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Northwestern, Wisconsin will play at Wrigley Field in 2020

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Football returns to the Friendly Confines.

Northwestern vs. Illinois at Wrigley Field, November 20, 2010
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Almost eight years ago, Northwestern University took on the University of Illinois at Wrigley Field, in what was supposed to become an annual event.

Wrigley Field renovations began taking up winters beginning after the 2014 baseball season, so football took a back seat, though the Cubs had announced a longterm partnership with Northwestern to have events at Wrigley several years ago. They did play a baseball game against Michigan there in 2013, and NU’s starter was none other than current Cubs reliever Luke Farrell.

Northwestern football will return to Wrigley Field in 2020, according to Teddy Greenstein in the Tribune:

Northwestern has chosen its Nov. 7, 2020, game against Wisconsin for its return to Wrigley Field, the Tribune has learned.

The Cubs and Northwestern officials are expected to make it public during a Tuesday news conference at Wrigley Field.

The 48-20 Illinois win over Northwestern at Wrigley in 2010 was an enjoyable afternoon, made more interesting by the Big Ten’s last-minute order to play the entire game toward scoring in the west end zone. The reason given by Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney at the time was that players running toward the brick outfield wall in the east end zone would be “dangerous.” This despite the fact that there were three-foot-thick pads in front of the bleacher wall, and that everyone had signed off on the field configuration months earlier.

That won’t be an issue this time. The redesign of the dugouts at Wrigley Field before the 2018 baseball season means that the third-base dugout, and several rows of seats nearby, can be completely removed to provide more room for a football field.

The Cubs have hinted they would like to eventually have an annual bowl game at Wrigley. I wonder about that, especially since there seem to be far too many college football bowl games these days anyway. But an annual NU game at Wrigley would likely be fun; it certainly was in 2010 despite the kerfuffle over the field. From the Tribune article:

Northwestern officials deemed the game a victory in many ways: Eyeballs were drawn to Wildcats football, a full house of 41,058 paid a premium for tickets, the Wrigley Field marquee was painted purple and it cemented a partnership between Chicago’s most popular baseball team and “Chicago’s Big Ten team.”

Athletic director Jim Phillips called it “a wonderful event.”

“It captured a national audience, and from the responses I’ve received, there truly was a bowl-like atmosphere,” Phillips said.

His close friend, Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts, called it “one of the greatest days in Wrigley Field history” and said, “When I saw the Northwestern band on the field at halftime, I almost cried.”

Any football games at Wrigley Field will have to be in November, as the Cubs will certainly hold October open for postseason games. And let’s hope that soon, we’ll have “one of the greatest days in Wrigley Field history” when the Cubs win a World Series there.