New Wrigley Field bowl game talks hit a snag, in part, because Chicago is cold

Sam Cooper
Northwestern and Illinois played the most recent college football game at Wrigley Field on Nov. 20, 2010. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Northwestern and Illinois played the most recent college football game at Wrigley Field on Nov. 20, 2010. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

It looks like a bowl game at Wrigley Field won’t be happening after all.

Chicago Cubs officials have been transparent about their hopes to host a bowl game at the iconic stadium. Last month, multiple reports indicated that a Big Ten vs. ACC matchup was in the works when the new bowl cycle begins in 2020.

Now, according to the Chicago Tribune, those talks have hit a snag.

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Why did the Wrigley Field bowl game negotiations fall through?

According to the Tribune, Cubs officials and the Big Ten could not come to an agreement on where the Wrigley bowl game would fall in the conference’s pecking order:

The breakdown in negotiations occurred because Cubs officials wanted a premier spot in the Big Ten bowl lineup — the ability to land the league’s No. 3 or No. 4 team. The Cubs had the finances arranged for a bowl game at Wrigley but declined to make a deal for a lower-slotted Big Ten team.

“The Cubs wanted to have a higher-placed team and a potentially more excited fan base,” a source said. “The Cubs said they’re not looking for a lower-tier bowl game; they’re very selective in what they do.”

The two sides “parted ways amicably,” per the Tribune and could potentially resume talks down the road.

Shocker: Big Ten teams prefer a warm climate

There was also one other obvious variable. Big Ten teams would prefer to play in a warmer climate than a December day in frigid Chicago. From the Tribune:

When Big Ten officials queried schools, the response was that they’d prefer a warm-weather destination.

There is already one Big Ten-affiliated bowl in a cold-weather climate: the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium in New York City. Typically, the Pinstripe Bowl does not land a top Big Ten bowl team (last year 7-5 Iowa made the trip). And all of the other bowls with a Big Ten tie-in are played in climates much warmer than Chicago or New York City.

How does this affect the 2020 bowl cycle?

In June, Brett McMurphy reported that the proposed Wrigley Field bowl game would likely replace the San Francisco-based Foster Farms Bowl in the Big Ten’s bowl lineup. Last year, Purdue, the Big Ten bowl team with the worst regular season record (6-6), played Arizona in the Foster Farms Bowl (which is now without a naming rights sponsor). Evidently, a game like that would not have met the standards Cubs officials hoped to set for the Wrigley Field bowl game.

Whether this means the Big Ten and the bowl game formerly known as the Foster Farms Bowl could reconvene is to be determined. If it does, it could cause a ripple effect as conferences scramble to sign contracts. For example, the Las Vegas Bowl, once it moves to the Raiders’ new stadium, will end its affiliation with the Mountain West in favor of a Pac 12 vs. other Power Five conference matchup.

That could have opened the door for the Mountain West to find a nice landing spot in San Francisco.

From McMurphy’s June report:

Foster Farms ended its four-year naming rights agreement, so the San Francisco Bowl is currently without a naming rights sponsor and it’s doubtful the Pac-12 can find another Power 5 opponent for the bowl. Could that possibly open the door for the Mountain West to San Francisco since it’s losing its tie-in with the Las Vegas Bowl?

There will still be Big Ten football at Wrigley Field in 2020

On June 5, Northwestern announced that its 2020 home game against Wisconsin will be held at Wrigley Field.

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Northwestern previously played Illinois at Wrigley in 2010, a game where only one end zone was used because of the tight configuration. Removable seats down the third-base line were part of Wrigley’s recent renovations in order to “accommodate a football field NCAA officials would approve,” the Tribune reported.

Changes are still coming to the bowl game picture

Once the current NCAA bowl cycle ends after the 2019 season, there will be plenty of changes to the current slate of bowl games. Even with the Wrigley game now off the table, two other new bowl games, including one in Myrtle Beach, are reportedly in the works.

On top of that, the NCAA already announced the new number of bowl commitments allotted per conference for the next bowl cycle (from the 2020-21 to 2025-26 seasons). To do so, the Division I Football Oversight Committee used a conference’s number of bowl-eligible teams from the past four years to allocate arrangements per conference. For example, the SEC can not have up to 11 bowl tie-ins based on how well its teams performed over the past four seasons.

“We struck that balance, and we wanted to strengthen the bowls,” said Bob Bowlsby, committee chair and commissioner of the Big 12 Conference. “We want to have better reporting to make sure bowl games are financially sound, and they are appropriately represented in terms of having them meet NCAA requirements, so they remain strong entities and serve the collegiate community.”

Here are the bowl tie-ins for each conference:

• American: 7
• ACC: 11
• Big 12: 7
• Big Ten: 9
• Conference USA: 7
• MAC: 6
• Mountain West: 6
• Pac-12: 8
• SEC: 11
• Sun Belt: 5

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