Readers: I want you to tell me every single story you know about conflicts between ticket holders inside Notre Dame Stadium who want to sit and those who want to stand. I am looking for incidents that were resolved to both parties’ satisfaction, as well as those that were one party remained aggrieved.
I want you to be as detailed as possible in your recounting. Consider these questions, if you would:
What game was it and in what year? (I’m mostly interested in stories that happened from the 2012 season onward, for reasons I will soon explain.)
In what section of the stadium were you sitting?
Were you involved or were you a direct/indirect witness to the conflict?
What percentage of people in your section were standing as opposed to sitting?
Did an usher become involved? If so, what was the usher’s solution to the conflict? Were you or the other standing person re-seated? Or, if you or another person was ejected, what warning, if any, was issued first?
Was any profanity used or did the situation ever involve physical contact?
HERE’S WHY I’M ASKING
In 2012, the Notre Dame marketing staff introduced the “Take a StaND” initiative.
John Heisler, the university’s senior associate athletic director and media and broadcast relations director, described the effort this way:
[Athletic director Jack] 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.
The South Bend Tribune’s Eric Hansen had written a story that September based on a “avalanche of e-mails describing near evictions and real ones” from fans ejected for standing or cheering too loudly.
Swarbrick, Hansen said, “continues to search for methods and madness that will eliminate the golf clap as the prevailing symbol for passion inside Notre Dame Stadium.”
“You have to change the culture,” the athletic director said. “The ushers are often reacting to a request from somebody else who wants the person to shut up and sit down -- and that’s what we have to get to. That’s what we’re trying to change.”
The ushers, the article said, would “offer to relocate people who are bothered by the noise to another section. Sometimes, they just use common sense and tell the folks who want to sit down for the whole game to swap seats with the fans in front of them who want to stand.”
SIX YEARS LATER...WHERE ARE WE?
Has Notre Dame become a louder, less hospitable place full of standing fans? Despite positive reports from the home opener against the Michigan Wolverines, I’m doubtful that has become the norm.
Even worse, I heard from people who are insistent that they’ve witnessed fans kicked out of the stadium for refusing to sit down — or that those ejections have happened to them personally. This is allegedly an every game occurrence, including Saturday’s game against the Ball State Cardinals.
I’ve reached out to the director of crowd control for Notre Dame Stadium for clarity on the guidelines.
Fans ought to be certain when they pay $100 or more for a ticket what is expected of them.
If Notre Dame would like its stadium to remain the Augusta of college football, prospective ticket-buyers who want to stand and cheer for their team need to know what risk they are assuming.
However, if Swarbrick’s intention is still to create a raucous atmosphere that negatively impacts opposing teams, then no one should ever be ejected from the stadium simply for refusing to sit.