Northwestern and Illinois will use the west end zone only, the Northwestern Athletics Department announced Friday morning. The decision came in response to concerns regarding east end zone spacing that could be a danger to student-athlete safety.
All offensive plays, including point-after attempts, would occur in the west end zone. Kickoffs and punts would occur towards the east end zone, which would only be used for downing kicks, or in the event of a defensive touchdown or safety. The east end zone stops at the brick wall that borders the eastern side of the playing field, but is tempered with six inches of padding. It was deemed safe enough to play, although both coaches and players alike expressed their game plans would be affected to maintain player safety.
Both teams have also agreed to switch places on the sideline for both halves. After a coin toss Friday morning, Northwestern will occupy the East team bench in the first half and switch to the West team bench for the second half and all overtime periods. This unique situation, both teams sharing one sideline, will affect substitution patterns in-game.
For the Northwestern student body, the offensive action change affects the student seats. All offensive action will take place moving away from the student section, severely reducing the seats’ value. Students were placed in sections along the east end zone, so Wildcats will be forced to watch most of the game with the action going the other way. This removes any home-field advantage the student section could provide, especially if Illinois’ offense be in red zone situations on the other end of the field.