I just got off the phone with Illinois team spokesman Kent Brown, who filled me in on how the last-minute Wrigley Field decision came about.
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany called a teleconference Thursday with the head coaches and athletic directors from both Northwestern and Illinois to discuss player safety at Wrigley after mounting concern about the East end zone. They discussed potential options for the field and the rules then made the final determination in a conference call Friday morning.
According to Brown, "The Big Ten was made aware of a rule that says it needs to be 12 feet from the back of the end zone to the barrier. That, along with the eye test after seeing the pictures, started the conversation, and it became apparent everybody felt that are there some things we can do to ensure there wouldn't be a problem with it."
Illinois officials, including coach Ron Zookk, visited Wrigley Field in August and had the "assumption that the field would fit." But when some athletics department staff went to Wrigley last week and brought back some pictures of the field layout, "There was a little bit of concern," Brown said.
Asked about the rule regarding the spacing behind the end zone, Brown said, "As the visiting team in this particular game, we're not really involved in game operations. There is a bit of a natural assumption when we signed off and said we'd love to play there and we were told that the field fits. I don't know that anybody looks up that rule until you see [actual the field layout]."
I'm running out to the airport to fly to Detroit, but I'll have more on the Wrigley situation throughout the day. Also check out ESPNChicago.com for coverage.