Northwestern football shuffling seats and sidelines at Ryan Field

Tasos Katopodis

Northwestern announced some changes to the seating arrangements at Ryan Field for football games -- including moving the student section -- and a twist: the Wildcats will choose which sideline they'll use depending on the game.

Yesterday, football season ticket holders and probably everybody else on NU's athletics email list got a message announcing some "exciting changes" at Ryan Field.

No, the bleachers won't be any less uncomfortable. But there'll be some shuffling going on. From the email:

First, our student section and marching band will be repositioned to Sections 111-114. We’re excited to offer our student body a vantage point closer to the field of play, with better views of the action and video board, and the opportunity for more television exposure with which to represent Northwestern.

With that, Sections 134-136 and 235-236 in the northwest corner of the stadium will become the portion of Ryan Field allotted to the visiting team (previously in Sections 101-104).

Why move our roaring students away from the Wildcats, and the visiting fans behind the Northwestern bench? Because the football team will have the ability to use both the east and west sidelines during the 2014 season. The team will choose its sideline on a game-by-game basis depending on which location offers the stronger competitive edge in a given week. Additionally, this change will provide fans on both sides the experience of being near the team during select games.

As part of the changes, NU is adjusting its season ticket prices, raising prices in some sections and lowering them in others. The new seating chart is here.

This will take some getting used to. But the change will probably look better on TV than the current set-up and hopefully lessen some of that home-away-from-home-field advantage that some of our opponents have enjoyed at Ryan Field.

For broadcasts of football games, the TV cameras are located on the west stands, which mean they mostly show the east stands. Unfortunately, many of those tickets are snapped up by opposing fans, so what TV audiences get is a sea of communist red for those Ohio State and Nebraska games. Or cowardly yellow for Iowa games.

Moving the student section to that side of the stadium obviously helps the purple optics, since they'll be seen by the TV cameras, instead of hidden. It'll also enable the band to be heard by the larger stands of the west side, where most of the crowd is composed of NU fans.

Based on the seating chart, it's unclear if the student section's size, in terms of seats, is being reduced or not. But the architecture of the stadium, where the east stands are less vertical than the west stands, means that the student section will fill more horizontal yardage, if that makes any sense.

The other effect of moving the student section there is that it breaks up visiting fans' dominance of the south endzone. Instead of having opposing fans fill up that side of the stadium, the student section will act as a counter. And the official visiting section will be relegated to crappy corner seats in the north end zone, where the presence of Randy Walker Terrace means they'll do less noise damage.

Yes, it's sad that Northwestern has to engineer its seating chart to reduce the impact of visiting fans, but such is life as a Wildcats fan.

The changing sidelines thing from game to game...I don't completely get. Maybe it's sun glare or something? And I'm not sure any other team does something like this. But, whatever floats Fitz' boat.

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