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Historic Sites of All NU Home Games

NU Football On-Campus Home Sites

I. Athletic field near the site of present-day Deering Meadow  (1874-1890)
[Originally called Athletic Grounds / Campus Meadow]

This unnamed field was originally where the Jacobs Center now stands, next to Sheridan Road. Northwestern first played football on this field in 1874. The games were initially limited to intraclass matches.

The first American football game that NU played opponent from outside the school also took place here in 1876. The school continued to play football here through 1886.

Construction in 1886 forced the school to move its athletic grounds a couple of hundred feet south to what was then known as Campus Meadow, where Deering Meadow is now located.  For a detailed look at the exact locations of these two fields, click here. There were never any permanent stands, just movable bleachers.


First game: Feb. 22, 1876 vs. Chicago Foot-Ball Club
First intercollegiate game:
November 11,1882 vs. Lake Forest
Last game: Likely vs. Beloit, November 15, 1890
NU Record at Deering Meadow:
Estimate (official games only): 6 wins, 3 losses, 1 tie
Largest Crowd (Estimated): Approx. 200 -- Nov. 14, 1889 vs. Notre Dame
Highlight: December 1888 win over Lake Forest

II. Sheppard Field (1891-1904)
[1891-1892: called "North Campus Field"; 1892-1904: called Sheppard Field]

This field, located where the fraternity quads now stand, started as the unnamed north campus field when ground was broken on September 14, 1891.  NU originally planned to name the area "Muir Field," after baseball manager George Muir, who was initially in charge of the athletic complex's construction.  For the 1891 season, the football grounds were similar to the previous field-- no permanent grandstands or structures.

Built just before the 1892 season, NU's first permanent stands had 750 seats.  At the October 15, 1892 Beloit game the field was dedicated as Sheppard Field (named after NU business manager Robert Sheppard, who donated the lumber for the surrounding fence), and it soon had 1,000 seats.

The original grandstands.  Photo: NU Archives

The Purple readies a snap during a 1901 game vs. Naperville
at Sheppard Field.  Photo from Chicago Hist. Soc..  Note horses and carriages in background.
Even in those days parking was expensive: $2.00 for a spot.

First game: Before dedication -- likely Sept. 30, 1891 vs. Evanston HS;
As Sheppard Field -- Oct. 15, 1892 vs. Beloit
Last game: Nov. 12, 1904 vs. Illinois
NU Record at Sheppard Field:
69 Wins, 17 Losses, 10 Ties
[North Campus Field: 3-0-1; Sheppard: 66-17-9]
Largest Crowd: Unknown (over 2,200)
Highlight: 1901 game vs. Notre Dame

III. Northwestern Field (1905-1925)

Planned by William A. Dyche, Northwestern Field moved NU's football field northwest from the fraternity quads to Central Street.  The new wooden stands held 13,000 fans, and the field was dedicated Northwestern Field on October 14, 1905 during a game with Beloit.  With the later addition of wooden stands on the east side, the stadium's capacity increased to nearly 20,000.

Fans on the west side enjoy a game.  Photo: NU Archives

NU practices east of Northwestern Field, early twenties.  Photo from Chicago Hist. Soc.
The 1905 original west stands are in the background.  Midground are the east stands, added later.
First game: Sept. 21, 1905 vs. Evanston HS.
Dedicated Oct. 14, 1905 vs. Beloit
Last game: October 31, 1925 vs. Indiana
NU Record at Northwestern Field:
47 Wins, 28 Losses, 3 Ties
Largest Crowd (estimate): Over 20,000 -- 1920 vs. Notre Dame
Highlight: 1917 game vs. Michigan

IV. Ryan Field  (1926-present)
[1926: called Northwestern Stadium; 1926-1996: called Dyche Stadium; 1997-Present: called Ryan Field]

By 1925 the old wooden stands of Northwestern Field had become decayed and had been dwarfed by other stadia, and by the popularity of NU football.  William Dyche, NU's business manager who had overseen the construction of Northwestern Field, proposed a replacement, a stadium of steel and mortar.


