SBD/Issue 51/Facilities & Venues

On-Field Action Makes Up For End Zone Gaffe At Wrigley Field Game

Wrigley Field College Football Game Gets
Mostly Positive Reviews Despite Challenges

In a "potentially disastrous afternoon" Saturday, Illinois RB Mikel Leshoure "elevated a PR stunt gone awry into a must-see performance" during the team's game against Northwestern at Wrigley Field, according to Melissa Isaacson of ESPNCHICAGO.com. Illinois' 48-27 win over Northwestern, which included Leshoure's school- and Wrigley Field-record 330 yards rushing, "rose above circumstances that threatened to embarrass both schools, the Big Ten Conference, the Cubs and whoever else was unlucky enough to be involved." When Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany "correctly, but belatedly, ruled Friday that the east end zone could not be used because ... players could potentially be mortally wounded by running into the wall that borders it at full speed -- despite the very impressive-looking high school gym pads attached to the brick -- the game sort of got lost in the shuffle." The decision "meant the teams would be running the same way." Both teams also "would be occupying the same sideline" (ESPNCHICAGO.com, 11/20). In Illinois, Mike Imrem wrote, "The intimacy of the venue, the throwback texture of the conditions, the overall uniqueness that used to be common, they conspired to make the game special." The weather was "chilly and some of the sightlines unsightly, but a good guess is not many in the sellout crowd minded." The atmosphere outside the ballpark was "like a frat party," as Sheffield Avenue was "dubbed 'Wildcat Way' and looked like Bourbon Street on a Saturday night" (Illinois DAILY HERALD, 11/21).

LIVING UP TO THE HYPE? In Chicago, Paul Sullivan wrote the game "lived up to the hype." It "wasn't as exciting" as the '09 Red Wings-Blackhawks NHL Winter Classic at the ballpark, but it was "just fun" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 11/21). ESPN college football analyst Bob Davie, who called the game, said, "The goal of everyone involved with this was to create a bowl game during the season in Chicago, and based on the atmosphere we have in here today, based on the attention this has received across the country, I think it's a home run" ("Illinois-Northwestern," ESPNU, 11/20). But the WALL STREET JOURNAL's Jason Gay writes the game "did play a bit goofy." Gay: "These games show we live in strange, simultaneously modern and retro times" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 11/22). ESPN CHICAGO's Jon Greenberg wrote, "This is the end result of two schools, and one conference, desperate for relevance in a crowded sports marketplace and ultimately mucking it up" (ESPNCHICAGO.com, 11/21). In Chicago, David Haugh wrote, "They should move this rivalry to Soldier Field in what could become an annual event for The Chicagoland Bowl. The baseball field concept that cannot continue sounded great until it dawned on Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany ... that the details don't make Wrigley the right venue" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 11/21).

Delany Says Decision To Not Use
East End Zone Was "No-Brainer"

TIGHT FIT: Delany said he "had never been put on notice" that the distance between the east end zone and the wall was "anything other than tight, not a blatant violation of NCAA playing rules." Delany: "Once it was obvious to me there is a rule in play and we weren't close to being in compliance with it, it was a no-brainer." Delany said the Cubs, Northwestern and Illinois all were acting in good faith but that the NCAA rules issue was "never vetted until" last Wednesday. When asked about the Cubs' statement about the Big Ten "signing off on the field dimensions," Delany said that the league's involvement was "mainly relating to signage, revenue sharing and issues not related to game operations" (ESPN.com, 11/19). Former Univ. of Michigan AD Bill Martin said that Big Ten officials "made the right call." Martin: "The most important thing is safety. You wouldn't want the game's outcome to be determined by the physical venue itself. Better late than never" (N.Y. TIMES, 11/20).

BRONX BOWL: On Long Island, Kimberley Martin noted Army and Notre Dame Saturday played the first football game at new Yankee Stadium before a "sellout crowd of 54,251." Army coach Rich Ellerson "praised the atmosphere." Ellerson: "That was electric. Really something" (NEWSDAY, 11/21). Also on Long Island, Mark Herrmann wrote the "whole trip looked like a good idea that ought to be tried again and again." The Army-Notre Dame game was a "revival, not a debut," as N.Y. "used to be the capital of college football" (NEWSDAY, 11/21). In N.Y., Dick Weiss wrote Notre Dame "cast its spell over" N.Y. The Yankee Stadium game was the "second phase of an idea developed by former AD Kevin White, who wanted to pay homage to the school's barnstorming past." White, now AD at Duke, "developed a scheduling format of seven home games, four road games and one off-site game" for Notre Dame (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 11/21).

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