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Take A StaND

Sep 6, 2012, 12:05 PM EDT


Cheer on the Irish and help improve the home field atmosphere, beginning this Saturday.

The following column, written by Senior Associate A.D./Media & Broadcast Relations director John Heisler will appear as “The Last Word” in this weekend’s football game program.

Hold serve.
Protect your house.
Win at home.
Label it by any phrase you like.

The general assumption, for any athletic team, is that you need to find a way to win the majority of your home games.

There are lots of simple reasons for that thought:

  • No travel issues compared to the visiting squad.
  • More fans in the stands (at Notre Dame Stadium, for example, visiting teams are normally allotted 5,000 tickets).
  • If you are a player, you are in familiar surroundings in terms of eating, sleeping, even dressing in your own locker room.

But, there certainly are no guarantees.

Historically, Notre Dame Stadium (and Cartier Field before that) has been very good to Fighting Irish football teams.

In fact, Notre Dame’s two longest home win streaks came before Notre Dame Stadium was built:

  • From 1905 through 1918 Notre Dame teams won 40 consecutive home games.
  • Then, after a 7-7 home tie with Great Lakes in 1918, Knute Rockne’s teams won 38 straight home games before another 7-7 tie with Minnesota in 1927.

How good were Rockne’s teams at home? When the Irish lost at home 27-7 to Carnegie Tech on Nov. 17, 1928, it marked the first Notre Dame home defeat since 1905.

Rockne coached 13 seasons at Notre Dame, lost only 12 games overall and the only one that came at home was that Carnegie Tech contest in 1928.

Frank Leahy coached 11 seasons with the Irish, lost only six times at Notre Dame Stadium and had seven unbeaten seasons at home.

Ara Parseghian lost only six home games in 11 seasons, never lost more than a single game at home in a season and had five years without a loss at Notre Dame Stadium.

Dan Devine dropped just seven games at Notre Dame Stadium over his six seasons as head coach and saw his Irish finish unbeaten at home in 1977 and 1980.

Lou Holtz spent 11 seasons on the Irish sidelines and lost a combined 13 home games (three in his first season in 1986). His 1988 championship season marked the first time Notre Dame won seven games at Notre Dame Stadium in a single season. His ’87 and ’89 teams also finished unbeaten at home.

So, you get the picture.

It’s no particular surprise that Notre Dame has a .744 overall winning percentage (including 25 seasons without a loss) at Notre Dame Stadium since that facility opened in 1930.

However, the last time the Irish finished a season unbeaten at home came in 1998 (Bob Davie’s second season). Before that you have to go back to three straight unbeaten home seasons in 1987, 1988 and 1989 to find perfection on the Irish home turf.

So it’s probably no coincidence that when current Notre Dame vice president and athletics director Jack Swarbrick came on board in 2008, he wondered if the Irish home-field advantage had evaporated a bit.

For whatever reason, visiting teams were having more success in South Bend. Not long ago, visiting head coaches had to reassure their players and fans that Knute Rockne and George Gipp would not be coming down out of the stands to help.

When, top-rated Florida State came to town in 1993, Seminole players—with Florida State making only its second-ever appearance in Notre Dame Stadium—had a tough time appreciating Irish football history. They referred to one former Notre Dame head coach as “Rock Knuteny,” or something to that effect. That may or may not have played a part in Notre Dame’s historic win on that Saturday.

Swarbrick has talked openly about finding ways to make Notre Dame Stadium a more difficult place for visiting teams to play. Last month he noted that he was tired of hearing visiting athletic directors tell him how much they enjoy bringing their teams to South Bend.

Notre Dame Stadium, its ushers and other University ambassadors have had a long history of extending hospitality to visiting teams. It’s common, particularly when an opponent plays in Notre Dame Stadium for the first time, for visiting fans to remark on the welcoming atmosphere they find.

Swarbrick would like to see that welcome end once the opening kickoff is in the air. He’d like to see a change to the 17-16 home record Irish teams have recorded over the last five seasons combined.

If you’re paying attention this weekend and in the weeks to come, you are likely to come across the phrase “Take A StaND.” It’s a subtle, yet pointed, way of encouraging fans at all Irish events to become more participatory.

Notre Dame students have participated in a long tradition of standing throughout the entire football game at Notre Dame Stadium—and that group generally makes its share of noise. However, students make up only about 10,000 fans out of Notre Dame Stadium’s 80,795 capacity. So there’s plenty of room for assistance in the decibel category.

Midway through the 2011 season, Notre Dame introduced recorded music (mostly on opponent third downs) to the in-game experience at Notre Dame Stadium. Expect that to continue this fall, with the Irish marketing staff tweaking the plan with three 2011 home games of experience now under its belt.

