Let me preface this by reminding anyone who doesn’t already know that I adore Wrigley Field.
I also love Chicago. I grew up in the shadow of the city and although I no longer care to live there, it’s an absolutely wonderful place to visit.
I also have a soft spot in my heart for college football. And I’m not one of those people who thinks all bowl games are stupid.
That being said, the idea of holding a postseason college bowl game at Wrigley Field in Chicago may be one of the dumbest ideas I’ve ever heard.
But it apparently is going to happen. The NCAA’s competition committee has given its stamp of approval to the idea. The addition of the Windy City Bowl — or whatever they decide to call it — is likely to be formally approved this week.
Why does anyone think this is a good idea?
College football already has way too many bowl games and bowls played outdoors in cold weather climates have always been a horrible idea.
Supporters of the idea point to the New Era Pinstripe Bowl in Yankee Stadium as evidence that there should be a bowl game at Wrigley.
“If New York is a good place for a bowl game, why isn’t Chicago a great place?’’ said Crane Kenney, the Cubs’ president of business operations.
Here’s the thing, Crane. New York isn’t a good place for a bowl game.
Ask the Iowa fans who shivered through the Hawkeyes’ 27-20 victory over Boston College in the Pinstripe Bowl last Dec. 27. Ask the B.C. players who slipped and slid all day while trying to tackle Akrum Wadley. Ask the media people who sat through that game in an open-air press box, attempting to type out stories wearing Columbia Thermalators.
New York is a great place for Broadway shows and skyscrapers. It’s a terrible place for a bowl game.
Chicago may be worse. Wrigley Field is within a mile of Lake Michigan and the potential for sub-zero temperatures and 30-mph winds in late December is considerable.
Wrigley also leaves a lot to be desired as a football facility.
When Illinois and Northwestern played a regular-season game there in 2010, the teams had to switch directions every time the ball changed hands because the field wasn’t long enough. The offenses could only drive in one direction.
Kenney told the Chicago Sun-Times that renovations at Wrigley have alleviated that problem. Northwestern is scheduled to play another game there against Wisconsin on Nov. 7, 2020, about six weeks before the proposed bowl game.
Not surprisingly, Northwestern people are among those touting this as a fabulous idea.
They undoubtedly love the thought of cashing a big check for playing in a bowl game without having to shell out big money to transport their team there. If the Wildcats were to play in the Wrigley bowl, it would be like a home game, which is to say there might be as many as 25,000 people there.
“As a Chicagoan, I will tell you this,” Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said, “If they can play at Yankee Stadium, they can play one here without a doubt.”
Yes, they can, Fitz. But should they?
There also will be a new bowl game in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, which does not have a stadium with more than 15,000 seats, and possibly one other place. Communities in Arizona, North Carolina and elsewhere in South Carolina all have expressed interest.
That will mean that 84 of the 130 Football Bowl Subdivision teams will play in bowl games by 2020. Forget the days of needing to be 6-6 in the regular season to get into a bowl. Most 5-7 teams will make it now. You may even see a 4-8 team sneak in there.
The Windy City Bowl — we keep using that name even though no one has said that’s what it would be called — is expected to match a Big Ten team against an ACC team.
So, sometime in late December 2020, we’ll get to see 4-8 Indiana take on 5-7 Wake Forest in front of a crowd of 22,000 (only half of whom will be hospitalized for frostbite) in a game that will trash the turf of a stadium that never was meant to be used for football.
Makes sense to me.