Published Monday, October 15, 2012 at 12:01 am / Updated at 1:00 am
First Downs And Second guesses
Shatel: It might be, it could be Huskers at Wrigley

There’s talk that Nebraska’s visit to Ryan Field at Northwestern might be short-lived. Take Husker fans, add Chicago, put them in a larger venue. Start counting money.

This is not a new idea. But the talk isn’t about Soldier Field, home of the Chicago Bears.

How about Wrigley Field?

Holy cow. Sign me up.

According to a source at TD Ameritrade, the idea of playing the 2014 NU-NU game at the iconic baseball park is being kicked around by Ameritrade officials and Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts, the Omaha native and son of Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts. A source in the Nebraska athletic department said officials also are talking about Wrigley, though nothing has been discussed with Northwestern athletic officials yet.

“There have been no discussions (with Northwestern),” said Nebraska Athletic Director Tom Osborne on Monday. “As of right now, we’re just talking about possibilities. We’ve also talked about playing Northern Illinois in Chicago (at Soldier Field).”

Ricketts, a Husker fan who lives close to Evanston, Ill., is said to be interested. The Cubs, under Ricketts’ leadership, supported the Northwestern-Illinois game at Wrigley on Nov. 20, 2010.

There might have to be a different field configuration at Wrigley. In the 2010 game, both teams used only one end zone because the other was pushed up against the outfield wall and deemed too dangerous. It would be interesting to see if they would center the football field and add a set of bleachers on the field.

A crowd of 41,058 watched the Wildcats and Illini two years ago. Ryan Field holds just more than 47,000. But officials could charge more for the unique Wrigley experience, and that’s where Husker fans’ wallets come in.

Soldier Field is a natural future venue for this series. But how could you pass up a chance at Wrigley? As Ernie Banks would say, let’s play one.

>> There was no shock or panic in the MECA offices Monday, one day after The World-Herald reported that UNO wants to move out of CenturyLink Center and into its own arena in three to four years.

“We knew they were looking into it,” said MECA President Roger Dixon. “Ultimately, this is what UNO thinks is best for its campus and students. Size was an issue, so was control (of revenues), the same things we heard from the former Omaha Royals (Storm Chasers) when they moved to La Vista.

“We wish UNO the best.”

Dixon wouldn’t speculate on how this would impact CenturyLink Center. He said MECA would have to find a way to fill 20 dates. He ruled out another hockey team, saying, “What we have in town now is just right.” He also said MECA would be willing to manage UNO’s new arena if asked.

“They know where to find us,” Dixon said.

>> I always thought UNO and the Lancers would end up sharing a 7,000- to 8,000-seat arena near Ak-Sar-Ben. Put the Omaha Hockey Hall of Fame in there and call it good. But then Ralston offered the Lancers a sweetheart lease they couldn’t refuse. And here we are. Ralston will lose UNO hoops, but it didn’t build the arena to get UNO hoops. This has to be it, right? The Omaha Beef aren’t going to ask for their own arena, are they?

>> The proposed size (7,500) of the UNO arena surprised me. I thought they might go for 9,000 to 10,000. But it’s the same thinking as the Storm Chasers at Werner Park: The lower the capacity, the higher the perception that it’s a tough ticket. That’s marketing. If UNO is selling 5,000 tickets now (drawing 8,000 with free tickets), they’ll fill it. They can still take one big series a year and play it at CenturyLink. I just hope they don’t gouge their season-ticket fan base. And I hope they take care of the students. Give them good seats, make them a factor.

>> Will be interesting to see what UNO fans think about their arena capacity if Nebraska starts college hockey and plays in the Pinnacle Bank Arena (capacity 16,000). That was the vibe last week in Lincoln, around the introduction of new A.D. Shawn Eichorst, who once worked at Wisconsin. That’s probably several years down the road. I guarantee Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany would encourage an addition to his hockey conference.

>> All this talk about the Omaha Nighthawks not getting paid, so I asked Dixon if he was standing in line, too, waiting for a check from the UFL team.

“That’s not a concern,” Dixon said. “They have fulfilled all of their obligations of the agreement.”

So, you got the money?

“They have fulfilled all of their obligations of the agreement,” Dixon said.

>> Osborne said he and his friend Bill Snyder have corresponded recently (“They’re playing well — that quarterback (Collin Klein) is a really good player”). But seeing the 73-year-old coach the No. 4-ranked team in the BCS hasn’t given Osborne the coaching itch. Told that two Kansas writers recently wrote that Osborne should have coached Nebraska rather than become A.D. in 2007, Osborne chuckled.

“The first year or so I was out of coaching, I missed it a lot,” Osborne said. “I almost took the job at Michigan State but didn’t for family reasons. No, I was head coach here for 25 years, and GA and assistant for 11. I think 36 years in coaching was plenty.”

Imagine what it would be like if Osborne had taken the Michigan State job — and was still coaching today.

>> At the risk of getting suspended by the Heisman Trophy police, if Klein and K-State go into West Virginia’s snake pit and win, I’m driving the Klein For Heisman bandwagon.

>> Suddenly, here comes Iowa. Didn’t we write these guys off already? The Hawks have an identity and a little momentum. Not to mention Indiana and Purdue on the schedule. Say the Legends Division champ has two losses. Kirk Ferentz’s Hawks could be right there.

>> Bob Costas can be my baseball commissioner anytime, but I have to disagree with his idea to make the wild card a best-of-three series. I like the one-game playoff just as it is, with all the pressure of one season in one nine-inning game. The one-game playoff is a baseball tradition. Remember Bucky Dent? Right now, the Yankees could use him.

>> Shout out: To “OJ” Wilson, the Omaha Central tackle who has overcome acute myeloid leukemia and is playing for the Eagles. Mike Patterson’s story in Monday’s World-Herald about Wilson’s courage is a story every kid, young and old, should know. Thanks for the inspiration, OJ.

Contact the writer:

402-444-1025, tom.shatel@owh.com, twitter.com/tomshatelOWH

Contact the writer: Tom Shatel

tom.shatel@owh.com    |   402-444-1025    |  

Tom Shatel is a sports columnist who covers the city, regional and state scene.

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