Remember the great Wrigley Field debacle of 2010 when Northwestern and Illinois locked horns in the venerated old stadium? The game eventually went off without any major problems, but that was only after game officials decided to have both teams play toward the same end zone thanks to insufficient space between the other end zone and the outfield wall.
Well, that game came and went, and the consensus afterwards appeared to be "OK, that wasn't ideal." It's not like there are bowl games planned there, after all, and Northwestern's hosting Illinois at Ryan Field to finish the regular season this year instead of going back to Wrigley.
So all in all, this was just a one-off experiment that didn't go great, and lessons were learned, and we're not making that mistake again, right?
RIGHT—oh no, Nebraska, what are you doing?
According to a source at TD Ameritrade, the idea of playing the 2014 NU-NU game at the iconic baseball park is being kicked around by Ameritrade officials and Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts, the Omaha native and son of Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts. A source in the Nebraska athletic department said officials also are talking about Wrigley, though nothing has been discussed with Northwestern athletic officials yet.
“There have been no discussions (with Northwestern),” said Nebraska Athletic Director Tom Osborne on Monday. “As of right now, we’re just talking about possibilities. We’ve also talked about playing Northern Illinois in Chicago (at Soldier Field).”
Ricketts, a Husker fan who lives close to Evanston, Ill., is said to be interested. The Cubs, under Ricketts’ leadership, supported the Northwestern-Illinois game at Wrigley on Nov. 20, 2010.
First, a few quick things about me and the things I like, just to get them out of the way.
- I live in Chicago.
- I am a lifelong Cubs sufferer, so I love Wrigley Field.
- I love Big Ten college football even more.
Got all that? So this should be right up my alley all the way, right?
But I hate it. Haaaate it. I hate it for the the simple fact that Wrigley Field as we know it is not a suitable venue for college football.
Oh, Wrigley Field used to be a great football venue, so many decades ago. Until the past decade, it had hosted the most NFL games in league history and had been the home stadium for the same team for the most years in NFL history. Giants Stadium has since surpassed it in games hosted and Lambeau Field is the new standard-bearer in terms of longevity, but we're still talking about one of the oldest, greatest football venues of all time.
But Wrigley Field hasn't been a football stadium since the '70s, and the way the field is configured now, it's not a football stadium at all. When the stadium had to install a pad over the brick outfield wall just inches from the east end zone, then decided no offensive plays would be run toward that end zone, it was an all-time bush league moment in a conference that tries desperately hard to convince you it's anything but.
And then someone took a touchdown back into that very end zone.
Yep, that's a helpful Northwestern teammate tackling Brian Peters in the end zone, from behind, which just so happens to be how Ted Ginn broke his foot in the 2006 BCS National Championship Game. And it's also how Oregon State WR James Rodgers exploded his knee when a defender finished a tackle from behind long after Rodgers had made it an official score.
So sure it's cool for fans to be in that front row with the basket in front of them looking down at a touchdown right there. That looks like an insane amount of fun for them. But player safety has to come before fan fun, and if that's even remotely negotiable to you, you need to reexamine what your priorities are as a football fan.
So unless there's some renovation of Wrigley Field or some new, different way to squeeze a 400-foot by 160-foot stretch of land inside the "Friendly Confines" (160 feet is the width of a regulation field, and 400 feet is the field, two end zones, and 20 feet of clearance beyond the end line on each side), Nebraska and the Big Ten cannot seriously pursue a game at Wrigley.
You want to play football in Chicago? Awesome, I'll be there. But please, go to Soldier Field to do it. Leave Wrigley for lousy baseball—I'll be there for that too.