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College football is giving Soldier Field another try Saturday, which has Loren Tate's attention. His take:
Everybody keeps trying to “take Chicago” and nobody is winning. It’s a pro town, and college football only matters when Notre Dame is good. There are those of us who remember, in a bygone day, Chicago Tribune scribes in the UI press box with their radios tuned to the Notre Dame game while covering the Illini. That revealed all you needed to know.
Northwestern has the geographical edge but, for all the costly advertising and billboards, the Wildcats drew just 28,042 for Saturday’s 42-21 defeat of Eastern Illinois in Evanston.
Iowa was the last Big Ten team to play in the Bears’ playpen, beating Northern Illinois 16-3 in 2007. This week it is Wisconsin’s turn to try, coach Bret Bielema saying they used the Iowa contract as a guide for Saturday’s game with Northern Illinois at Soldier Field.
“This is a unique opportunity,” said Bielema, mindful that it is NIU’s home game ... but not really.
“We’re hoping for a great crowd for college football. We were concerned about the field conditions but we’re told the turf is solid. This gives our athletes a chance to play in a pro venue, and is easy driving distance for our fans.”
Illinois tried it in 1994, Lou Tepper’s last bowl team falling in the opener to Washington State, 10-9, in front of a Soldier’s Field crowd announced at 39,472. It had nowhere near the electric atmosphere of the UI-Northwestern game at Wrigley Field last season, and the Illini haven’t tried the Soldier Field experiment since.