I’m really curious to get your opinion on this one. Although, by now you know that I won’t wait for yours to share mine. Neil Hayes posted on Twitter and Teddy Greenstein reported in Saturday’s Chicago Tribune that Northwestern and the Chicago Cubs will host a press conference Tuesday to announce a partnership. While the deal will reportedly kick in for 2013 with non-rev sports like women’s lacrosse, soccer and baseball – all tremendous experiences for said teams – this post will concentrate on the Wildcats football team returning to Wrigley sometime in 2014.
As you read in Teddy’s article, the upcoming Wrigley renovations will cure the embarassing one-way debacle that ensued back in 2010 when the Illini ran roughshod over the Persa-less Wildcats. Multiple reports indicate that Northwestern may very well ink multiple games in the future, and Teddy was already speculating the Iowa or Illinois games in 2014 as likely candidates, as the Cubs will be done with baseball, for certain, by then (yes, gratuitous Cubs futility joke goes here).
Before you start speculating on who Northwestern will play, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. First, the 2014 schedules and beyond are totally up for grabs. Remember, newcomers Rutgers and Maryland will be added in to the mix, and by this spring, the B1G along with the ADs from each school will be finalizing a gameplan on the new division alignments. Everything seems to be on the table, ranging from a true east/west geographic split, to various incarnations of keeping the bulk of the existing infrastructure in place. Additionally, several B1G ADs have been quoted on their thoughts about expanding conference games from eight to nine or even a longer shot of ten. All of this is under discussion currently,but the point for this article is you can essentially rip up the 2014 and beyond schedules. We also haven’t even discussed conference expansion, which seems like an inevitability at this point.
Until this shakeup of the future schedules was on target, here is what was currently on the table for 2014 home dates:
- August 30 – Cal
- Sep 13 – TBD
- Sep 20 – Western Illinois
- Oct 4 – Nebraska
- Oct 18 – Wisconsin (HC)
- Nov 8 – Iowa
- Nov 15 – @ Notre Dame
- Nov 29 – Illinois
From this base of games, the speculation would be pretty easy. You’d think Iowa or Illinois, with a probably not, but what-the-heck long-shot chance of Notre Dame. Again, this is all up for grabs now. So, let’s put aside the opponent speculation and talk about the concept.
The 2010 game made waves nationally for multiple reasons. ESPN College Gameday was on hand for the unique factor of the venue. Northwestern received national media attention for Wildcat-izing the famous ballpark right down to converting the storied exterior red sign to purple. The build-up was a huge marketing success. Then, when the field’s tight dimensions caused officials to decide to go one way, it became a transcendent news story and the sponsor, Allstate, seemed to get a bargain for its right field wall signage which showed up on the front page of papers and digitial stories seemingly everywhere.
The game truly felt like a bowl game, an event. The surrounding streets were converted in to tailgate tents and there was an incredible buzz. We don’t need to rehash the game, as many of us still have Mikel LeShoure nightmares running in our heads. At the time, I was a big backer of the move. It seemed like a natural way to bring the game to potential new fans under the “Chicago’s Big Ten Team” marketing mantra.
Now, a return to Wrigley has me less than excited. I understand the notion of trying to really penetrate the Chicago market by bringing the game to Wrigley, but based on the last go-around, I’m not convinced it moved the needle on putting butts in seats in Evanston. You and I can lay out all the marketing exposure that will come with these games, but by doing it multiple times, I believe it will lose its luster for Wildcat fans, but, unless it is the Illini, be a spike for the opponent’s fans to overpay to see their team in the storied baseball stadium.
Currently, Northwestern season tickets are one of the best entertainment values around. My sideline seats cost under $35 per ticket per game, including the likes of Ohio State and Michigan, which are $70 for single game fans. The Wrigley Field game in 2010 was a $125 per ticket affair, which is nearly equivalent to the lowest end season tickets at Ryan Field. Plus, the only way to get tickets is to buy season tickets, once again enticing opposing fans to buy season tickets and not helping us with our goal of getting 47,130 mostly purple to pack Ryan Field.
Personally, unless it were some type of regular game with Illinois, that Illinois would also give up a home date, or perhaps the sure to be smaller gate Rutgers or Maryland game, I’m not really excited about it. I applaud Northwestern for taking chances and really making an effort to try and do whatever they can to inject college football fans with a dose of Fitz-ism. The one reason I’d be all in for Wrigley Field, would be for major renovations at Ryan Field, making Wrigley our home venue for an entire season. Using the game in lieu of a home date in Evanston doesn’t fire me up at this point. However, I’d understand the Rutgers or Maryland strategy, perhaps even trying to convert some of those fans to take on NU as their second favorite team. If we could somehow use it to get an extra home date, I’d be jumping up and down for it.
A regular reader, sparked by the Wrigley talk, offerred up this list of “what will happen firsts?”:
- Cubs reach a W.S.
- NU reaches NCAA Men’s hoops tourney
- NU wins Rose Bowl
- NU wins national title in football
- Cubs win a W.S.
Super Bowl Sunday Connection
There aren’t a ton of Northwestern football connections for today’s Super Bowl, outside of the media covering the event. However, former ‘Cat OL, Al Netter, got some press for turning down chances to get on other teams’ squads in exchange for staying on the San Francisco 49ers practice team. Jim Harbaugh’s approach to his practice team resonated with me as something Fitz would be doing if he was in the NFL. Take a look here.
The ‘Cats dominating 75-60 win over Purdue yesterday was truly enjoyable. It illuminates the inconsistency of this team, which is getting maxed out based on the talent on the team. Reggie Hearn was just a joy to watch in the first half as he was in the proverbial zone, going 9-10. Alex seemed to finally take that next step, which included a dazzling array of beautiful assists and the want to take that free throw line extended jump shot which is a must to keep defenses from sagging on him and clogging up the lane. Sobo continues to shine with his grit and relentless effort. Jared Swopshire is the stealth bomber, seemingly starting to have those dagger shots just when we need it.
Candidly, I had this team winning only four conference games after the loss of Cobb and Crawford, along with the slate of various injuries. Now, Northwestern is at 13-10,4-6 and has us wincing at the painful loss at Nebraska last week. Bottom-line, this is one inconsistent bunch and the team seems to be mirroring the state of the program. Good enough to compete on any given night, yet not good enough to get to that next level. As I watched the incredible atmosphere and race track of a game between Michigan and Indiana, you realized how amazing it was that we were even in a game with the Hoosiers. Wow. Those top three teams account for half of our B1G losses, and when you see that game, it gives you perspective of how far we have to go.
Each team has a feel for fans, and this one is very likable. You find yourself rooting so hard for these guys, yet at the same time, just like that child of yours you love so much, they can frustrate you so you’re red in the face. The contrast in effort yesterday was emphasized by ESPN analyst, Dan Dakich, over and over and over again. The ‘Cats brought it for 40 minutes and Purdue did not. We’ll have to continue that kind of effort to try and cling to the hopes of a .500 record in the B1G, the unofficial bar for making it to the Big Dance. The next three games, which include a road trip to Iowa and home dates with unranked Illinois and Wisconsin, will give us a true sense of where we’ll end up in 2013. This team isn’t a NCAA Tourney team at this point even by the eye test. However, if they play like that, they could give us a nice bridge to spring football.
Our pal NORTHWESTERN HIGHLIGHTS has the Purdue game highlights up for viewing pleasure. Simply click here and type in the password Hearn26.