Ryan Field in Evanston, Illinois is known as the “Wrigley Field” of college football. It doesn’t quite have the history of the Cubs, but boasts a very classic and old school stadium atmosphere. For a while now, NU has been calling themselves Chicago’s Big Ten Team. Attempts to market this slogan are popping up around the city, and the evidence is beginning to show with more rumps in the seats in Evanston. Perhaps because Chicagoans are slowly realizing that Northwestern is true Big Ten football. It’s the real deal, especially lately.
Northwestern has become a fixture in the postseason and has played the role of spoiler very well. Ryan Field (formally Dyche Stadium) is set in the first city north of Chicago and it rests a few short blocks from Lake Michigan. The setting is lovely and deserves a better rap. Admittedly, the fans decked in purple are often found in the parking lot tailgating with wine and cheese (not exactly power food), but that is part of the quaint charm of this place. The fans are definitely fair weather. Sellouts are usually the cause of other fans traveling and filling a third of the stadium. But, Northwestern can pull its own weight.
Despite being the little brother of the Big Ten, they know their sports and cheer well. Before the game, one of Northwestern’s traditions is the Wildcat Alley where families can play games and tailgate. Randy Walker terrace provides the same service after the game. During the game, “Go U Northwestern” can be heard ringing from the student section, and if you are the visiting team, the song will drive you to distraction. The students aren’t much in number, but remember, this is Northwestern – whatever is missing in number they make up in brainpower. I remember an NU alum telling me of a chant they whipped up against Iowa. The Hawkeyes were drubbing the Wildcats at the time and the students retaliated by chanting, “That’s alright! That’s okay! We’ll foreclose your farm someday!” Clever. Despite Northwestern’s somewhat elite north shore status, the Wildcats have a great team and Ryan Field is a fun place to spend a Saturday afternoon.