Northwestern is making a concerted effort to play a football game at Chicago's Wrigley Field in 2010 or 2011, and the school could be making it an in-state affair.
The (Champaign) News-Gazette reported Thursday that Illinois officials have signed off on the possibility of playing Northwestern on Nov. 20 at the Friendly Confines. Northwestern is scheduled to host the Fighting Illini in Evanston that day but could move the home contest to Wrigley Field.
While Illinois has always been at the top of the list of potential opponents for NU, this isn't a done deal. Northwestern athletics director Jim Phillips told me in a text message that Illinois hasn't been selected as the opponent and NU will explore all possible options for a November game. The game would need to be held after the Chicago Cubs are finished with their season (insert joke here).
Northwestern's options include:
Iowa: Nov. 13
Illinois: Nov. 20
Michigan: Nov. 19, 2011
Rice: Nov. 26, 2011
There are a few variables here for Northwestern. Phillips wants enough time to promote the game, so if it's going to happen in November, it needs to be finalized very soon. A potential drawback to playing the game this coming season is that Northwestern only plays six home games (most BCS teams play seven or eight). Moving one to Wrigley means only five contests at Ryan Field.
Then again, NU struggles to sell out Ryan Field and would have little trouble packing Wrigley for the first football game at Clark & Addison in decades. Scheduling a Big Ten opponent would only increase attention.
Northwestern doesn't want to turn this into a road game, which could easily happen if it schedules Iowa or Michigan. Illinois has a ton of fans in Chicago who would show up as well, but enthusiasm for Ron Zook's program isn't nearly as strong right now.
The Illini make the most sense for NU.