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Both football teams at Wrigley Field will drive toward one end zone

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • All offensive plays in Saturday's game will go toward one end zone
  • Big 10 said safety is top priority
  • Chicago Cubs president surprised by decision after months of planning

(CNN) -- Wrigley Field's famous brick wall proved to be a just a little close to the action as the Big Ten announced Friday that all offensive plays in Saturday's Northwestern-Illinois game will head toward one end zone.

Since the back-middle of the East end zone is just a foot from the thickly padded right-field wall, the Big Ten has decided not to use that end zone for any offensive plays.

The conference announced these rules for the rare game at Wrigley:

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.

The Big 10 decision was a bit of a surprise, given plans for the game have been in the works for more than a year.

The president of the Chicago Cubs, which play at Wrigley Field, was nonplussed, saying the design met safety standards.

"The field dimension layout was delivered to the Big Ten approximately eight months ago and was approved by the conference," said Crane Kennedy of the Cubs. "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."

But the conference apparently had a change of heart.

"The health and safety of our student-athletes is of the utmost importance," Big Ten Commissioner James E. Delany said in a statement released Friday. "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."