Could Wrigley Field be the next major ballpark to host a college football bowl game?
That’s the goal, Cubs President Crane Kenney told the Chicago Tribune with an eye on 2020 to begin hosting an annual bowl game.
“Concerts that may not sell out elsewhere sell out at Wrigley,” Kenney told the paper. “It’s because of the ballpark, Wrigleyville, Chicago, the history. It gives us confidence that a bowl game will succeed here.”
In 2010, when Northwestern and Illinois met at Wrigley, 41,058 attended and ESPN’s College GameDay was there. It was a significantly better turnout than games at Soldier Field or the White Sox home stadium, which hosted Northern Illinois and Toledo.
While this idea is great in theory, getting it done might be more of a challenge. The NCAA and Football Bowl Association have tabled discussions about adding new bowls until the 2019 season after the 40 bowl games in existence (not counting the playoff) have struggled to fill open slots with winning teams. In each of the past two seasons, 5-7 teams have been used to fill the void.
But a bowl at Wrigley, which has history and the potential to sell out, could be more attractive than other bowls that have struggled with attendance numbers. Come 2019, all bowl games are up for review and there could be marked change as many other cities want to get in on the bowl action.
But Crane isn’t worried about the timeline. In fact, it works out perfectly for a Wrigley Field that is undergoing renovations and probably won’t be bowl ready until 2020 anyway. That time also will allow the potential bowl to align with conferences and secure a television partner. According to the Chicago Tribune, the Big Ten Network would be interested in televising, though it might be hard to pass on the pile of money ESPN is sure to throw the Cubs’ direction.
“The NCAA has a pretty detailed system,” Levine said, “but if you’re an organization with a strong reputation like the Cubs and you put your name and financial resources behind it, you should be able to get through.”
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