‘Cats Return To Wrigley, Plus Day After Thoughts on Pummeling Purdue

WrigleyPurpleSign

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.

Hoops Thoughts 

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.

  • cece

    football on Saturdays is not just about the game. it is also about the before and after. holding games at Wrigley destroys the growing pattern of fun in the lots. you can replicate that at a venue with lots of parking next to the stadium. at Wrigley, you cannot. LTP is right, it’s all about OUR stadium and trying to fill it.

    • uvahoocat

      F that, an event at wrigley is so much more fun than an empty/half filled ryan field. As an east-coaster, this def gives me more reason to come back to watch a gain

      • Ron

        With all due respect, it’s not about getting a once every few years customer. It’s about getting season ticket holders. And a game at Wrigley does nothing for that. And it depresses tailgating, to boot

    • Db

      Once every 2 or 3 years doesn’t worsen the experience. It’s better than watching 30k foreign fans in Ryan field.

    • GoU_NU

      the pregame scene in wrigleyville last time was absolutely epic. and i didn’t have to coordinate purchase of beer and food to support 25 people. i’m ok with this once in a while

  • Stephen Zgrabik

    i really like the idea of wrigley hosting non-revenue sports. i think a lot of NU fans who live in chicago would be willing to head to wrigley to watch wildcat lacrosse or baseball, but wouldn’t make the trek up to evanston for the same.

    i have conflicted feelings on playing football games there. i enjoyed the atmosphere of wrigleyville (especially with gameday – which clearly won’t return for a redo), and the game was fun to attend (minus the result, and greatly depending on your seats). if NU has a game there once every one or two years, i think that is too much. once every five years? that could be ok – but i’d want to make sure the season ticket holders are taken care of in terms of getting decent seats-we shouldn’t have to fork out >$100 to make sure we can see the game.

    • NUARANINETYFIVE

      I can see why some may be conflicted about Wrigley. I was at the Wrigley game and my brother commented that the energy around the stadium was as good if not better than any playoff game he has been too. If I were Phillips, I would shift a BIG10 game as an opener that you know is going to sell out whether or not the students are in. Then, shift a non-conference game that normally would get at most 30K (no matter how good our marketing maybe) and bring the game to Wrigley. Say a MAC team like Western Michigan or Northern Illinois would be a great game at Wrigley. Tailgating could be set up along the lakefront park off of Irving and shuttle buses could run back and forth.

      If you are branding the Wildcats as Chicago’s BIG10 team–games at Soldier Field or Wrigley EVERY year will solidify that position. Remember, there was a time after UofC dropped off competitively for football and the Bears were still growing the base that NU was THE football team here in Chicago.

      I also agree that this will help set up DYCHE stadium for a major renovation project (similiar to scale of Wrigley) as all involved will be comfortable with games being off site. The Grand Re-Opening of DYCHE should be for the Notre Dame game in 2018.

      • byebyefitz95

        “Remember, there was a time after UofC dropped off competitively for
        football and the Bears were still growing the base that NU was THE
        football team here in Chicago.” Yeah…most of is weren’t around during WW2 grandpa. Also it is Ryan Field…R Y A N Field. Get it right.

        • NUARANINETYFIVE

          Whoever you are, I graduated from NU in ’93. I know the history of NU football through older generations in my family who went to the games. You are rude.

    • Catatonic Joe

      Folks will come to Wrigley to see WLAX, but only if the matches don’t follow the football game price gouging pattern.

  • brooklyncat

    I’d be fine with giving this a few year tryout. Staking our flag in Chicago proper can’t really have negative effects, can it? I know some folks think the needle was not moved enough form the experience in 2010, but one is the very definition of small sample size.

  • Va cat

    Football at Wrigley doesn’t make much sense to do regularly

    The only reason would be to do as a special event once every 5 years. Or to play there if we were to build a new stadium ( Ryan Field needs to be torn down and replaced at some point)

    • cebpd

      No. It. Does. Not. Unless you are building a stadium on the lake, Ryan Field needs to be renovated, gutted, etc, but the general look of the stadium needs to be kept. I’d rather have Ryan Field over some place like JerryWorld 1000/1000.

      • cece

        +1! on Ryan Field. but +1 on few Wrigley events too.

