Illinois and Northwestern football teams to square off at Wrigley Field

John Supinie

Illinois will play a Big Ten Conference football road game against Northwestern at Wrigley Field on Nov. 20.

A news conference set for Friday morning will unveil the details of a plan to bring football back to the legendary northside Chicago baseball stadium and home of the Chicago Cubs. The stadium served as the home field for the Chicago Bears from 1921 to 1970.

The idea was first discussed between Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips and Cubs president Crane Kenney in 2008, months before the Blackhawks hosted the Detroit in the NHL Winter Classic.

During the Big Ten Conference kickoff luncheon in July, the news began to surface that Northwestern was interested in taking a home game from its campus in Evanston to Wrigley. The novelty would boost sales for a program that has trouble moving tickets despite winning records.

Illinois always seemed to be the perfect fit, although there's likely some concern about the Illini crowding the house. Nevertheless, Illinois is the opponent, and the Illini aren't interested in giving up a home game in alternating seasons to make this a permanent neutral site game.

The Illini coaching staff had awaited word of the announcement to make a change in plans, such as travel and a team hotel.

Before the deal was completed, officials from both schools were included on discussions about feasibility. Concerns were raised about the practicality of stuffing a football field into the stadium, but Illinois coach Ron Zook said last summer that he concluded the field would be safe for a college game.

There were also issues over the locker rooms and coaches box.

John Supinie can be reached at