– Sgt Shamrock
Notre Dame Stadium, the home of the Fighting Irish. One of the most iconic and revered venues in all of sports. One would think that a venue rich with such tradition and history of success would also be one of the most difficult places for opponents to play. But as many Irish fans know, that is not the case. For years Notre Dame has held the reputation for being hospitable and welcoming to visiting teams and fans instead of being an intimidating environment that opponents fear. I was sick of people telling me how much they enjoyed coming to Notre Dame, and how often teams who had no business even being on the same field as the Irish were able to come away with a victory in South Bend. I was sick of being yelled at and scorned by “fans” to sit down while trying to cheer on the Irish. So when Notre Dame announced the beginning of the “Take A StaND” campaign at the beginning of last season, I was excited at the possibility of change in the culture and I know other fans were too. However after two full football seasons of the “Take a StaND” campaign, I am sad to say that that excitement was very premature.
Notre Dame announced the unveiling of the “Take a StaND” campaign prior to the first home game of the season against Purdue last year. On the official Notre Dame blog, senior associate athletic director John Heisler wrote the following,
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.
Seems pretty simple right? Stand up and be loud. That’s what the initiative calls for. I also emailed the Notre Dame Game day folks trying to get some more information on the initiative but I did not receive a response. Now while its just flat out sad that one of the premier college football programs in the country has to even consider starting an initiative like this to increase fan participation, its good that the university FINALLY realized that it was a problem and began to work to fix it. I still remember when LSU coach Les Miles described Death Valley as “A place where opponents dreams come to die” and hoping that one day Notre Dame Stadium would have the same effect on opponents. I thought the “Take a StaND” campaign was the first step towards fixing the problem of the game day atmosphere. The problem, however, has not only not been fixed, its actually seemingly getting worse with each passing home game.
Since the “Take a StaND” campaign started I have been to home games against Michigan, Stanford last season, and Michigan State, Navy, and BYU this season. Minus the Navy game (I was fortunate enough to be able to sit in the student section) I have been asked by multiple people and ushers on multiple occasions to sit down. In each instance, I was told by ushers that I was not be courteous to others sitting around me, and by other fans that they could not see because they did not want to stand. This is just inexcusable and it aggravated me more and more each time it happened. For people who claimed to be fans of Notre Dame, they sure didn’t act like it. And its not like the games were blowouts either. Every single one of those games was close until the clock hit zero. I could not believe that even after the university made a distinct effort to help solve this problem, that fans still were getting told by ushers in the stadium to sit down. This weekend I finally hit my breaking point. And it was not just because of what happened to me, but more so because what I had heard was happening to others.
I had always seen complains from other people on twitter complaining about being told to sit but I never really got any details. So following the game against BYU, I invited anyone who had a story of being told to sit down at games by either ushers or fans to email me so I would be able to see just how big of a problem this really was. The results were astonishing. The first email I received was by far the worse. Michelle, who also attended the BYU game this past weekend, was actually kicked out of the game because she refused to sit down when asked by ushers. When she asked the ushers what she had done wrong, they told her that she had done nothing wrong but they needed to keep the peace. This is appalling. The university comes out with an initiative to try and get fans to stand and be loud, and than the ushers in the stadium kick someone out for doing just that.
I received another email from a man who son regularly attends games with his friends. Every game last season, a group of older fans told the group to sit down every time they stood to cheer even if it was for a third down or when the Irish scored. The older groups of “fans” would always get the ushers involved and each time the ushers would tell the group to sit down. This season the older group moved to a different section but that did not cause the problems to stop. At the Michigan State game, a couple sitting behind the group launched right into them, saying “We sure hope you don’t plan on standing during the game!”Some Michigan State fans were sitting nearby and jumped into the discussion telling the couple to “Shut up at least they are real fans” and “They can stand all the want, isn’t this is what fans are supposed to do?”. I’m sorry but the fact that visiting fans are doing more to stick up for Notre Dame fans and students than the ushers are is flat out embarrassing.
Another fan named Stan was able to provide even more saddening details. During the Wake Forest game last year, some fans that were sitting near him were escorted out of the stadium by police following a verbal exchange because they refused to sit down. On multiple other occasions, after Stan was told to sit down by ushers, he tried to show them that tweets using the hashtag #TakeAStaND and asked them if they knew what the university was trying to do. The ushers did not know the rules and continued to tell Stan to sit down. Even other fans seemed to be lacking knowledge on the campaign. One group of fans even tried to tell Stan that the “Take a StaND” didn’t even exist anymore.
Reading all of the testimonials of other fans and their experiences since the “Take a StaND” campaign was started, just reaffirms by belief that the entire campaign has been a complete failure. The ushers inside the stadium are as clueless in supporting the initiative as officials in college football are at correctly calling the targeting rule. While the ushers are volunteers, they still represent the University of Notre Dame. The fact that they are unable to help enforce a program that the University itself created is a complete embarrassment and needs to be addressed by the not only Jack Swarbrick, but the entire university as well. The university needs to get together all the ushers that work in Notre Dame Stadium and educate them on “Take a StaND” and what exactly what it means. Notre Dame has some of the most passionate and loyal fans in the world but until the University of Notre Dame takes a long hard look at the “Take a StaND” initiative and the major problems that have been identified with it, the home field advantage that Notre Dame is trying so hard to create will never become a reality. The game day atmosphere in Notre Dame Stadium has been a problem for far too long. I challenge the University of Notre Dame to find a real fix to this problem instead of just an initiative with a catchy name and no enforcement. Its time that the Notre Dame Football team that we all love, gets the home field advantage that it deserves.