Neutral field contests will be a hallmark of present and future Notre Dame schedules.
We have arrived at the final post of our five-part interview with Maple Street Press Irish Kickoff editor and former writer at The Blue-Gray Sky Pat Mitsch. I would like to thank Pat for taking the time to answer our questions and talk Irish football with us over the past couple weeks.
If you have missed any of the first four posts, simply click on the links below and catch yourself up.
If you have not bought the MSP Irish Kickoff 2011, we urge you to do so. It's definitely worth the time and money. If you want to purchase it, CLICK HERE.
As promised, Maple Street Press agreed to give away a free copy of the magazine to one of our readers and Kelly's Gyros ended up being the lucky winner. He's been a constant visitor to One Foot Down and brings it hardcore in the comment section. Clearly, his hard work and dedication have payed off.
For this final post of the series, we decided to just ask Pat a bunch of random questions concerning Notre Dame football and the college landscape. Thanks again to everyone that made this five-part series happen.
OFD: What are your thoughts on Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swabrick’s scheduling decisions? Specifically, how do you feel about the annual neutral site games, and some of the teams he has added to future schedules?
Mitsch: I am extremely happy that Swarbrick moved ND away from White's 7-4-1 model. I never warmed to that increase in home games because it made it harder to schedule home and home games with top competition and made it almost necessary to schedule one-off buy games against weaker opponents. I do like the neutral site games and I hope they look to find another top opponent for future neutral site games. The mix of new opponents on the schedule has been mostly good, especially the Texas series, but I'm greedy and would like to see another top team penciled in for a home and home series in the near future.
OFD: What are some teams that you would like to see added to any future schedules?
Mitsch: I'd really like to see ND play an SEC team in a home and home arrangement. Alabama, Ole Miss (for the road trip), Georgia, maybe even Florida to match up against Charlie. I also would love to see ND play some programs that have never faced the Fighting Irish before, like Virginia Tech, Auburn, Oklahoma State, or Mississippi State.
OFD: Name a team that you wouldn’t mind the Fighting Irish take a break in their series with.
Mitsch: I know that ND has signed a long-term contract with Stanford, but I would rather ND mix up Stanford and UCLA for the late November California game in odd number years (when SC is at ND). And while I understand why we play Purdue and MSU every year, I think a break every now and again is just fine (as we are doing with MSU in the near future) so that we can have more flexibility in early season scheduling (which is probably the only time of year we could convince an SEC program to venture north of the Mason-Dixon line)
OFD: Do you think Notre Dame’s attempt to build its own television network will be a successful venture? Due to Notre Dame’s national fan base scattered all over the country, do you think it is more likely we will see an internet based network or something through Netflix, rather than a traditional channel on cable?
Mitsch: It sounds like ND isn't going for the traditional television network due to the national distribution of fans that you mentioned (and the fact we already have the NBC deal) and instead are focusing on a digital platform that will be able to reach multiple devices (TV, computer, tablet, smartphone). I think that's the smart way to go as it provides much more flexibility and opportunities for the University to be creative and unique. An ESPN3 or Hulu type venture with a mix of original programming, coverage of multiple sports and campus activities, and replays of great football games sounds like something ND fans across the country and world would enjoy.
OFD: Who is your favorite Notre Dame player of all-time?
Mitsch: Tough question. I've never really had a standout favorite out of the collection of the usual suspects. Cheese alert. I am a big fan of the player who stopped on his way to the dining hall to talk to a group of us at ND hoops camp back when I was going into junior high. ND football was kicking ass and taking names under Lou at the time and we were right in that impressionable age group, so when he took time to not only give us the time of day but patiently answer all our dumb questions right in the middle of South Quad about playing for Lou and how to get stronger, it's something I'll always remember.
OFD: Are you in favor of FieldTurf or a hybrid surface inside Notre Dame Stadium, or do you think playing on a natural grass surface is essential to the spirit of Irish football?
Mitsch: I'm a pretty traditional guy at heart, so I'd love for them to do what it takes to make a natural grass surface work at ND Stadium. However, if it continues to prove a tall task to keep the field in excellent shape and safe for the players, I don't mind using a hybrid system like the ones at MSU, Virginia Tech, or Green Bay. I'd rather ND not put in a fully synthetic turf if it can be helped. Not that natural grass is essential to ND football per se, but when I think "Fighting Irish Football", mud and dirt and grime are definitely part of that mental image so I hope it doesn't go away.
OFD: If you could change one thing about the Notre Dame game day experience, what would it be?
Mitsch: I'd alter (reduce) the policing of the tailgating lots. We don't need police helicopters, undercover cops, and so many mounted police for what is, honestly, a pretty docile and tame fanbase. Much like referees in the game, the best compliment paid to crowd control is that you didn't even notice them. Far too often that has not been the case, as many of the recent message board stories and youtube videos can attest. If you really need an undercover cop to bust and arrest a 20 year old female for having a few beers at her family's tailgater, then I think you're approaching crowd control from the completely wrong approach.
OFD: What are your thoughts on the retro uniforms being worn against Michigan this year?
Mitsch: The uniforms themselves aren't that bad even if they are a mish-mash of differing ND styles rather than a pure throwback. I don't even mind the shamrock helmet. I just hope ND doesn't start to crank out alternate uniforms on a regular basis just for the sake of driving jersey sales. ND and Michigan didn't even play during the era from where many of the retro jersey designs were inspired so it's pretty hard to defend this retro-theme as anything other than blatant commercialism. I would hope future gimmicks like this are kept to a minimum and, ideally, have a more direct tie-in to the game at hand, like the '77 throwbacks for the 2007 USC game.
OFD: Would you like to see Notre Dame play at least one night home game every season?
Mitsch: Absolutely. I think it's a great idea to have one night game a year, preferably against a rival like USC. It should be a fantastic atmosphere for the game and should only help ND's home field advantage.
OFD: Give us your prediction for Notre Dame’s record this year.
Mitsch: Be warned that following my sports predictions are a good way to lose money. How about 9-3 regular season and a non-BCS bowl win to wind up 10-3 on the season. My heart is saying we are BCS bowl bound, but I think something like the Gator Bowl is more realistic this year.