Here is an original plan for Northwestern Stadium.  The new stadium was to be built on the same Central Street location as old Northwestern Field, so the actual playing location would be unchanged.  This initial concept, drawn in 1925, featured towers on both the east and west sides that also served as dramatic archways into the stadium.  The stadium was conceived as the first-ever triple-decked stadium, an architectural feat never before achieved, and would have seated 80,000 fans.

The stadium was designed to mimic the new Soldier Field, and to serve as a "Grant Park Bowl" for the North Shore.  The budget for the stadium would not allow for north or south stands, nor for a third deck, so in early 1926 the plan for the stadium changed to this concept:

During construction, the stadium went over budget, and William Dyche's vision had to lose its east-side towers and much of the east-side facade.

When it opened in 1926, Northwestern Stadium had no towers at all.  The west side towers were eventually finished in 1927. 
During the final home game of the 1926 season, the stadium was christened Dyche Stadium.  Below is what Dyche Stadium looked like from 1927 through 1948.  The east towers, after being scrapped from the stadium plans,  were to be added later-- they never were.  Note the addition of north and south temporary bleachers, which increased the stadium's capacity from 45,000 to 49,000. 

An enclosure was built in 1949 for the south end zone, converting Dyche Stadium into a horseshoe.  Including the north bleachers (when used), Dyche's capacity swelled to over 50,000.  Below is an aerial shot from a game sometime in the early sixties.  The north bleachers were removed for good in the mid-seventies, and Dyche's capacity fell to 49,256.  The university installed artificial turf at Dyche Stadium prior to the 1973 season.

After decades of decay, Dyche Stadium was fully renovated after the 1996 season.  The artificial turf was ripped out, the playing field was lowered almost five feet, and natural grass was seeded.  NU built a new press area, concessions area, and locker facility, and renamed the stadium Ryan Field.  With its reconfigured seats, Ryan Field now seats 47,330.

Over thirteen years after the major reworking of Dyche Stadium, the university began to discuss possible changes to NU's home field.  There is the possibility that the school will reduce the stadium's capacity for a third time in the next round of improvements, likely by knocking out the northeast stands and building coaches' offices, training rooms, or suites.

In August 2010, posted a slightly tongue-in-cheek look at what a lakefront stadium might look like.  It turns out that Northwestern actually was considering just such a move!  The University eventually had to reject it based on cost, logistics, and several other reasons.

The University was expected to release its plans for the next Ryan Field renovation in 2014, but has instead focused on the lakeside training facility and the recent renovation to Welsh-Ryan Arena.

First game:  As Northwestern Stadium-- Oct. 2, 1926 vs. S. Dakota;
 As Dyche Stadium-- Nov. 13, 1926 vs. Chicago;
As Ryan Field-- Sept. 13, 1997 vs. Duke
Last game: As Dyche Stadium -- Nov. 16, 1996 vs. Purdue
NU Record at Dyche / Ryan:
(After 2020 season) 250 Wins, 267 Losses, 10 Ties
[Northwestern Stadium: 4-1-0;
Dyche Stadium: 163-198-10;
Ryan Field (As of Dec. 2020): 83-68]
Largest Crowd: Click here for a look at Dyche Stadium attendance records and a list of all sold out games.

Annual Attendance: Click here for Dyche / Ryan annual average attendance.

