11/19 Football game to use one end zone
The ivy was good enough for Sammy Sosa and Andre Dawson and Kosuke Fukudome but not for the Illinois-Northwestern football teams. The Big Ten announced Friday that Illinois and Northwestern will only use one end zone at Wrigley Field on Saturday because of safety concerns. The east end zone is too close to the right field wall, and officials feel the padding that was installed there is not sufficient to protect the players.
“It was something we’ve all had some concerns about in regard to the closeness of the right field wall at Wrigley Field,” Illinois SID Kent Brown said on WMVP AM-1000. “A decision was made with both coaching staffs and the athletic directors of both schools and the [Big Ten] commissioner to start every offensive possession and go west.
“I think it’s a student athlete safety concern that is first and foremost,” Brown said, “and we want to make sure there’s no chance for somebody to run into that wall and get seriously injured.
“It’s a unique twist to the game, but I think it’s something all parties felt was the most fair,” he said.
The last time a team played football at Wrigley was 1970 when the NFL Chicago Bears called it their home field. At that time, the field ran north-south. The Bears’ Bronko Nagurski once ran full-speed into the brick outfield wall. Upon returning to the huddle, he reportedly said, “That last guy hit me awfully hard.”
Since the Bears played, additional seats have been added at Wrigley along the left field line, which made the north-south configuration unworkable for the Illinois-Northwestern game.
The Big Ten did study the Wrigley Field layout weeks before to make sure the field fit. The Northwestern team tested Wrigley’s close quarters on Thursday, and Wildcats coach Pat Fitzgerald suggested he may have different game plans for each end zone to avoid injury.
For Saturday’s game, the Big Ten said all offensive plays will head toward the west end zone, including all extra points and all overtime possessions. All kickoffs will be kicked toward the east end zone. After every change of possession, the ball will be repositioned for the offense to head toward the west end zone. A coin toss Friday determined that Illinois will occupy the west team bench in the first half and Northwestern will switch in the second half and for all overtime periods.
— Carrie Muskat