That’s how much it’ll cost Northwestern students, after fees, if they want to see the Wildcats take on Purdue at Wrigley Field on Nov. 20, 2021.
Yes, that’s the same Northwestern that charges its undergraduates an Athletic Events Fee built into their tuition bill every quarter. The same Northwestern that, despite not charging extra on top of the aforementioned forced fee for tickets to athletic events, still struggles to fill its student section for marquee Big Ten matchups. The same Northwestern whose football team currently sits at 2-3, reeling from a 56-7 blowout in Nebraska that has all but confirmed that it will fail to play meaningful games for the duration of the 2021 season.
It’s the cost for students to attend a game at which they will likely play the role they always have during Big Ten competition: the fans who even out the crowd to provide somewhat of a home-field advantage amidst a flurry of the opponents’ supporters. It’s the price of admission for the only people who can save NU from embarrassment in front of the recruits it will surely bring in for this occasion, one it’s been prepping for since it signed an agreement with the Cubs in 2013 to play games at the national landmark. If they’re there, they’ll provide a bit of energy and noise in support of the team on the field during their last “home” contest of what’s becoming a tough campaign. And if not, well, it could be crickets on third down at the corner of Addison and Clark.
To put it politely, whose idea was this, and what were they thinking?
With tickets having gone on sale just last week for the Wildcats Classic, it got us thinking. Sure, when the ‘Cats last played at the Friendly Confines against Illinois in 2010, they charged students 50 bucks a pop to get in the door. Those were different times, however. In 2010, the Pat Fitzgerald era was just entering its crescendo. Even with a defeat against the Fighting Illini between the ivy, the Wildcats went 7-6, marking the conclusion of a stretch of three straight winning seasons. That was something that had not occurred at NU since 1958-1960, when Ara Parseghian was running the show.
Call us spoiled, but Northwestern students now expect a little more of the team than they did 11 years ago, and the ‘Cats are likely looking at their second hard-to-watch losing season in three years. Is a $73 fee supposed to entice people who already don’t board a free shuttle to Ryan Field for a cost-free experience? Does Northwestern really expect students to pay extra to take the CTA down to Addison and brave the gruesome late November elements to see an underperforming NU team try its best against a mediocre Boilermakers squad? What is the fee even charging for? The fact that the game is being played at Wrigley? Does Northwestern think that a lot of its students care about the stadium — or the Cubs — in any way? If so, they’re absolutely wrong.
This isn’t just a question of logic, though. It also goes back to accessibility and inclusion, something Northwestern has claimed to care about as a university a number of times in recent years. In 2016, Northwestern announced that it was significantly boosting financial aid for undergraduates in a manner that led to NU admitting and enrolling substantially more low-income students than it had previously.
Northwestern is a more socioeconomically diverse school now than it was in 2010, yet the get-in price for the Wrigley game is higher by nearly 50 percent. While the school has provided students the opportunity to apply for a free ticket through the Student Activities Assistance Fund, these requests likely cannot all be fulfilled, and many low-income students would likely prefer not to use $73 of the $600 annual balance they are allotted on a ticket to a bad football game. Additionally, making students who cannot afford to attend the game complete an application just for a chance at free entry seems both like a classist game of cat and mouse and an unnecessary venture when it was possible to avoid this mess entirely by making student admission free.
Consider all of these factors together, and it’s not hard to conclude that student attendance on November 20 will be disastrous. Want a glimpse into just how bad it might be? Take the Inside NU staff as a representation of how the rest of the student body might act.
We polled our staff — filled with some of the biggest sports fanatics at this university — for this column, asking simply if they planned on buying a ticket at full price. Only 11 of the 23 respondents said that they did. That means that over half a group of students that would otherwise never miss a game don’t plan on going because of the cost, and even some who do plan to pay up and go aren’t pleased, with two attending respondents noting that, “I did it but I’m not happy about it,” and, “I’m gonna, but if the sports fan kids are unhappy, I am pretty skeptical about the rest of the student population.”
Those responses don’t just spell doom for the upcoming game in question. Northwestern is soon to embark on a years-long journey to renovate Ryan Field, which will likely force the team to relocate to Soldier Field or another venue far from Northwestern’s campus. If this is the precedent the Wildcats are setting, then they can kiss just about every lick of their student attendance goodbye, and with it, bid farewell to whatever semblance of home-field advantage they may wish to have.