Night Games (6:00 pm kickoff or later)

NU has played 29
night games at Dyche/Ryan-- all but five were after the Ryan Field renovation.  2011 was the first season in NU history with two night games on Central Street.
  • 7:30 pm, October 5, 1935—0-7 loss to Purdue.  NU installed lights on telephone poles and played at night to avoid conflicting with the Cubs vs. Tigers World Series game at Wrigley that day.  First Big Ten game played at night.
  • 8:00 pm, September 25, 1943—14-6 win vs. Indiana.  NU used the temp lights left in place from the 1943 College All-Star game, played at Dyche.
  • 8:00 pm, September 22, 1944—62-0 win vs. DePauw.  Click here for details of this game.
  • 6:00 pm, September 3, 1988—21-31 loss to Duke.  First night game in 44 years, moved to night to boost attendance because the game was held Labor Day weekend.  24,713 attended.
  • 6:00 pm, September 16, 1989—31-48 loss to Air Force
  • 6:00 pm, October 4, 1997—25-26 loss to Wisconsin
  • 6:00 pm, October 17, 1998—6-12 loss to Michigan (Homecoming)
  • 7:00 pm, August 31, 2000—35-17 win vs. Northern Illinois
  • 6:00 pm, October 5, 2002—16-27 loss to Ohio State
  • 8:00 pm, October 2, 2004—33-27 (OT) win vs. Ohio State
  • 6:00 pm, October 29, 2005—17-33 loss to Michigan (Homecoming)
  • 7:00 pm, September 15, 200714-20 loss to Duke
  • 6:30 pm, October 9, 201017-20 loss to Purdue.  Game was set at night to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the historic '35 night game vs. Purdue.
  • 6:00 pm, October 8, 2011—24-42 loss to Michigan
  • 6:00 pm, October 22, 2011—24-34 loss to Penn State (Homecoming)
  • 7:00 pm, September 8, 2012—23-13 win vs. Vanderbilt
  • 8:00 pm, September 14, 2013—38-17 win vs. Western Michigan
  • 7:00 pm, October 5, 2013—30-40 loss to Ohio State (Homecoming. ESPN GameDay host)
  • 6:30 pm, October 18, 2014—17-38 loss to Nebraska (Homecoming)
  • 7:00 pm, September 26, 2015—24-19 win vs. Ball State
  • 7:00 pm, September 17, 2016—24-13 win vs. Duke
  • 6:30 pm, September 24, 2016—13-24 loss to Nebraska
  • 6:30 pm, September 16, 2017—49-7 win vs. Bowling Green
  • 6:00 pm, November 11, 2017—23-13 win vs. Purdue
  • 6:30 pm, September 15, 2018—34-39 loss to Akron
  • 6:15 pm, November 3, 2018—21-31 loss to Notre Dame
  • 7:30 pm, October 18, 2019—3-52 loss to Ohio State
  • 6:30 pm, October 24, 2020—43-3 win vs. Maryland (no fans in attendance)
  • 8:00 pm, September 3, 2021—21-38 loss to Michigan State (actual kickoff at 8:15 is likely the latest on-campus start ever for NU)

(Several recent games have started in the late afternoon and have extended into the evening, and used the same temporary lighting that a night game would.  These include 1995 Penn State, 2000 Michigan, 2006 Ohio State, 2008 Illinois, 2009 Penn State, and 2013 Syracuse.  These, however, are not considered night games.)
Highlights: Dyche Stadium -- 1936 game vs. Minnesota, 1962 game vs. Notre Dame, 1996 game vs. Michigan;  Ryan Field -- 2000 game vs. Michigan

NU Football Off-Campus Home Sites

Northwestern has played many games off-campus. Some are road games, hosted by the opponent, and some are games played on truly neutral sites (such as all of the bowl games). However, NU has hosted some games off-campus, with the off-campus serving as the home site for NU. Here is a list of all off-campus games that NU hosted.

Note: the 2022 Northwestern game vs. Nebraska, to be held in Dublin, is considered a neutral-site game, even though Northwestern is designated the "home" team. The game is part of a special game series.

I. "Cubs Park"

NU Record: 0-1

NU played one home game at the ballpark of the Chicago Cubs (at the time known as the Chicago White Stockings).  This was two ballparks prior to Wrigley Field. The game, played in 1891, 20-0 loss to Lake Forest. NU and Lake Forest agreed to this extra game to break a tied record between the schools. Attendance unknown.

