If you’re a sports fan, there are few places better to spend a summer afternoon or evening than the friendly confines of Wrigley Field.
The 104-year-old baseball stadium, home of the Chicago Cubs, is among the most treasured venues in all of North American professional sports.
From the ivy-covered outfield walls to the manual scoreboard beyond center field, few fan experiences compare to the sights and sounds of Wrigleyville.
Of course, the beautiful venue hardly receives any use — aside from an occasional outdoor hockey game or two — during the frigid winter months along the shores of Lake Michigan. For those tired of seeing Wrigley Field dormant from November through late March or early April, it appears those days may soon be over. But we aren’t talking about hockey, concerts or baseball in the snow.
If all goes according to plan for Cubs President Crane Kenney, Wrigley Field will begin hosting football games in November 2020, as originally reported by the Chicago Tribune in 2017.
And while a Northwestern University football game appears to be the biggest priority, the Cubs hope their famed venue can host an annual bowl game.
The concept of a baseball stadium, particularly in a cold weather city such as Chicago, hosting a football game isn’t exactly a ground-breaking idea. Yankee Stadium in New York has already played host to the Pinstripe Bowl each December since 2010. Wrigley Field has its own extensive football history of its own, as the Chicago Bears played there from 1921-1970 before moving to Solider Field. A Northwestern-Illinois game was played there in 2010. It was a big enough spectacle to attract ESPN’s College GameDay.
With Chicago the home of the Big Ten and at the heart of the conference’s geographic footprint, it’s likely the conference would be one of the tie-ins for a potential Wrigley Field bowl game.
But what about the other side? Pac-12 and SEC teams aren’t exactly fond of cold weather, and the ACC already has a tie-in with the Pinstripe Bowl. The only other Power 5 conference that has multiple teams across the Midwest is the Big 12.
And that leads to the question that you’ve all been waiting for:
Could we see a future bowl game with a Big 12 affiliation at Wrigley Field?
Would heading to Chicago in the middle of winter be an entirely different climate for the Texas and Oklahoma teams that call the Big 12 home? Absolutely. But a Big 12 vs. Big Ten tie-in would make perfect sense for a Wrigley Field bowl game for many reasons.
Let’s begin with the geography. Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State and West Virginia all play within 600 miles of Chicago. No other Power 5 conference other than the Big Ten can say that about at least four of its member schools. Notre Dame as an independent tie-in would likely be the only other suitable option, with the Fighting Irish just 94 miles away in South Bend, Ind.
Leadership within the Big 12 Conference could also help its cause. Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby, a native of Waterloo, Iowa, grew up and spent most of his professional career in the state that borders Illinois prior to landing the job with the league. That included a 16-year run as the athletic director at Iowa. If the Big Ten is the priority for a tie-in, Bowlsby’s connection from his time with the Hawkeyes could help the Big 12.
The noteworthy Big 12 names with ties to the Midwest don’t stop there. Bob Stoops, who coached at Oklahoma for 18 seasons from 1999-2017, has frequented Chicago since retiring last June. Stoops now owns two properties in the Chicago area, creating some speculation of him being interested in a position with the Chicago Bears.
There currently are no bowl games that feature a Big 12 vs. Big Ten matchup. The Valero Alamo Bowl once pitted the two conferences against each other, but the Big Ten was replaced by the Pac-12 in 2009.
So let’s say a Big 12 vs. Big Ten bowl game is restored. There are few places better to host the game than a destination city like Chicago. And few venues own the history that Wrigley has.
If the Cubs are looking for ideal partners to pull off their new game, the Big 12 appears to be a logical choice for Chicago’s first bowl game.