Throughout the dramatic world of college football, there are a lot of pretty campuses and electric stadiums full of devoted fans. Still, even amongst that pantheon of autumnal athletic atmosphere, game day at Notre Dame is special.
Founded in 1848, Notre Dame started playing football in 1887. Most fans know the legendary names that followed over the decades: Knute Rockne, George Gipp, Frank Leahy, Ara Parseghian, Joe Montana, Rudy, Dan Devine, Alan Page, Lou Holtz, Tim Brown and The Rocket.
Notre Dame still has the most Heisman Trophy winners at seven (though Ohio State has seven for six players, thanks to Archie Griffin). Depending on how you might count, the Fighting Irish also own or have tied for the most national championships. If you count just undisputed #1 finishes, Notre Dame has 11 – settling them in a tie with Alabama. If you count ties at number one on multiple polls – as many other colleges do – ND would hold more than 20 titles.
As the 10-0 Irish prepare for their final home game this weekend against Wake Forest, we can offer a firsthand look at what a football game day is like on the South Bend, Ind. campus. Crave Online was on hand for the November 3rd overtime thriller between Notre Dame and the Pitt Panthers.
The entire campus is buzzing with students, alumni and fans from early morning until kickoff. Student organizations across the treelined quads set up busy hot dog and burger stands to raise funds.
Supporters line up to watch the players march from morning Mass to Notre Dame Stadium, followed by the Notre Dame Marching Band’s loud advance into the action with their trademark chant: “Here Come the Irish!”
Up in the press box, a small army of sportswriters settle into multiple rows of seats overlooking the 50 yard line. They largely behave themselves as they follow the action and write their stories. Spotters relay game action to a central announcer who calls out each play’s main events one at a time.
Since some attendees in the press box are guests of the university, they can get excited – especially in the three overtime thriller ND waged with Pitt. If they get too boisterous, a sobering voice booms over the loudspeaker with a stern: “No cheering in the press box.”
After the post game celebration between the players, students and fans, the stadium empties out into the cold autumn night. The Hammes Bookstore fills with eager souvenir and apparel shoppers, and the La Fortune Student Union serves up food for hours after the game wraps.
The more religious fans make a pilgrimage to The Grotto – a sacred spot on campus for all Irish fans. There they can light a votive candle for a loved one or (if they’re really hard core) to thank Touchdown Jesus for a win.
While USC and Michigan fans would probably scoff at the idea, but game day at Notre Dame enjoys a box of atmosphere and energy unique in college sports. From the stately beauty of the huge, wealthy campus, to the dedicated blue collar nature of ND fans, it’s hard to imagine a more invigorating experience in all of sports.
The FIghting Irish players rush out of their locker room while the band spells out ND around them.
The massive pressbox holds both media and university guests.
Notre Dame star linebacker Manti Teo answers postgame questions in the media room.
The Grotto is hallowed ground to Notre Dame fans before and after the game.
They mix their football and religious freely at Notre Dame, as this votive candle shows.
The Golden Dome – the symbol of the University of Notre Dame – rises high above the entire ND game day experience.