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Irish faithful prepare to swarm Big House

Joe Piarulli | Friday, September 9, 2005

Brandishing Notre Dame flags, tailgate supplies and determination not to let a hostile environment dampen their spirits, hundreds of students will make the trip to Ann Arbor this weekend as the Irish take on Michigan.

The stage is set for the ranked football rivals to duke it out in a revenge match many Notre Dame students want to see in person, though few will have the privilege.

Tickets for this year’s game in Ann Arbor were hard to come by, as the contest is highly anticipated after the Irish eked out a surprising upset at home last year. Many of the students who rushed the field in Notre Dame Stadium after that game waited in line for a chance to buy tickets at the Student Union Board’s lottery last Friday, and many of those who didn’t snag admission are still making the three-hour road trip for game day.

“Tickets are always hard to come by, especially when Notre Dame is in town,” freshman Pat Moore said. “Everybody wants to see them play.”

Moore’s family lives near Ann Arbor, so he said he would be “killing two birds with one stone,” by visiting home and seeing the Irish “whomp on Michigan.”

The Big House – already a generally unfriendly environment for Irish fans – will host a massive Michigan crowd ready to get revenge on Notre Dame, much like two years ago when threats and fights broke out between students of the two schools.

Michigan Stadium’s security has been tightened to ensure that fans keep their actions under control. The university will not permit bags larger than a sheet of paper, containers, alcoholic beverages of any kind or food inside the stadium, according to a statement from the school’s security department. Any person who throws projectiles will be ejected from the game, cited and possibly face administrative action from the school, Michigan security officials said.

The majority of students making the journey this weekend are upperclassmen who remember how the Irish were treated the last time they visited Michigan – and intend to make sure Notre Dame is well represented in the Big House.

“Being that it’s so close and we won last week, you have to figure a few thousand fans will be there,” senior Dan Zenker said.

Zenker also said he thinks the proximity of Michigan is what causes large numbers of students to attend the game, despite having to alter trip plans slightly from previous years because of rising gas prices.

“[My friends and I] try to go to the away games that are somewhat close,” Zenker said. “The six-hour trip to [Pittsburgh] makes the three-hour trip to Ann Arbor seem like nothing. A lot of the kids are going to try to carpool. Obviously with gas prices the way they are you don’t want to drive by yourself to Ann Arbor.”

Zenker said that for the most fervent of Notre Dame fans, nothing will stand in the way of cheering on coach Charlie Weis and the Irish as they give Michigan their best.

“[Many] students are going to support the team,” he said. “Win or lose, a lot of Notre Dame fans will be there to root on our new coach.”

Moore said he isn’t fazed by the high tension that awaits him in Ann Arbor.

“Some people are pretty hostile, but it’s not going to stop me from wearing my Notre Dame gear,” he said.