Ron Zook open to Wrigley Field return
CHICAGO -- Illinois football coach Ron Zook said Friday he believed Wrigley Field's football playing dimensions were safe enough to play both ways last season, and he would like to play more games there in the future.
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Last year's Illinois-Northwestern game at Wrigley Field was played with offenses heading in only one direction after Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany decided a day before the game that the stadium's outfield wall was too close to the east end zone and was dangerous for the players.
"That field was long enough," Zook said Friday during the Big Ten media days. "That field was safe. They could have gone either way. The direction we went was more dangerous than the direction they didn't want to go. It became a thing that no one had the guts to sign off on it.
"Did you go out and feel that pad out there [in the outfield]? [The concern] was only between the uprights. How about I'm running over to the Cubs dugout [in the west end zone,] which happens a lot of times in the end zone, and I'm looking over the corner and I hit that steel bar in my shins?"
Despite the one-way game, Zook said he did enjoy his football experience at Wrigley Field and would like to play there again.
"Absolutely, that's a great venue," Zook said. "Our guys loved it. The setting was perfect. We were fortunate to come out on the right end [48-27]. I think if you like football and stadiums, the mystique of Wrigley Field ... was it ideal? No. I just think the setting was phenomenal. It was awesome."
Zook also said he would consider playing a game at Soldier Field.
"I think there's definitely a reason to come to Chicago to play a game," Zook said. "Soldier Field would be nice because it's bigger, but that Wrigley Field is pretty special. It's pretty neat.
"That's why you do it is because of the alumni up here. Champaign isn't that far, but I think they would enjoy it."
Northwestern used its home game against Illinois last season to play at Wrigley Field. Zook said he would consider giving up one of his home games to play in Chicago under the right circumstances.
"It depends on how may home games we got," Zook said. "If we got eight home games, I would."
Scott Powers covers high school and college sports for ESPNChicago.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.