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Jim Phillips isn't ruling out Wrigley

CHICAGO -- Northwestern might be willing to play two at
Wrigley Field.

Athletic director Jim Phillips isn't ruling out another football
game at the Chicago Cubs' historic ballpark after the Wildcats lost
to Illinois under unique circumstances on Saturday.

"I can't tell you that I would be committed right now to do
another game, but I wouldn't have much hesitation to jump back
in," he said Monday night. "That just means more vetting. I've
got to think about it and talk with [coach Pat Fitzgerald] and talk
to the Cubs and all the rest of it."

Northwestern and Illinois were looking for publicity when they
agreed to play at Wrigley and they certainly got their share.

Not only was it the first football game there in 40 years, there
were some last-minute rules changes that turned more than a few
heads.

The most unusual was this: the Big Ten announced on Friday that the offenses would run only
toward the west end zone near the third-base dugout because of
safety concerns over the one in right. The back of that end zone
came within a foot or so of a padded brick wall in right, and
although Phillips acknowledged the timing of the announcement
wasn't ideal, he said the change was "absolutely the right thing
to do."

In the land of Bartman and black cats and Billy goat curses,
maybe it was only fitting that there was some unique twist to this
game. Then again, the fact that it was simply being played at
Wrigley already made it special.

Not since the Bears left following the 1970 season had football
been played at Wrigley and it had been even longer for a college
game -- 72 years to be exact.

Phillips realizes the novelty was a major selling point for this
one, and that could wear off with more games. He said Northwestern
has also discussed playing at Soldier Field and U.S. Cellular
Field, but "we're not close to making a commitment on doing
anything at any of those places."

He's reluctant to move more games off campus. In fact, the point
of playing at Wrigley was to draw more spectators to Ryan Field.

"We're really trying to drive more fans to come to Ryan Field
in Evanston," Phillips said. "I guess I wouldn't be so quick to
give up a home game every year to do it at Wrigley. I don't know if
for us it would make a lot of sense to do it on an annual basis,
but maybe semiannual or every four, five years. I just think a lot
of that's premature because we haven't gotten to the final closure
of this game."

If there were another game at Wrigley, Phillips said it wouldn't
necessarily be against Illinois. He also said the position of the
field, itself, would have to be addressed.

"We'd have to get the field, once and for all, in a position
where there would be no question that it would be safe by all
standards -- safe by risk-management's standards, safe by engineers'
standards, safe by all practical perspectives, safe by the NCAA and
the boundaries and all of that," he said. "So I would say that
would be No. 1."

Other issues involving ticketing and the placement of seats
would be looked at. But the bottom line, he said, was the game on
Saturday was a success.

"The litmus test is the fan response and the fan experience,"
he said. "I just think what I heard today, though it wasn't
perfect and we had a couple things, that overall they felt it was
just a tremendous experience."