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Road Trippers

Katie Wagner | Thursday, September 11, 2003

It is no surprise that Notre Dame Stadium is packed with almost every member of the student body at home games. Last weekend, not a single seat was empty in the student section. As linebacker Courtney Watson revealed at the pep rally Friday night, the support of fans during games truly makes a difference to our players. But how much influence do fans actually have on the Irish’s game?

Despite the absence of proof supporting that a stadium full of green, resounding with chants of “We are ND” contributes to wins, Notre Dame students refuse to test this proposition.

Even stadiums of our rival schools are usually packed with a very large “cheering squad” of the Notre Dame student body. It is not enough to just attend home games. Notre Dame students are so excited about Irish football, that many now consider going to away games to be the perfect reason to take a road trip.

At least a handful of Notre Dame students felt the call to travel to every away game last year. Travel-weary students returning to school from summer break repacked their bags just two days after their arrival to truck it to the Maryland game.

The Irish’s next on the road victory took place at Michigan State. One senior said last year she and four friends sacrificed comfort as they crammed into one car to get to the game. How this group of women all obtained tickets is unknown; however, rumor has it that they are friends with some of our football players.

As seen on television, this game was full of loyal Notre Dame students. Some even risked their lives by sitting in sections of all Michigan State fans. Last October, students were torn between two conflicting loyalties. Both the Air Force and Florida State game dates fell during Notre Dame’s mid-semester break. Some picked their family while others chose the Notre Dame football team. The quantities of students present at these two away games were impressive.

During the Air Force game, many women from Farley Hall, were seen cheering with the leprechaun and briefly made a television appearance. Many other Notre Dame students in the crowd caught the cameraman’s eye as well. The second away game of fall break attracted a huge crowd of student fans as well.

Students drove to Tallahassee, Fla. from places as far as Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Canada, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. But if a formal survey were taken, it would most likely reveal travels from even further away. A group of junior men from Siegfried claimed that they were actually in Tallahassee for only about twelve hours. The rest of their fall break was evidently spent on a trek across the country, stopping in places such as Grand Rapids, Mich. and the University of North Carolina.

“We woke up in our car at 8 a.m. and the whole parking lot was covered with green,” Siegfried junior Matt Mooney said.

Despite the brevity their visit to Tallahassee, Mooney said their trip was well worth the effort.

“Florida State was fun because it was over fall break and we got to do the whole road trip thing,” said Mooney.

Keenan junior Steve Lynch enjoyed the road trip aspect of the Florida State game as well. In the spirit of 2000’s hit movie “Road Trip,” starring Tom Green, Lynch rented an R.V. with four other guys from his dorm (OK, they actually travel by bus in that movie, but close enough). The men of Kennan Hall drove through Canada, then down the entire east coast of the United States, taking extra care to have a great time during each of their stops.

In addition to Lynch’s appreciation of his traveling experiences, he also really enjoyed the game. This junior described Tallahassee’s appearance on game day as having “ND people everywhere.” He also heard that students over the age of 21 “took over the town’s bars.”

At the game, Lynch and his friends yelled out their best renditions of the fight song and participated in many other expressions of Notre Dame spirit. Unfortunately, Florida State security guards detested traditional practices such as doing group push-ups after every Notre Dame touchdown and escorted Lynch out of the stadium. Lynch’s willingness to get in trouble is a prime example of how dedicated Notre Dame students are to supporting Irish football.

Both the Navy and USC games also inspired members of the Notre Dame student body to leave campus for a weekend. Since the USC game occurred over Thanksgiving break, some students flew to California and enjoyed the warm weather for the long, holiday weekend.

Despite University of Southern California’s upset of the Irish, students still managed to enjoy the game – well, the earlier parts of the game when victory for the Irish still seemed possible.

Keough junior Kevin Locke snagged a ticket to this game from his friend that attends USC. Although Locke would have preferred a different outcome, he was still happy to have been there because of the excitement of being at such an important game.

“Tons of Notre Dame students” were present at the game, he said.

Lots of Notre Dame students also attended the final game of the season. The 2003 Gator Bowl took place in Jacksonville, Fla., a 1,000 mile hike from South Bend.

Unfortunately, the Irish lost to North Carolina State, but the thrill of having at least made it to a bowl game helped students deal with the loss. Of course, the opportunity to take a long road trip to “J-ville” also prompted students to purchase tickets to the game.

One group of friends stopped their cars at a Holiday Inn near downtown Jacksonville. Admittedly their hotel rooms were rather modest in terms of size, especially for accommodating the large group that stayed in them. The unexpected guests that slept over some nights only made living arrangements tighter.

But living in such close proximity to fellow Notre Dame students is all part of the fun and the experience of attending away football games. Although the road trip was long, members were happy that they traveled to Jacksonville so they could help “cheer for old Notre Dame.” They even enjoyed some parts of the 16-hour drive each way.

All these sightings of students in green and chants of “Go, Irish, Go” on national television last fall, proves that Notre Dame students are the most supportive, enthusiastic and energetic fans around, undoubtedly contenders for the title of “loudest collegiate football fans in the country.”

Students plan to maintain their status as the best college football fans in the country. Farley juniors Margaret Closius, Jill Klima, Mary Howard, Diana Leonardo and Farley senior Aileen Ranieri have been preparing for their trip to Ann Arbor, Michigan since the first days of classes.

All around campus, one can find students who are more than ready to attend this game to cheer on the Irish as they play the Wolverines. They are counting down the hours until game time. Closius even went so far as to approach Michigan season-ticket holders for seats to this game. Other students obtained tickets to this game via a ticket lottery by Notre Dame.

Earning tickets to the Purdue game, on the other hand, was slightly more challenging. Very early in the morning on Aug. 29, the above group mentioned accompanied by Farley junior Emily Ramora plotted their capture of tickets for the highly anticipated rivalry between Notre Dame and Purdue.

These students had to plot, scheme and take all kinds of risks in order to snatch tickets for this huge event. This group of Farley Hall residents approached the Eck Center at midnight to secure their place as the first people in line for tickets. Tickets to the game were awarded to students on a first-come, first-serve basis. Arriving at midnight to wait in line for tickets would not seem so strange if the ticket sales began earlier than 8 a.m.

These girls pulled an all-nighter to ensure that they would be able to support the Irish in a foreign stadium. In the process, they also survived a thunderstorm and a narrow escape from campus security.

Their initial plan was to nap outside of the Eck Center for a few hours, but police officers thwarted their camping plans. Despite the girls’ claims to be “are just doing homework,” NDSP refused to back down. Perhaps it was the blankets scattered about, the provisions of potato chips and the lack of studying which exposed their true intentions for sitting by the Eck Center so early in the morning.

Undaunted, the girls hid in an alcove located just outside of the Bookstore. When they tired of that hiding space, they took refuge in Recker’s. Around 2 a.m., another group of Notre Dame students arrived at the Eck Center. By 5 a.m., approximately 30 students wanting tickets had arrived. Since these fans still could not even form a line, they made a list of the order in which people arrived. Finally, at 7:45 a.m., students were allowed to stand in line for tickets. The Farley girls were the first in line.

“It’s college. You do stupid things in college,” Leonardo said, regarding her late night escapade.

“Road trips are fun,” said Closius.

With fans as dedicated as these, Notre Dame should easily be at least the runner-up for the most spirited group of collegiate football student fans in the country.

Hopefully, this year, Notre Dame away games will have higher attendance from students than in years past. If so, Notre Dame students will finally learn how much an impact fans have on the players, giving them an edge and making it easier for them to win. These loyal and energetic fans could help the Irish finish the season as national champions.