After years of flirting, the Chicago Cubs and Northwestern will take their relationship to the next level Tuesday by announcing a broad partnership in a news conference at Wrigley Field.
A university source told the Tribune that while Wrigley will not host football in 2013, other NU teams might play there this year, such as baseball, softball, soccer and lacrosse.
And it’s just a matter of time before NU football returns to Wrigley, given that the 2010 Northwestern-Illinois game was profitable for the Cubs and gave the Wildcats a huge marketing boost with ESPN’s “College GameDay” in town.
NU athletic director Jim Phillips said after the 2010 game that there was “absolutely potential to do another. This was a wonderful event, it captured a national audience and from the responses I’ve received, there truly was a bowl-like atmosphere.”
But the date and opponent of the next football game have yet to be determined and will depend on the pace of ballpark renovations. The cramped conditions of the 2010 game forced both teams’ offenses to play to the same end zone.
Given that scheduling an October game could threaten a playoff schedule, the 2014 games to watch are against Iowa on Nov. 8 and Illinois on Nov. 29.
In 2015, Northwestern is host to Michigan on Nov. 14 and Michigan State on Nov. 21.
The NU source said that partnering with a famous brand and historic venue will help the school advance its theme as “Chicago’s Big Ten Team.”
And both sides believe the extensive partnership between a school and major sports franchise will be the first of its kind.
Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts is tight with Phillips and is a major supporter of NU sports.
In an October interview with the Tribune, Ricketts forecasted more football games at Wrigley, called the 2010 Illinois-NU game “one of the greatest days in Wrigley Field history” and said: “When I saw the Northwestern band on the field at halftime, I almost cried.”
Phillips also has said he would look into scheduling games at Soldier Field, but Notre Dame and Illinois already have done that. (The Illini play Washington there Sept. 14.)
The NU source said the school favors Wrigley Field, calling it “unique.”
By Teddy Greenstein Tribune Reporter