Nov 19, 2010Big Ten ruling: Both teams to drive toward west end zone at Wrigley Field
As Northwestern and Illinois prepare to play the first game at Wrigley Field since 1938, the Big Ten announced Friday that the action on the field will be, well, one-sided.
Because of space constraints between the end zone closest to the Wrigley Field's rightfield wall, the conference has announced that both team's offensive possessions will be played in the same direction, toward the stadium's third-base line.
The game is scheduled for a 3:30 p.m. ET kickoff Saturday. ESPN's College GameDay is also being broadcast from the stadium.
Here are the official rule changes, per the Big Ten's release:
1) All offensive plays will head toward the West end zone, including all extra points and all overtime possessions.
2) All kickoffs will be kicked toward the East end zone.
3) After every change of possession, the ball will be repositioned for the offense to head toward the West end zone.
4) 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.
"It's a little different and the decision is a little late," Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany told USA TODAY Friday.
But, he added, "it's the safest way for the players to play the game."
The issue in question is the spacing between the end zone and the rightfield wall at Wrigley Field. NCAA rules mandate that limit lines -- the lines which keep photographers and other necessary personnel away from the field of play -- shall not be less than 12 feet from the end line. In stadiums where the field surface does not permit that distance -- such as Wrigley -- NCAA rules stipulate that "limit lines shall not be less than six feet from the sidelines or end lines."
As you can see in the picture at the bottom of this blog post, there is not six feet between the end line of the end zone and the ivy-covered brick wall where the goalpost is mounted.
"Everything was discussed," Delany said of trying to find a suitable resolution. He even said the league considered shaving the end zone at that end of the field to 7 yards, instead of the standard 10.
In the Big Ten's release, Delany said:
"The health and safety of our student-athletes is of the utmost importance," said Big Ten Commissioner James E. Delany. "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."
Players and coaches of both teams knew in the week leading up to the game that the wall would come into play. Coaches Pat Fitzgerald (Northwestern) and Ron Zook (Illinois) acknowledged this week that play-calling would be affected because of the wall's proximity to the field.
Before the decision, Illinois quarterback Nathan Sheelhaase also said the wall could have affected how the teams ran their offense at that end of the field.
"I know that the brick wall and whatever is right there," Sheelhaase said. "You've definitely got to be aware of that. You don't want to have anybody smacking into a wall after they catch it."http://content.usatoday.com/communities ... -offense/1