley Field?  We're through three quarters of action, with Illinois leading 34-24, and there hasn't been a single concussion caused by that wall.  Not even a bruise!

Considering all the hoopla surrounding the wall in the week leading up to this game, it seems only right that somebody should get hurt because of it and allow everyone in the media a moment of "See?  I told you so!"  Yes, we have had a touchdown scored in the dark and mysterious east end zone, thanks to an interception return by Northwestern's Brian Peters, but I want to know if he was scared.

At any point, while streaking down the sideline, did he think to himself "Slow down, Brian.  That wall is coming up quick."  Did he not care?  Did he consider stepping out of bounds at the 1-yard line just to be safe?

These are questions that the world needs answered.

Another question I'd like like to ask Peters following the game: did Mikel LeShoure have a sign that said "I'm a brick wall" taped on his chest, because your defense sure treated him like he did.  

If Mikel LeShoure ran full speed into that brick wall, could it stop him? 

We've still got 15 minutes to go in this game and LeShoure has 230 yards and two touchdowns. The Illini have 366 rushing yards as a team.  Unless that wall starts playing defense for the Wildcats, this one may be over.
Posted on: November 20, 2010 5:02 pm
Edited on: November 20, 2010 5:03 pm

Fans enjoying the Wrigley atmosphere

Posted by Tom Fornelli

You know, if it wasn't for the football field inside Wrigley Field, the fact that the weather is a bit chilly, and that fans are clad in orange and purple instead of the usual blue and red, you might forget that there's a football game going on instead of a baseball game.  Make no mistake about it, the fans in attendance are still having a good time, and it doesn't feel all that different from a Cubs-Cardinals game in July.

I don't even think the Northwestern faithful realize their team is losing, just that if they do, they don't seem to care all that much.  The party rages on in the seats.  I decided to go out amongst the masses and see if I could get a feel for what folks felt about coming to Wrigley Field to watch a football game, and how it was different.

Most people rushed by saying things like "It's awesome!" or "Go Cats!" Seems that Northwestern's heralded Medill School of Journalism only teaches its students how to ask questions, not answer them.  Still, after some time I got lucky.

I saw one Illinois fan standing alone on an ramp, waiting for a buddy to get back from the washroom.  He was in blue jeans and a blue hooded sweatshirt with the orange Illinois on the front.  He told me his name was Kevin, and that he's a senior down in Champaign.  

"So what's the biggest difference between seeing an Illinois game here at Wrigley compared to Memorial Stadium in Champaign?," I asked Kevin.

"Beer!  They serve beer here!"

It seemed Kevin has been served very well so far, so I asked him if anything else felt different, aside from the free-flowing nectar of the gods.

"No, not really."

I then began walking around the concourse and found a man in a Northwestern windbreaker who told me his name was Steve.  I asked him the same question I'd asked Kevin, except this time about the difference between Wrigley and Ryan Field.

"I've never been to Ryan Field."

"So you only came because the game is at Wrigley?"

"Yeah.  I live out in Aurora, so don't have much of a chance to get to the home games, but I didn't want to pass this up."

The next most sensible person to talk to, in my opinion, was somebody who was here all the time.  So I talked to an usher name Keith outside the press box what the biggest difference between working a Cubs game and this game had been.

"A lot more college kids.  Usually they're out in the bleachers or in the lower decks, but they're everywhere today."

"What question do you get asked the most?"

"Oh, that's easy. 'Where's the bathroom?'  That's been the same today as during any Cubs game.  When I write a book it'll be called 'Next Aisle Over'."

No matter who is playing on the field, beer goes through us all just the same.
Posted on: November 20, 2010 2:52 pm
Edited on: November 20, 2010 2:52 pm

Odd setting here at Wrigley

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Growing up in Chicago, I've been to Wrigley Field many times in my life.  Mostly for Cubs games, but I've seen a Chicago Blackhawks game here as well. As amazing as that spectacle was, walking into the stadium and seeing a goalpost, is a bit startling, and when you set your eyes upon the chalked outline of a football field, and see a giant purple "N" in the middle, your immediate reaction is to think you've shown up at the wrong place.

You're not, but honestly, sitting here about an hour before game time, I'm still not convinced I am in the right place.

It just doesn't feel right to me.  Maybe it's the fact that only one end zone is technically in play, with the east end zone being so close to the brick wall in right field that both schools and the Big Ten deemed it a safety hazard.  Judging by that photo, you can see why.

Still, walking down around on the field, you feel like you're more at an event than at an actual football game.  It's more surreal than anything else, particularly when you're sitting in the press box dining room and ESPN analyst Bob Davie just sits down across from you to eat a hot dog. You don't know whether to say hi or to provide color analysis on the way he's eating the hot dog.

So far, the dining room has been the most popular place as fans just started filing in a little while ago, and it's been mostly media inside the stadium since the Gameday crew left.  I'm having a hard time figuring out what the media craves more: the access to the game, or the free food that comes with it.

As for the game itself, it seems to be playing second-fiddle to Wrigley Field.  Not something all that unexpected considering the history of the Friendly Confines -- emphasis on the Confines this weekend. I can only wonder if that will change once Illinois and Northwestern finally kick off.
Posted on: November 19, 2010 11:22 am
Edited on: November 19, 2010 11:25 am

Only one endzone to be used at Wrigley

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Earlier this week we posted a couple of photos that showed how snug a fit the football field inside Wrigley Field for this week's game between Northwestern and Illinois was.  I had mentioned that there was no amount of padding that could be placed on the brick walls in the east end zone that would save a player should he run full-speed into them.

Seems that both schools have figured this out as well.  Now, it's too late to move the game back to Northwestern's campus, so they've decided on the next best thing.

Only one end zone will be used during the game on Saturday.

This was first reported on Waddle and Silvy, a Chicago radio show, and was confirmed on the show by Illinois SID Kent Brown.  Brown said that the Big Ten plans on confirming the news on Friday afternoon.  Essentially, with player safety in mind, the two schools came to an agreement that all offensive drives will head with teams heading towards the west end zone -- home plate -- rather than the east, because there is more room behind the end zone there.

So it looks like Saturday's game at Wrigley Field will be a bit more unique than any of us expected.

Photo courtesy of the Chicago Tribune's Teddy Greenstein
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com