II. Wrigley Field

NU Record: 0-2-0

What had been called the Allstate Wrigleyville Classic is now officially the Wildcats Classic at Wrigley Field. NU and the Cubs have arrangements for Northwestern to host several games at the baseball stadium during the next decade. Next up: NU will host Purdue on November 20, 2021.

Both previous NU home games played at Wrigley Field were losses to Illinois.  The first NU home game played at Wrigley Field (at the time called Cubs Park) was a 29-0 loss to the Illini on Oct. 27, 1923.  Attendance was over 32,000.

Illini great Red Grange can be seen crossing over the goal line
for a touchdown vs. NU, in a photo taken Oct. 27, 1923, at Wrigley Field.

Home football program from the first time NU hosted
Illinois at Wrigley Field (Cubs Park)

The 'Cats again hosted Illinois at Wrigley Field on November 20, 2010. 

The iconic Wrigley Field sign goes purple [Tribune Image]

Fans watch from the bleachers and rooftops [WSJ Image]

The game, a 48 to 27 Illinois blowout, made history because only one goal was used, due to the field dimensions. The NCAA allowed a one-time change to the rules, permitting only one direction for both teams.

The endzone that was to be unused; it still saw use during an NU defensive touchdown.
[K. Wessler Image]

In early 2013 Northwestern and the Cubs announced a major partnership deal that could result in at least five more NU football home games played at Wrigley Field in future seasons. The Cubs renovated the stadium, adding
seating sections that can be moved to allow for the proper dimensions for a modern college football venue.

Evanston, apparently concerned about the lost revenue to the city that could come from losing more home games, worked out a deal with the university that will limit Wrigley games to seasons with seven home games, so that six games will always be played at Ryan Field.  Additionally, only games that aren't "guaranteed sellouts" will be played at Wrigley, seemingly eliminating games with Ohio State or Michigan.

A scheduled game against Wisconsin on November 7, 2020 was scrubbed due to the pandemic. Instead, NU played the Badgers at Ryan Field on November 21, with no fans in attendance.

The next games NU hosts at Wrigley, after this year's Purdue game, could come in 2024 and 2026.

III. (Old) Cleveland Stadium

NU Record: 0-1-0

Strange as it seems, NU did host a "home" game vs. Ohio State at Cleveland Stadium on Oct. 19, 1991.  Ohio State won 34-3.  For strictly financial reasons, NU moved its home game with OSU and drew 73,830 (mostly Buckeye) fans.  Aside from the location, everything else was just like a normal NU home game: NU wore its home purple unis, and the programs for the game were NU programs.  The game, derisively called the "Art Modell Bowl," is technically Northwestern's home game attendance record holder (though it was not a sold out game).

IV. White Sox Park (39th Street Grounds, also known as the third South Side Park)

NU Record: 0-1-2

Not Comiskey Park, as NU's records used to indicate.  Comiskey had not been built when NU played here, in 1903.  Toward the end of a very successful season, in order to handle crowds that Sheppard Field could not accommodate, NU hosted the following games at the White Sox playing grounds:
  • Nov. 14, 1903: Tie with Notre Dame 0-0
  • Nov. 21, 1903: Tie with Wisconsin 6-6
  • Nov. 26, 1903: Loss to Carlisle 28-0

NU hosts Notre Dame at Sox Park, Chicago.
Photo by Chicago Hist. Soc.

V. Soldier Field

NU Record:
2-4-1 as the home team
1-1 as the road team
0-1 with Soldier Field being a neutral venue

