November 19th, 2010
03:47 PM ET

Wrigley Field too short to host football, but will anyway

The rules say you need 12 feet behind the end zone, but Wrigley's east end zone has about a foot.

When I was a kid, we would play pick-up football games anywhere we could find a patch of grass large enough to accommodate four wide receivers and an all-time quarterback.

The field was never the requisite 120 yards, and we didn’t care. We would’ve played on a field a quarter of that size.

As often as I tried to emulate (and on occasion, claimed to be) Drew Pearson or Tony Hill, none of us was a pro. Hell, we weren’t even in high school, let alone a Division I NCAA football program.

So, like most college football fans, I was perplexed by the news that the Northwestern Wildcats and Illinois Fighting Illini will play a game this weekend on a field that has been deemed too short.

Both teams’ offenses will have to head to the west end zone every time they get the ball because the stands at Chicago’s Wrigley Field back up to within a foot of the east end zone.

The rules say you need 12 feet behind the end zones. But at Wrigley, the goal post in the east end zone is mounted to the stands.

No, I’m not kidding.

In Wrigley’s defense, it is a landmark baseball stadium so steeped in tradition that the first night game wasn’t played there until 1988 after the Chicago Cubs installed lights.

It hasn’t hosted a football game since 1970, when the Chicago Bears relocated to Soldier Field. Colleges haven’t played there since DePaul University called the Friendly Confines home in 1938.

Fearing that Saturday’s Illinois-Northwestern conference showdown might resemble an Arena Football League match – where players are routinely hammered into the walls forming the field’s sidelines – the Big Ten took action.

According to ESPN, the conference made several rule changes about 24 hours before the game. Among them: Kickoffs will go toward the east end zone; the referees will reposition the ball after each change of possession; and the teams will switch benches at halftime.

Fans sitting in the east end zone will see a score on their end only on a punt return, defensive touchdown or safety.

Writes ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg: “This is going to look really weird.”’s Stewart Mandel notes that with ticket sales up, Chicago abuzz over college football and ESPN’s “College Football GameDay” heading to town, “someone dropped the ball before anyone even had the chance to collide into a heavily padded wall.”

I had tons of jokes I wanted to end this blog post with, but I found most of them had already been made. Sigh. Twitter even has a hashtag, #WrigleyFieldPickupRules, which leaves you 115 characters to lampoon the colleges and Big Ten.

Some of my favorites were posted at Fanhouse, including: “official game ball is Nerf”; “three-alligator rush”; “losers walk”; “one free blitz after every four downs”; and “at some point in fourth quarter, next touchdown wins.”


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Filed under: College football • Illinois • Sports
soundoff (89 Responses)
  1. Pro Steve

    Why not play the game at Soldier field in the first place? Duh!

    November 19, 2010 at 11:59 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Pro Steve

    Stupidity rules the world

    November 20, 2010 at 12:00 am | Report abuse |
  3. Longhorn Fan

    Why not have these games home and away like before. In Northwestern and Illonoise that good of game anyway?

    November 20, 2010 at 12:24 am | Report abuse |
  4. Longhorn Fan

    If it so important to play Wrigley. Why do it right in the first place. If this is important game for either Northwestern or Illinois why jeopardize a game or maybe even there season with a key injury

    November 20, 2010 at 12:57 am | Report abuse |
  5. lambs fan

    There's been some crazy articles coming from Illinois this month. One, it doesn't make sense to have the death penalty. Another, baby killers are given sentences that allow them to breath even though that was taken from the heinously beaten 3yr old. Now the icing on the cake, a brick wall in the back of the end zone. I had to watch the Simpson's one time when I was stuck in an airport and that was the only thing on. The Simpson's home town must be in Illinois, IT MUST! Now I will think of Illinois next time I hear DOH!!!!!! I bet a fan will hang a sign there saying D O H !

    November 20, 2010 at 7:05 am | Report abuse |
  6. Rick

    They're going to play football again at Wrigley-last year they played hockey. I wonder if they'll ever play baseball in that stadium?

    November 20, 2010 at 9:22 am | Report abuse |

    THE BODDIE says the Bulls should play a game at Wrigley Field vs the Miami Heat.

    November 20, 2010 at 9:51 am | Report abuse |

    Lets go Northwestern!

    November 20, 2010 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Real Expert

    It's time to admit that the old field just doesn't cut it any more. For the good of the local economy, it's time to get a modern roofed stadium.

    November 21, 2010 at 12:30 am | Report abuse |
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