Monday I posted a series of photos that showed the field configuration for the Saturday game at Wrigley Field between Northwestern and Illinois. After the configuration was revealed, significant concern slowly built throughout the media this week.
(East end zone eliminated from offensive action)
Today the Big Ten addressed that concern, announcing that only one end zone will be used for offense by the teams on Saturday.
(Another angle of the eschewed, east end zone)
Offensive plays will only take place in the direction of the west end zone - facing the Cubs third base dugout. The east end zone will not be used for offense because the right field outfield wall is too close to that end zone’s endline. (Six inches!)
Illinois sports information director Kent Brown said of the decision on WMVP-AM in Chicago:
“It was something we’ve all had some concerns about in regard to the closeness of the right-field wall at Wrigley Field, so 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, 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.”
Here are the main points from the Big Ten directive on the change:
• Offensive plays will face the west end zone, including field goals.
• Kickoffs will defend the west end zone.
• After changes of possession, including punts, the ball will be repositioned for the offense to head toward the west end zone.
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany:
“The health and safety of our student-athletes is of the utmost importance. Both Illinois and Northwestern did significant due diligence over the past 18 months, but after seeing the actual layout of the field, all parties felt that it was appropriate to adjust the rules to further enhance the safety of our student-athletes.
“Wrigley Field is one of the most historic venues in the country, and playing the Illinois-Northwestern game at this facility will provide a once-in-a-lifetime experience for student-athletes, coaches and fans.”
The west end zone won’t exactly be a bargain either, with the Cubs third-base dugout only a few steps away:
The original configuration for football, when the NFL Bears called Wrigley home (1921-1970), was perpendicular to the Big Ten setup.
In that configuration, the south endzone was actually only eight yards deep!
After the Bears moved to Soldier Field, the Cubs also added additional seats surrounding the home plate area, meaning there was no practical way to fit a football field into that configuration.
Best I can say about what happened here is thank goodness neither team is playing for anything.
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