The 2012 also season marks a celebration of 125 years of football at the University of Notre Dame. You’ll see the logo marking that celebration just about everywhere. That means there are 125 years worth of reasons to throw a season-long party.

Long-time rival Purdue visits Notre Dame Stadium today to open the 2012 Irish home season. The Boilermakers won here in 2004, but, prior to that game, you have to go all the way back to 1974 to find a Purdue win in Notre Dame Stadium.

By Swarbrick’s tastes, that’s more like it.

So, any time you have a chance today, take a staND and cheer for the Irish. It just might make a difference.

  1. ndrugby - Sep 6, 2012 at 1:26 PM

    Pardon my skepticism, but I’m going Missouri on this one…SHOW ME! I love the idea. But, when I no longer hear the words “down in front” followed by a yellow jacketed usher coming after me, then I will believe the contents of this article.

    I hope someone told the ushers, but just in case no one did, I’m printing this out and bringing to all ND home games I attend.

    If the University is serious, then they need to market this at the game. Giant Take a Stand posters throughout the stadium would be a good start. Maybe the ushers could welcome us with: “Welcome to Notre Dame Stadium, please stand and make some noise”.

  2. ndeddiemac - Sep 6, 2012 at 3:20 PM

    It’s about time! Like @ndrugby above, I’m printing this out and bringing it with me just in case not all ushers get the memo. Maybe now we can actually get a home field advantage back. If you want to calmly sit at home, and not see other people cheer, just stay at home, it’s not like ND games are hard to find on TV.

  3. carvend - Sep 6, 2012 at 6:56 PM

    ND (righfully) believes that it can wall paper it’s true attitude toward alums and subway fans that spend money on football weekends with marketing. This to me is just another case of such marketing. Afterall, it’s cheaper to print stuff like this in the program and not stand behind the few “stumbly” folks that take them to task when it isn’t backed up in practice than it is to have an actual pragmatic approach to fans/alums and a truly en loco parentis approach to the students. That takes work and costs money, and requires taking a stance to manage the state police, and forbid the ICE folks.

    We learned a few days ago that the Excise/ICE folks have received a grant to fund their mall cop gone wild operation, and that they’ve added ND to their target list of campuses this year. Laughably, it was said that students “need not not worry”. The list of abuses of power, including harassment, illegal search/entry, and border line illegal detentions connected to this organization is legendary. To top it off, once you get in the stadium, you have to submit to sitting down and cheering “less loudly” per the complaints sent to the ushers from the elderly or guys that brought their entire families (small children less than five) Yet ND wants a loud stadium, while allowing this?

    It is impossible to have it both ways.

    The solution isn’t plastic grass, big screen karaoke screens in the stadium, pink jerseys in the bookstore, and jack booted management of consumption.

    It’s winning games, and letting all people be that aren’t a danger to themselves or others.

  4. repeater8 - Sep 6, 2012 at 8:38 PM

    I can think of lots of ways we could actually have our stadium back and rowdy again.

    1. Maybe tell the yellowclad anti-fun Ushers that just because a person is standing up and cheering, or raising their friend in the air to do pushups like 3/4 of the students do anyways, doesn’t mean you need to come yell at us and threaten to kick us out if we keep doing it.

    2. If you’re too old and too much of a dullard to have someone yelling behind you for your fellow team. Stay home.

    3. Maybe we can actually do something fun over commercial breaks rather than having our attention directed to the 20 yard line, to honor this year’s Basket Weaving society or Rowing Club.

    4. Maybe allow and sell something everyone got to enjoy for once when they went to Ireland – BEER!

  5. fightingsonofnotredame - Sep 7, 2012 at 8:45 AM

    I fully support Take a StaND and it’s about time!

    However, with all due respect, this has not been a fan issue but a NOTRE DAME ADMINISTRATIVE ISSUE!

    Like Coach Kelly says “You get what you demand..” and for a long time YOUR ushers and other gameday personnel have demanded quiet, passive, lazy (older) fans who want to sit comfortably and watch the game without showing vocal support of the team. More importantly, they’ve targeted, silenced and ejected fans who stand up and cheer loudly (in a civil manner). This has been documented in countless forums. Fans who stand and cheer are told to sit down by the “passives” and this is enforced by your elderly ushers.

    So please, Jack Swarbrick, DO SOMETHING ABOUT THIS. You’re right to call out the fans but fix your staff issues first. It starts at the top.

    We can and will get back to these days…

    …but we need the University’s support.

    Go Irish!

    Brendan Kenny Class of 2000

  6. bernie65 - Sep 27, 2012 at 5:57 AM

    If they’re serious I have a solution. Reserve the first 10 rows for those individuals who would prefer not to stand. Problem solved.

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