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Article updated: 11/21/2010 9:29 PM

Boy-oh-Boise St. vs. NU would pack 'em in

By Mike Imrem

Now for Northwestern's next trick to attract Chicago's attention … how about scheduling Boise State?

The local sports scene already is crowded, but Wildcats football could be a real asset: Good team, fun game-day atmosphere and young, energetic, photogenic head coach Pat Fitzgerald as the face of it all.

Yet NU still hasn't been able to crack the code into the mainstream. Another gimmick is needed to build on playing Illinois in Wrigley Field.

The answer is to lure Boise State to play in Ryan Field or Soldier Field. The Broncos are college football's mysterious, controversial, sexy team.

Look it's clear that everybody associated with Northwestern works really hard to be "Chicago's Big Ten team."

Still, selling the 'Cats is tough because the school has fewer nearby alumni to draw from than other Big Ten schools have in their areas.

The Wildcats must generate support from the average Chicago sports fan, which is difficult because this is a professional sports town.

Northwestern sold out its past two home games, but only because Iowa fans invaded Evanston and Wrigley Field became a hot ticket.

Otherwise too many empty seats fill Ryan Field on too many autumn game days.

My contention is that you can market a dirt sandwich in America, especially in a market with a metropolitan population of nearly 9 million.

Northwestern just has to keep plugging away to discover the key to enduring popularity and my suggestion still stands.

Boise State!

This season Northwestern's nonconference September home games were against Illinois State and Central Michigan. Sorry, but those teams aren't going to create interest in this major market.

By the time the Wildcats' Big Ten schedule began, local sports fans and media were on to other attractions.

If Northwestern wants to be taken seriously as a big-league football program, not even opponents like Vanderbilt of the SEC will help.

There has to be an opponent somewhere between the Vandys and the Alabamas, and that opponent is Boise State, a team even I would pay to see.

The Broncos are intriguing for several reasons: Are they as good as their record? Are they worthy of playing in the national championship game? What's with that blue playing surface they play on in Boise?

You have to think the Broncos would love to schedule more games this side of the Rockies. In fact they have, signing to open the 2012 season at Michigan State.

Still, Boise likely also would love to gain exposure in the Chicago area to help recruit students, athletes and perhaps even the odd student-athlete.

Playing another winning Big Ten school like NU would give the Broncos a chance to prove themselves more than they did against Toledo.

Meanwhile, Northwestern would get a chance to prove itself more than it could against Illinois State.

Finances always are a consideration, as in how much of a payoff Boise State would demand to come here and whether Northwestern could meet the asking price.

But the investment would be worthwhile because the Broncos would create a buzz around Chicago about the 'Cats after the buzz dies down from the Wrigley Field game.

Northwestern has too good a football program to struggle drawing capacity crowds.

Boy-oh-Boise State would help turn the trick.

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