Due to safety concerns with the east end zone at Wrigley Field, the Big Ten announced adjustments on Friday to the playing rules for Saturday's Illinois-Northwestern.
The configuration of the football field leaves just a few feet separating the east end zone from the right field wall. There is padding on the wall, but the Big Ten decided it wasn't safe enough for the players.
Here are the adjusted rules the Big Ten released in a statement:
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.
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany also released a statement:
“The health and safety of our student-athletes is of the utmost importance,” Delany said. “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."
The Chicago Cubs were surprised about the Big Ten's announcement. Here is the statement from Cubs president Crane Kenney:
"The Chicago Cubs are surprised by the Big Ten's last-minute statement regarding changes for tomorrow's Northwestern-Illinois football game at Wrigley Field. Let there be no doubt: the safety of the student-athletes has been - and remains - the number one priority since the concept of this game was first discussed more than a year ago, and all parties have gone to complete lengths to ensure student-athlete safety for this contest.
"The essential item in our negotiations to host the football game at Wrigley Field was obtaining approval of both universities and the Big Ten for the field dimensions as related to player safety issues. The field dimension layout was delivered to the Big Ten approximately eight months ago and was approved by the conference. Last month, the field was built exactly to the dimensions previously approved by the Big Ten. Last week, a Big Ten official performed an on-site visit at Wrigley Field, participated in a field walk-thru and raised no issue with the field dimensions, painted lines and boundaries previously approved by the Big Ten.
"This game would not have been scheduled if it did not pass the strict and meticulous standards of everyone involved, a process that began more than a year ago. All are in agreement Wrigley Field is a safe venue to host a football game. Other baseball parks, including tomorrow night's game in Yankee Stadium, feature similar football field-to-venue grid dimensions and rule changes are not considered for football games played in other baseball parks.
"We have reached out to the Big Ten to further discuss the playing field. While we are surprised by this morning's last-minute statement, all agree that tomorrow will be an historic event and a wonderful experience for the fans, the schools and the student-athletes."
Wrigley Field hasn't hosted a football game of any kind since 1970. Notre Dame and Army will play at Yankee Stadium -- another baseball venue -- on Saturday night.