geometry becomes relevant during the planning of a football game

I was looking forward to the NCAA football game between Illinois and Northwestern University at Wrigley field.  On Friday, a number of safety issues with the field turned this game from a sports story to a geometry story.  It was pretty cool.

This was the first football game played at Wrigley Field since 1970, and the first college football game at Wrigley Field since 1938.  As it turns out, there are a few reasons why Wrigley field is not a good venue for football.  Back in the day, the field was oriented North-South (go here for a picture).  On Saturday’s game, the field was oriented East-West, since permanent seating has been put in place since the last football game played in Wrigley Field that would make a North-South orientation infeasible.

Those in charge of planning how to safely align the football field inside of Wrigley were apparently not good with geometry (or they procrastinated).  Despite more than eight months to figure out how to orient the field, a last-minute change was announced on Friday, since the football field apparently could not be safely oriented within Wrigley Field: the teams would primarily use one end zone.  Earlier, it was announced that both teams would share one of the sidelines, which made for a few logistical issues when teams move across the field during the course of the game.  The change was announced less than a day before the game on Saturday, and it caught many off-guard.  I don’t have an aerial shot of Wrigley Field, but the image below shows how close the East end zones is to a wall (click here to see the West end zone).  NCAA regulations require a minimum of six feet between the sidelines and a wall (twelve feet in roomier stadiums).  Several good pictures of the field are posted here, which give a good sense of the cramped space within Wrigley Field.

This game is usually inconsequential (although it’s supposed to be a big rivalry), since usually both Illinois and Northwestern are not very good at football.  This year, the excitement surrounding the game was a pleasant surprise, which was caused by the fact that both teams are likely heading to bowls in addition to playing the game in legendary Wrigley Field.

In case you missed the game, Illinois (my alma mater) won by a rout.

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