Chicago Cubs President Crane Kenney says football will be back on the Wrigley Field schedule in 2020, as Northwestern University games will return and a collegiate bowl game could be on the agenda as well.
Wrigley Field was the longtime home of the NFL’s Chicago Bears, as the team played there through 1970, so football is definitely in the Friendly Confines’ DNA. And the Cubs did indeed bring football back in 2010, with Northwestern hosting the University of Illinois in a game that was a smash at the box office (some 41,058 fans were in attendance) but less successful on the actual gridiron, as a botched measurement yielded a short field, leading to some strange game rules. (Part of the issue came with a new field alignment: the Bears laid out the field paralleling the third-base line, but the 2010 revival laid it out along the first-base line.)
The ongoing renovations to Wrigley Field have precluded offseason football games, but Kenney told the Chicago Tribune that Northwestern will return with a 2020 home game once the ballpark upgrades are completed. And that’s not all: Kenney wants a bowl game in Wrigley as well.
While 2020 seems a long way off, it will take multiple years to organize a bowl. First, there’s the issue of a sponsor. Second, bowl games these days are aligned with conferences. Hooking up with the Chicago-based Big Ten is a no-brainer, which simplifies the task. Third, a broadcast partner is needed — but, again, the Chicago-based Big Ten Network would be a logical partner. And, finally, NCAA approval is required — but it’s hard to see the NCAA turning down a bid backed by the Cubs and the Big Ten, played in a major media market.
And those field-alignment issues that marred the 2010 football revival? The ongoing renovations to Wrigley Field include a move of the dugouts before the 2018 season, which should yield enough yardage for a regulation field aligned with the first-base line.
Image: NFL Championship game, December 29, 1963, as Bears hosted the New York Giants.