Illinois and Northwestern have been angling for a game at Wrigley Field for a long time, and they finally have it: The annual rivalry game will go between the Ivy on Nov. 20, moving from its scheduled turn at Northwestern's Dyche Stadium in nearby Evanston. The Chicago Cubs will hold a news conference Friday to announce the details, presumably including whether Illinois will return the favor by moving its next home game in the series to Wrigley in 2011.
Football isn't new at the friendly confines, but it is rusty: The last football game in the 96-year-old landmark was in 1970, when the Chicago Bears relocated to Soldier Field after 50 years in Wrigley -- the team was so identified with the park that it even changed its name from the "Staleys" to the "Bears" to better associate itself with the more established Cubs shortly after moving from Decatur in 1921. Football fields in baseball stadiums are always a tight fit and Wrigley is no exception: When the Bears played there, the field ran from north to south, with one end zone in left field and the other running roughly along the first base line, so that one corner of the south end zone was cut off by the visitors' padding-lined dugout. Illinois coach Ron Zook emphasized that "there is enough room" to avoid such an obviously untenable hazard today, though he also admitted, "one of the end zones is going to be very, very tight." Emerald Bowl participants in San Francisco's AT&T Park can certainly sympathize, though the ghost of Bronko Nagurski thinks they're all soft for even thinking twice about it.
The ostensible goal is to create the kind of atmosphere the NHL's Blackhawks and Red Wings for the "Winter Classic" at Wrigley on Jan. 1, 2009. That game drew a near-capacity crowd of a little over 40,000 -- not as good as the 60,000 who showed up for last year's Northwestern-Illinois game in Champaign last November, but significantly better than the 32,000 who came out the last time the Illini and Wildcats played in Evanston, in 2008. As long as they can do better than the Bears and Cardinals did in Wrigley in 1929, it's justified:
Not sure they have any hope of topping that marching band, though.
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For more interesting Wrigley Field video, see this Faceda-backed montage, Vince Lombardi in Wrigley in 1965 and "Galloping Gayle" Sayers carrying the mail on his record-breaking afternoon vs. the 49ers the same year.