  • chartmoose

    Most people love the “Chicago’s Big Ten team” marketing campaign, and moves like this (sure, you can call them “stunts”) make it more than just a bland slogan.
    Not sure I understand how someone can be excited by our slogan & excited for the first Wrigley field game, but not excited for the 2nd… I don’t get it…
    LTP, I understand that you are focusing your comments on the football aspect to the story, but having lacrosse and soccer at Wrigley are quite meaningful.
    Readers of this blog have been “converted” to getting excited by women’s LAX, but that is less true of Chicago as a whole. Getting another news story & increased exposure to *all* of our teams is ingenious.
    Awesome idea! But let’s keep it an “event” — let’s not do it every year…

  • Al

    If they can remodel the park so that the football field would run north-south like it did in the days when the Bears played there, then I wouldn’t mind a game there every four years or so. The stadium seems to work better for football that way.

  • Ron

    Like everything the Ricketts’ do, this is all about themselves. NU hosting a game there is all about playing defense. The Ricketts’ made it clear when they got city approval to make the seats along the third base line removable, that their plan was to host more football. If NU doesn’t agree to be the host, then someone else (Illinois?) will be playing a home game there, in our territory, and possibly even on our home game day. As a Cubs season ticket holder, I am so very much over the Ricketts family. As an NU season ticket holder, I want to see our games played in Evanston.

    • Felis Silvestris

      Long time Cubs (and NU) season ticket holder. I have to second your comment regarding the Ricketts family ownership. They’ve raised ticket prices to maximum secondary market prices so there is no edge to owning seats. All the while as Cub fans suffer the downside of riding out ridiculous long term contracts which were inked for the sole purpose of making the team (appear) more attractive to sell by the Tribune. The current baseball management is handling the reconstruction of the on field team properly, but ownership is making sure it is at the cost of current (and many long time) season ticket holders. You can bet that as soon as the Cubs become competitive once again that our ticket prices will be raised even more.
      Go Cats!

    • Db

      Agree with this. Bet that worked into it. Would we want illinois and/ or Iowa hosting?

  • GCG

    PBC just made a very interesting post about Northwestern/Wrigley on Wildcat Report. (I know PBC has more than his share of controversial posts – I personally think that PBC actually works in marketing at the Big Ten, but who knows) Basically says that this whole thing doesn’t have anything to do with us as fans, but everything to do with getting new fans. I think I agree with him on this, Wrigley does connect Northwestern to new fans. The risk is pretty low compared to the reqard of getting new fans

    http://northwestern.rivals.com/showmsg.asp?fid=57&tid=184665541&mid=184665541&SID=901&Style=2

  • GTom

    Honestly, this announcement mostly reminds me of how I overpaid for what turned out to be terrible tickets in right field to never get an appropriate apology from our ticket office. I was willing to forgive and forget, but I’m surprised as to how raw that nerve still is. I hope the ticket office does something to make that right in their announcement on Tuesday.

    • cece

      did anyone ever file a lawsuit for the loss cause of the false impression of viewing the ticket gave? what an incredible screw up by somebody. amazing that the corporate spin is in to this day that the field problem was a win cause it got attention. made NU athletic staff look like idiots.

  • Nate

    In the end, all I really care about is filling up Ryan Field and Welsh-Ryan with NU fans. The ticket office really needs to make sure that tix for the “big games” go to NU fans and not opposing fans…the “buy season tix to get the big games” deal is not working. Sideshows like the Wrigley experience are great for connecting w/new fans, but if it doesn’t translate to battling the takeovers from other teams’ fan bases (Nebraska last yr for example), then what’s the point? I’d rather have all of NU’s home games at RF then give one up to Wrigley. I would be more inclined to see the Wrigley game be part of a mutual, annual neutral site non-conf game against NIU, ND or someone else, like the games down at Soldier Field are. The priority for the powers that be at NU ought to be getting as many Purple fans in NU facilities as possible, and I can’t say that the 2010 Wrigley game accomplished that. Maybe winning is the only thing.

  • David

    As for the wht will happen first list…there is one option that can be eliminated. The Cubs will certainly reach a WS before they win a WS. Therefore, Cubs win WS can be eliminated as a choice of what will happen first.

