It is with tremendous regret that I can do nothing but concur with ND Tex’s compelling arguments posted earlier today. For I, too, witnessed at firsthand the surrender of our Stadium, with a mixture of dismay, anger, and profound sadness. We cannot say that this is something new – it has happened before, if perhaps not to the vast extent seen on Saturday. But we surely know that this is a self-inflicted wound; and we know who has been wielding the weapon. It is the work of an odd coterie comprised of various administrators, powerful and middling, not just in Athletics but in several departments. The guiding ethos is that Notre Dame is not a football school – it is a hospitality school.
Seemingly embarrassed by years of gridiron prowess, a progressive movement for some 20 years has been to claim that football is but one part of the “football weekend experience.” Rather than let this “experience” grow and develop organically as it had for well over a century, every year of the last 20 has seen some new improvement, none of which has had anything to do with exciting fans about the impending game, and none of which has had anything to do with supporting the team.
I shall not list these various bizarre game-weekend events. They are proudly displayed for all to see – and many of them come with a not insignificant price tag. You see, while some within the University have strived to market Notre Dame as anything but a National Championship contender, others have assiduously teased out every possible thread from the football yarn, and then slapped a fee on it. Can any ticket-holders, alumni or otherwise, be blamed for viewing their seats as nothing more than a commodity to be sold for a quick buck, when the University seems eager to monetize absolutely anything pertaining to football, primarily access and privileges? On a football Saturday, all fans are equal…but some can pay to be more equal than others.
How can anyone complain about a quiet Stadium, when its most recent renovation created massive areas where people can go to do everything except be heard cheering for the team? How can anyone complain about a lack of enthusiasm, when the Band of the Fighting Irish has been relegated to a visual and acoustic dungeon of irrelevance (and on the most specious of pretexts)? How can anyone complain about opposing fans buying-up half of the Stadium, when our own administration not only gives away entire banks of seats to “corporate partners,” but has even created a very lucrative resale scheme for those tickets to be unloaded to the highest bidder?
Yes, Notre Dame is no longer interested in football. It is interested in hospitality. Thus, the ushers are there to enforce order and decorum for our guests, not to encourage fans to cheer for our team; season ticket holders are encouraged to buy memberships in a ‘gastropub’ with no view of the field; and the press office continues to boast about consecutive sell-outs, irrespective of who is buying.
Most appalling is that, in haughtily lauding its new mega-Stadium (of which it is more proud than it is of the football team), this coterie of administrators has, directly and through mouthpieces, hastened to assure a gulled alumni and fan base that their guiding principle has been “Would Rockne Approve.” Had Rock seen the utterly dispiriting spectacle in the stands on Saturday night, all he would have said is, “How vulgar.”