Big Ten, Pac-12 accord could lead to Wrigley return
Mikel Leshoure carries the ball for Illinois during its game against Northwestern at Wrigley Field in Nov. 2010. The new Big Ten-Pac-12 accord could return football to the venue. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty photo)
Northwestern will play three solid non-conference games in 2012 (at Syracuse, Vanderbilt, Boston College), 2013 (at Cal, Syracuse, at Vanderbilt) and 2014 (Cal, Vanderbilt, at Notre Dame).
Phillips also has pushed for a ninth conference game and hopes the Big Ten's new accord with the Pac-12 won't kill the idea for good. But most figure it will.
"Maybe not in '17 or '18 you look at nine games, but maybe '20, '21 or '22," he said. "I think all of these things are up for debate." Northwestern won't be affected as much as other Big Ten schools by the new deal. The Wildcats have a home-and-home series with Stanford from 2019-2022.
Still, if it's one (yearly Pac-12 series) or the other (nine league games), Phillips will take the long-distance partnership, which will be realized fully for football in 2017.
"I think it will be a phenomenal relationship," he said.
Among the reasons: It dulls expansion talk.
The Big Ten has 12 schools; the Pac-12 has a dozen. Perfect for an egg carton or a football series.
"This allows you to have some (conference) stability," Phillips said, "and not to have the periscope up."
The periscope represents conferences' wandering eyes, the result of which has led Big East originals Syracuse and Pitt to leave for the ACC and be replaced by the likes of San Diego State, Boise State, Houston and SMU -- in an East Coast conference built for basketball.
"It doesn't mean you can't expand one day," Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany told ESPN.com. "It seems to us this is an intelligent way to get stronger and do so with zero collateral damage."
Another benefit of the Big Ten-Pac 12 alliance: The potential to play games at big-time neutral and quasi-neutral sites.
Delany mentioned Soldier Field. Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis brought up Dodger Stadium, the Rose Bowl, Ford Field and Lucas Oil Stadium in an interview with ESPN.com.
Phillips mentioned Yankee Stadium, Cowboys Stadium and Reliant Stadium as possible sites. And he really wants to return to Wrigley Field, if it's reconfigured.
"It was a great experience," he said of the 2010 game against Illinois. "It has to be on the radar."