Seriously. One — and only one — end zone will be used.
For those who were/are unaware, Illinois and Northwestern will play this weekend at the home of the Chicago Cubs, historic Wrigley Field. And, as you can tell by the photo at the right — as well as other photos of the same end zone — it took a good deal of cramming to get a football field to fit inside the ivy-covered confines.
Of course, along with said cramming came concerns over player safety. Specifically, players running/being ran headfirst into the outfield wall that sits just a couple of feet outside the east end zone.
As a result of the safety issues, the Big Ten has announced some major changes to Saturday’s game. And have officially made a mockery of the game and turned it into one akin to something we all used to play in the backyard. Or out in the street. In traffic.
According to a press release issued by the conference, the following rule changes were determined to be the best of all options and will be in effect for this game only based on the unique layout of the field:
1) All offensive plays will head toward the West end zone, including all extra points and all overtime possessions.
2) All kickoffs will be kicked toward the East end zone.
3) After every change of possession, the ball will be repositioned for the offense to head toward the West end zone.
4) As a result of a coin toss held by the conference office Friday morning, Illinois will occupy the West team bench in the first half and Northwestern will occupy the West team bench in the second half and for all overtime periods.
Other rules under consideration include the fire hydrant at the corner of Elm & Main is out of bounds; each school will be responsible for bringing extra footballs because if one goes into Old Man Johnson’s garden you cannot go after it because he’ll tell your parents you trampled his tomato plants whether you did or not; all kickoffs will be thrown; five-Mississippi pass rushes on first and second down; if any player’s mom hollers for him during the course of the game, he will be permitted to re-enter the game after he’s finished cleaning his room; and oncoming traffic has the right of way and play will stop, except on fourth down when you’re on your own.
This game has been in the works for over a year and a half, but the league claims they didn’t realize they had a “situation” with the configuration of the playing field until the playing field was configured right in front of them.
“The health and safety of our student-athletes is of the utmost importance,” said Big Ten Commissioner James E. Delany in a statement. “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.”
Suffice to say, and short of finding an alternative way of shoehorning a football field into this particular baseball park, this might be the last time in a long, long, long time you’ll see a football game contested at Wrigley. Hell, it’ll take a solid 4-5 years before the Big Ten is able to get the last little bit of egg wiped off their face after this debacle, so a next game at that place will likely be the last thing on their minds.