The closest NU has to a regular off-campus home site, the Wildcats have hosted the following seven games at Soldier Field:
  • Nov. 22, 1924: Loss to Notre Dame 13-6 (45,000 in attendance.  This was the first major college football game played Soldier Field.)
  • Nov. 7, 1925: Win over Michigan 3-2 (over 70,000 tickets sold, but due to a monsoon, attendance was closer to 40,000)
  • Oct. 7, 1933: Loss to Iowa 7-0 (played in conjunction with the Chicago World's Fair)
  • Oct. 14, 1933: Tie with Stanford 0-0 (played in conjunction with the Chicago World's Fair)
  • Sept. 5, 1992: Loss to Notre Dame 42-7 (attendance: 64,877)
  • Sept. 3, 1994: Loss to Notre Dame 42-15 (attendance: 66,946)
  • Aug. 23, 1997: Win over Oklahoma 24-0 (Pigskin Classic: Northwestern hosted)
In addition to the games listed above, Northwestern has played other games at Soldier Field, but not as the home team.  On October 10, 1931 Notre Dame moved its home game with NU from Notre Dame Stadium to Soldier Field.  The move was tied to Depression relief efforts.  NU and the Irish fought to a 0-0 tie.  Also in 1931, and also to help Great Depression-related charities, NU and Purdue played a special post-season game at Soldier Field.  On November 28 NU lost to the Boilermakers 7-0.  The field was considered neutral.

The field, however, was not considered neutral when NU hosted Oklahoma in the Pigskin Classic in 1997.  NU officially counts the win over Oklahoma in its record book as part of the team's record home game winning streak (from 1995 - 1997).  The reason that NU wore white jerseys stems from the game the team played immediately before the Pigskin Classic: NU wore black in the '97 Citrus Bowl, a game during which many NU players had the flu.  The day was very hot and sunny, and the black jerseys did not help the team's problem with dehydration and overheating.  Later that summer, just before the Pigskin Classic, Coach Barnett, as the home coach, had the choice of which jersey to wear.  Knowing that the weather in August might also be hot and sunny, Barnett chose white jerseys for the team to help cut down the heat.

Coach Gary Barnett addresses the media after the 'Cats played their last home game
at Soldier Field, beating Oklahoma.  NU Sports Photo.

The University of Illinois chose to use Soldier Field as its home field in its games vs. NU from 2015 through 2019, marking the first time since 1931 that NU has played at Soldier Field as the "road team." The Wildcats played as visitors at Soldier Field vs. Illinois in November 2015 and won, 24-14. Illinois, stung by the loss and low attendance, scrapped the rest of its home series with NU at Soldier Field.

    VI. 25th Street Field, Chicago
    NU Record: 1-0-0

    Little is known about this athletic field in Chicago, where NU first hosted the University of Michigan in 1892.  NU's win over the Wolverines was its biggest victory to date, and over 1,000 fans attended.

    VII. Marshall Field / Stagg Field
    NU Record:
    0-3-0 as the home team
    5-18-1 as the road team
    The University of Chicago used Marshall Field (later called Stagg Field) for its home games; NU played there as a visiting team on 24 occasions.  In addition, NU's official records used to list one Northwestern home game played at Marshall Field, on November 22, 1924, against Notre Dame.  This game, however, was played at Soldier Field, as mentioned above.

    However, NU did play two home games at Chicago's Marshall Field, against Minnesota.  At the beginning of the 20th Century Minnesota was a powerhouse, and Sheppard Field could not handle the large crowds.  NU hosted Minnesota at Marshall Field in 1901 and 1904.

    Again in 1925, the team's home, Northwestern Field, could no longer handle the capacity crowds
    (Dyche Stadium would open the following year, with a much-increased capacity over Northwestern Field), and NU moved two of its home games to off-campus sites (including the famous win over Michigan at Soldier Field).  Originally also scheduled to be played at Soldier Field, NU's October 24, 1925 game with Tulane was instead held at Stagg Field.  Tulane (which brought its band for the occasion) won, 18-7.

    VIII. Chicago Stock Pavilion
    NU Record: 0-1-0

    During the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, Northwestern hosted the Denver Athletic Club at Chicago's World's Fair Livestock Pavilion.  It was a night game, one of the first night football games ever played in Chicago, and kicked off at 9:00 pm, October 4, 1893, the latest local kickoff time ever for an NU game.

    Interior of the Stock Yards stadium, where NU hosted Denver