Illini, Cats open to future Chicago games

The Northwestern-Illinois contest at Wrigley Field in 2010 generated buzz across Chicago. Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

CHICAGO -- Illinois coach Tim Beckman and Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald expressed interest Friday in playing more football games in Chicago.

Illinois and Northwestern played before a sold-out crowd at Wrigley Field in 2010. It was the first football game at Wrigley Field since 1970, and the game was made further unique because the teams were only allowed to play west-to-east due to safety concerns with the east end zone’s proximity to the outfield wall.

Beckman, in his first year at Illinois, thought Solider Field was more apt for future Chicago games because of the obstacles at Wrigley Field.

“I think they’ve talked about the logistics and make sure everyone can run a game in a stadium first and foremost, Soldier’s more (ready than Wrigley),” Beckman said at the Big Ten media days on Friday.

But as much as Beckman would like to play in Chicago, he doesn’t want to give up a seventh home game to do so.

“I talked to (athletic director) Mike Thomas quite about possibly doing (Chicago) every other year because we will be playing up here once every other year, playing the team (Northwestern) up state, as long as it doesn’t interfere with the seven home games at Memorial Stadium. … I’d like to keep the seven games in Champaign as much as I can.”

Fitzgerald is more flexible with his seventh home game, and he also was interested in playing other teams beside the Illini in Chicago.

“We’re going to look at all options that we have to continue solidifying ourselves as Chicago’s Big Ten team,” Fitzgerald said. “Obviously the game at Wrigley was a huge success. It was a bowl game in the best sports city. We’re going to take advantage of what we have in our front yard, which is Chicago.”

Fitzgerald said he’d be willing to play in Wrigley Field again only if the teams could use both end zones. He also thought Soldier Field and U.S. Cellular Field were possibilities.

“I think everything is realistic, absolutely,” Fitzgerald said. “I don’t think we’re going to play at Carl Sandburg High School. Ryan Field is going to be our home field. We’re going to play there. Years we have seven games, I’m open to anything.

“I think everybody in Chicago has expressed interest (in hosting a football game.) We’re not going to play indoors. We’re not going to play at the United Center, those kind of things. There are great venues here. It’s a pretty unique set of circumstances having Chicago in your front yard.”