  • http://twitter.com/jdw73 Jack White

    This charms me not at all. Not everyone gets all mushy over Wrigley, which I am not sure keeps its magic without a lot of beer and sunshine. If NU wants to play a game in Wrigley every year, it needs to court the current season ticket holders, something they didn’t do last time – and by court, I mean uninflated prices, shuttle buses, and maybe a season ticket holder’s tailgate. As to nonrevenue sports – lets look at lacrosse (and I’m a season ticket holder & booster): the students won’t trek down to Wrigley for a game, where they can spontaneously show up at Lakeside. The match lasts a predictable couple of hours, and they can get back to the dorm or library without a big bite out of their time. Add the transport to Wrigley and a midterm, and they don’t show. The season ticket base will be lost in Wrigley. Similar problems will arise with every other non-revenue sport. I just don’t see this as something good for NU in itself. For me and a lot of others, the “NU family” experience is an important part of the games. Last year, the women’s tennis team showed up en masse for one of the lacrosse games, and I enjoy Taylor Thornton’s dad’s running commentary. Laurie Schiller shows up a lot. We’d lose that at Wrigley. I can’t see any advantage to playing there even once.

    But let’s look at this as a chess game. We all know that McGaw/Welsh-Ryan and Dyche/Ryan need major overhauls if not replacement, and we know that getting approval from Evanston is dicey at best, maybe impossible. That approval might become easier if Evanston and its businesses faced a gradual erosion of revenue, directly from the tax on the tickets to loss of restaurant and other indirect but real revenue. I could also see Dr. Jim bidding for hosting the Lacrosse championship at Wrigley – it’s just one weekend in May, and might be workable around the Cubs schedule – or part of the Softball tournament. We hosted early rounds of softball tournament a few years ago, but the NCAA changed requirements to include a lighted field, and Drysdale doesn’t have lights (Evanston, again). So I really see this a part of a campaign to pressure Evanston into making more accommodations than it’s ordinarily willing to make. After all, these are the folks who consider the SPAC parking lot of historic importance (that’s a joke)(well, mostly).

  • Jimgocats93

    I thought price, parking, lack of tailgating all added up to: once OK again – no thanks.
    Gocatsgo!

    • GoU_NU

      They invented the El for a reason

  • Alum Dad

    I have a hard time seeing NU football at Wrigley as anything other than a cash-grab by the university and the Cubs. Once was enough for me. I will probably save money when this happens as I will most likely pass on buying again (especially if the tickets are priced similarly to 2010). I would object less if NU moved a game to Soldier Field which at least offers football site lines and parking lots for tailgating. I don’t know why we feel the need to go to Wrigley. We already have an outdated facility, with bad restrooms, located in the middle of a residential area!

    • Bob Parkman

      don’t count on tail-gating at Soldier Field forever. The city has been working hard to diminish it.

  • Lisa Gates

    I agree with cece.

    ———
    Bus from Chicago to
    Indiana

  • Bob Parkman

    Wrigley was a nice, one-off gimmick, but I don’t think it’s where I’d want to see a lot of games. I like Saturday games in daylight and getting there early and catching up with friends at tail-gates.

  • CliffG

    The Wrigley deal is great marketing. If we are indeed Chicago’s Big Ten Team, and if we can’t seem to get Chicago to come to Evanston, we can prove it by bringing NU teams to Chicago. All kinds of great PR come with this. That said, I don’t live in the area and usually get to see only one football game a year, and I prefer the experience on campus.

    • Alaskawildcat

      As another who does not live in the area I share your perspective. Notre Dame would be the ideal opponent.

  • Mark

    Agree with Cece. Attended the game at Wrigley and it was not a good venue for college football for a number of reasons – alcohol, persons constantly leaving and returning to consume or evacuate alcohol, sight lines lousy, tickets overpriced, etc. Of course I also recognize that If UofM, OSU, UNL, Wisconsin, and PSU routinely sell 80,000+ tickets at higher prices and the equivalent of seat licenses that the Cats do have to consider things other than fan comfort.

  • Db

    Hate to say it, but an argument for keeping carmody is on display on the women’s side. Big time hire, no improvement.

    To be clear I don’t think assuming you will fail and accepting mediocrity is rationale for not making a necessary move. But it is yet another example of what can (or can’t) happen even if you make a great hire.

