Illinois football coach Ron Zook can already feel the atmosphere. Northwestern fans down the left-field line at Wrigley Field. Illinois orange in the right-field bleachers. Once the home for the Chicago Bears, Wrigley Field would become an instant classic on a college football Saturday – weeks after the World Series, aka the Fall Classic – if the football game between Illinois and Northwestern is shifted from Northwestern’s Ryan Field to the famed ballpark in 2010.?

Illinois football coach Ron Zook can already feel the atmosphere.

Northwestern fans down the left-field line at Wrigley Field. Illinois orange in the right-field bleachers. Once the home for the Chicago Bears, Wrigley Field would become an instant classic on a college football Saturday – weeks after the World Series, aka the Fall Classic – if the football game between Illinois and Northwestern is shifted from Northwestern’s Ryan Field to the famed ballpark in 2010.?

Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips met with Chicago Cubs chairman Crane Kenney, a close friend, at Wrigley on Sunday. Zook and Illinois officials were also on hand to discuss the layout and a possible game there.

''It's still something that we are pursuing, but there are a variety of issues to resolve,'' Phillips said.

It's up to Northwestern to pull the game off. Phillips must decide if the financial numbers make sense for the school to send a home game from Ryan Field in Evanston to Wrigleyville. Everyone must also be comfortable with shoe-horning a football field into the friendly but cozy confines within Wrigley's brick walls.

"The first question is, 'Can you fit a football field there? Is it safe? Is it regulation size?' '' Phillips said. "The rest of the conversations don't matter if it doesn't fit. That's for the architects and Wrigley (personnel) to decide. They feel it can be done. It would be tight. It was tight when the Bears were there.''?

Additional seating installed following the Bears' departure make it an even tighter fit. According to Illinois spokesman Kent Brown, the layout allowed little space in two corners. Zook said there's room enough for two full end zones, although there would be only three or four feet between one corner and a heavily padded wall.

Northwestern doesn't need Illinois' approval to move the game from Ryan Field, but Phillips would prefer that both teams be comfortable with the site. If Zook's enthusiasm is a sign, Illinois has no problem with playing in Wrigley.

"No question that would not only be special for the players but Illini and Northwestern fans,'' Zook said. "Wrigley is such a special environment. There have been so many football games played in that stadium, but not one since 1970.''

Northwestern would be the host. According to Big Ten rules, Illinois would be guaranteed 4,000 tickets. Illinois has no intention of moving a home game from Memorial Stadium to Wrigley.

"You have to put things in priority,'' Zook said. "I want eight games at home.''

The field would run from the Cubs' dugout on the third-base line to right field.

Negotiation between Northwestern and the Cubs are ongoing, but there's growing sentiment within the Illinois athletic department that the game will move to Wrigley.?

As Northern Illinois athletics director, Phillips successfully marketed a game between the Huskies and Iowa into a sellout at Soldier Field in 2007. Illinois is an obvious choice as an opponent for such a game that would generate a buzz even though the last three Illinois-Northwestern games averaged 31,000 tickets sold at Ryan Field.

Wrigley served as home to the Bears from 1921 to 1970. It also hosted recent concerts featuring Billy Joel and Elton John and was the site of the NHL's Winter Classic between the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings on Jan. 1.?

John Supinie can be reached at Johnsupinie@aol.com.