Can you imagine a football game without an end zone?
Before 1912 there was no such thing as an end zone, as players crossed the goal line for a score and the official playing field simply ended. I know it doesn’t seem like a big deal, but just think how weird the game would look today without end zones.
The end zone was essentially created because of the rising popularity of the forward pass in the early part of the 20th Century, and since Notre Dame played a big part in that rise, the history of the end zone is also part of Fighting Irish tradition in a weird way.
*All end zone images come from screen shots of NCAA College Football 2012 (except when clearly a real picture).
Although the program has painted script and logos into the end zone in the past, the vast majority of the time there has been the simple slash marks adorning each end zone inside Notre Dame Stadium.
You’ll also notice the hash marks don’t stretch all the way to the front and back of the end zone, but instead stop just short of each boundary.
Many Notre Dame fans consider this end zone design an iconic look for the team and program.
Do I agree?
Well, yes and no.
I do admit that it gives off an "old-timey" feel and that the slashes are an appropriate design intended to beckon the playing fields of yesteryear.
My issue stems from whether I believe that the slash marks are a completely necessary component to the stadium. I think most people would argue they are, but I’m not so sure.
First of all, I think it’s a painfully boring design. Not that I dislike it per se, but year after year it can get very tiresome.
Perhaps a new design once in a while would be good?
More importantly, the tradition and hallowedness of Notre Dame Stadium comes from the stadium’s existence in and of itself, while the end zone design is a very minute aspect of that sacred tradition.
I'm not sure how long the yellow mums have been in the stadium or how many people would consider them a school tradition, but the House That Rock Built is still the same without them.
That’s not to say that certain changes wouldn’t affect the ambiance. Lord knows we could take it to the extreme and suggest gold turf, video boards, and pumped in music---clearly changes like that would significantly alter the atmosphere inside Notre Dame Stadium.
We can argue whether the traditional and "old-timey" feel is necessary, needs to be changed, or should stay…but my point is I don’t think putting in a different end zone design changes the overall character of the place.
For example, Fenway Park (a place older and perhaps more hallowed than Notre Dame Stadium) has added colored script to the tops of the dugouts, advertisements on the Green Monster, shaved logos into the grass on the playing field, and puts various playoff and World Series logos on the field when appropriate.
Some will argue that these changes have altered
Likewise, I don't think Madison Square Garden really needs to go without a Knicks logo at the center of the court to appreciate the atmosphere and experience the game in the same style that fans were able to when Walt Frazier was playing (scoreboards and video boards aside).
Lastly, the slash marks don’t feel like Notre Dame’s "tradition" when other schools are using them too.
I know there are other Notre Dame traditions that we would never get rid of which other schools imitate too, but this one has always felt just a little forced to me.
I’m not sure when they started doing it, but Kent State now puts the hash marks in each of their end zones.
Kent's slash marks stretch all the way to the boundaries, unlike Notre Dame's.
What’s more, Pitt does the unusual practice of painting one end zone with their name, and putting hash marks in the other. Apparently the Steelers leave this design on the field.
Is this Pitt's way of hoping for more Irish games so they can sell out Heinz Field?
This is a more recent development for both programs, but it does take away from the meaning and significance of Notre Dame’s end zone.
Heck, Temple has gone so
cheap old-school that they don't even paint anything in the end zone!
Like I said, I don't hate the slash marks, but I have jokingly said in the past that maybe instead of the slash marks we should write "Tradition" in one end zone and "Old School" in the other?
I know...it's not that funny.
When you look back at pictures from the 1920's, 30's, and 40's it seemed like everyone had the slash mark end zones and it wasn't something that was created by or unique to Notre Dame. So although there are bigger fish to fry with regards to Notre Dame's tradition, I think this is something that could be changed and wouldn't bother me if it were.
Still, we did make sure the slash marks were included in our new One Foot Down logo because we know it is important to a lot of people and one of the symbols (however small) of Irish football.
But that won't stop me from challenging it!
Anyway, as a companion to this discussion here are some of the best and most interesting end zones in college football as judged by me:
Cincinnati has been using the bright and piercing red for a while now, with their official script gracing the end zone.
Clemson used to have a cool end zone painted with a white background (so did Florida State), but they have since recently changed back to a natural grass look. They still use the tiger paw in there though.
Hawaii has their official script and little diamond shapes in their end zone, just like they have on their uniforms.
Iowa recently has opted for a black background but has kept this same design for a while now. The other end says "Hawkeyes" without the logo, yet Iowa remains one of the few teams to use their main logo in their end zone. Penn State used to in the Big Ten as well, but switched back to a more traditional look.
I think this is one of the best end zones in the country and certainly underrated. It's simple, yet bold. Good job Louisiana Tech!
The Bayou Bengals switch it up and opt for two different backgrounds, and who's going to stop those crazy Cajuns from doing so? You know this looks cool as hell on a Saturday night in Death Valley.
Maryland used to have an end zone that incorporated their state flag, but recently had a very basic design with just their name spelled out. This is the one for NCAA College Football 2012, so I'm assuming it will be the new end zone for the Randy Edsall era.
Here's another end zone that you probably didn't even know existed and is pretty unique. That's Middle Tennessee State's for those of you who don't know your college nicknames too well.
The granddaddy of them all. Is this the most famous end zone in football history? I know I've always enjoyed Tennessee's checker board design.
But the Volunteers aren't the only ones with that look. Here's Fresno State with their own version.
We would be remiss if we didn't mention that Navy also uses the checker board design. Notre Dame fans don't see this too often because we're never playing the Middies at their home stadium and they don't go through the trouble of painting such an elaborate design just for one game.
San Jose State had a similar diamond design like this a few years ago, and has apparently has now switched back to this. Darken both of those colors and try and imagine Notre Dame Stadium with this end zone!
Missouri also uses diamonds to enhance their end zone. I really like the look of this one, and it's probably one of my favorites in the country.
The Cavaliers do make this post because they stick their logo at each end of the end zone. They used to have an end zone almost the exact same as Missouri though, but no more.
Oklahoma State's is unique in that their end zone lettering is two-tiered. I'm also completely shocked that they didn't add any black into this design.
As far as I know, SMU is the only team in the country to put any sort of stadium logo in their end zone. Does it ruin what would otherwise be one of the better end zones in the country?
You pretty much need a master craftsman to be able to fit Tulsa's entire nickname AND logo into one end zone. Seriously, the people that do this one have to be the best in the business.
The Commodores put two stars at each end of the end zone. It's a nice touch.
It's not very often that you see a brown end zone. Wyoming represents!
I know, I know...I probably shouldn't like this one, but I think it's one of the cooler end zones in college football. Or maybe I just enjoyed Robert Hughes pounding his way into the middle of that "S" so much last year?
What are some of your favorites?