  • nwildcat

    Love the Cats. Love the Cubs. Love Wrigley. Just not sure that this is the right venue for us. We need to fill our own stadium with purple first. My only positive thought is a drubbing of the Illini after that original stinker.

    • CatInTheHat

      My thoughts exactly. Might be a chance to exorcise a demon but not terribly enthusiastic otherwise

    • Ron

      Cats belong in Evanston. Full stop. It was a great novelty the first time. But not as a regular occurrence.

  • Paul K

    Great for non-revenue sports, but not for football. The surrounding atmosphere was great, but what an awful venue for football. Terrible sightlines. Poor atmosphere in the stadium with most “fans” there just to drink beer, have the experience and not have any interest in the game.
    I guess every 4 or 5 years for a marketing boost, but I have no interest in attending another football game at Wrigley.

  • NJcatsfan

    I’m not 100% thrilled with this move, but I’m in favor of it for three reasons:

    (1) “Chicago’s Big Ten Team.” This is our slogan, and the impending Wrigley agreement helps cement it. Sure, other teams play “home” games in pro venues, but Wrigley is a pretty special and unique venue. We’re trying to grow our fanbase. This will help. It certainly cannot hurt.

    (2) The students. This will be a really fun novelty every few years, with a fresh batch of students. Hell, I would LOVED an opportunity like this if NU had done it when I was in school.

    (3) Recruiting. Fitz will use this, as will Kelly A-H & our other coaches.

    My only hope is that the athletic department can get its act together on tickets for loyal STHs. I got screwed last time…this must improve.

  • J

    Team is at the same point as in more than a few past seasons, if they finish strong they
    Have a chance at 500 in the big ten, but Carmody’s teams usually do not finish the season well.
    Forget about the top of the conference , if we just take care of the teams just above us and the bottom dwellers we have a good chance at 500 or better.
    A strong finish is dependent on an offensive focus on Olah. They are developing an identity but they have not finished the imprinting yet.
    Next game is huge….will tell a lot about their mental toughness .

  • brooklyncat

    Another possible angle here: the Cubs (read Ricketts) want this to happen (maybe they are remodeling the park with or without us to accommodate football). if this is the case, SOMEONE is playing games there – be it us or Illinois or someone else. hard to be Chicago’s Big Ten Team with someone else pitching a tent in Chicago city limits. Since a lot of people are talking about ads (being the morning after the Super Bowl), conventional wisdom is that an ad needs to hit three times before a consumer thinks of it when s/he needs to buy a product of that sort. With that being the case, perhaps we need to give the Wrigley experiment a few more tries to see if it moves brand awareness and loyalty in non-alum Chicagoland, which may lead to more attendance/ratings/merchandise sales, which is what we are all after.

    This may not work, I readily acknowledge that, but if it does it will be worth it. I think it deserves a fair shot. Also, would some resistance be from White Sox fans who don’t want to associate NU with the Cubs? Just asking, I could potentially see that happening in NY

  • PurpleHayes

    The fact that comments on the nebulous possibility of a football game two years from now can outweigh comments on a terrific basketball win that just happened, by three to one, speaks volumes. Never thought I would label NU a “football school”, but I guess it has come to pass. As for Wrigley, my answer is schizophrenic–Wrigley is terrific for everything about the event. Publicity, ESPN, novelty, Chicago’s team, you name it. But then the game starts and the sight lines are awful, the venue is a dump, both teams go the same way, and all this for 4x the price? I enjoyed it once, but do it regularly and the novelty will be stripped away, and we’ll be left with giving away 15% of our home schedule to play in an inferior site. Count me as someone who also likes to watch the game; no thanks.

  • Stephen Zgrabik

    I chose the “Depends on opponent” choice in the poll; however, my “depends on” is not really contingent on the opponent, but more so on how the wrigley games are handled re: how often football is played at wrigley, how pricing is structured, how seating is handled, how the field is situated after renovations, etc.

  • JP

    Seeing as it’s a bowl game-type atmosphere when they play a game at Wrigley, maybe they can bring in a big-name musical act for the halftime show. My vote?
    ONE DIRECTION

    • Alaskawildcat

      Come on. Arcade Fire has to be the outside band of choice for Northwestern. By the way great article on the Grammy awarded band in the current Northwestrn Alumni magazine.

  • tump26

    Has anyone heard of playing football at Soldier Field?

West Division

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East Division

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