Only one end zone will be used at Wrigley Field on Saturday for the Illinois-Northwestern game because of safety concerns, the Big Ten announced Friday.
The east end zone is feet away from the right-field wall, and although there is padding, there was still concerns that injuries could take place. Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald had said he would have different game plans for the different end zones to avoid the possibility of injury.
When a team is on offense Saturday, it will be positioned to head to the west end zone.
“It was something we’ve all had some concerns about in regard to the closeness of the right-field wall at Wrigley Field, so a decision was made with both coaching staffs and the athletic directors of both schools and the [Big Ten] commissioner to start every offensive possession and go west,” Illinois sports information director Kent Brown said on “The Waddle & Silvy Show” on ESPN 1000. “I think it’s a student-athlete safety concern that is first and foremost, and we want to make sure there’s no chance for somebody to run into that wall and get seriously injured.
“It’s a unique twist to the game, but I think it’s something all parties felt was the most fair.”
In a statement issued by the Big Ten, the following changes will be made: * All offensive plays will head toward the west end zone, including all extra points and all overtime possessions. * All kickoffs will be kicked toward the east end zone. * After every change of possession, the ball will be repositioned for the offense to head toward the west end zone. * As a result of a coin toss held by the conference office Friday morning, Illinois will occupy the west team bench in the first half and Northwestern will occupy the west team bench in the second half and for all overtime periods. “The health and safety of our student-athletes is of the utmost importance,” Big Ten commissioner James E. Delany said in the statement. “Both Illinois and Northwestern did significant due diligence over the past 18 months, but after seeing the actual layout of the field, all parties felt that it was appropriate to adjust the rules to further enhance the safety of our student-athletes. Wrigley Field is one of the most historic venues in the country, and playing the Illinois-Northwestern game at this facility will provide a once-in-a-lifetime experience for student-athletes, coaches and fans.”