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Penn State pep rally placed in Stadium

Kaitlynn Riely | Wednesday, September 6, 2006

Notre Dame Stadium will be the site of thousands of cheering fans not once, but twice this weekend.

Head football coach Charlie Weis, along with the athletic department, made the decision to hold the first pep rally of the year in the stadium to accommodate the large number of fans expected to attend, associate athletic director John Heisler said.

While Heisler can’t predict exactly how many people will attend on Friday, it is safe to say the rally will draw more fans than the 12,000 who could fit in the Joyce Center.

“Given the fact that [the Penn State game] is the largest demand in the history of Notre Dame football tickets in general, you would suspect there would be a great interest in the pep rally,” Heisler said.

About 40,000 people attended the stadium pep rally before the USC game last October, he said.

Students from the host dorms – Keenan, Stanford, McGlinn and Welsh Family – can enter the Stadium between 5:00 and 5:30 p.m. All other Notre Dame students with identification can enter between 5:15 and 5:45 p.m. The general public is allowed to enter at 5:45 p.m.

Despite the change in location, the basic pep rally format will remain the same, said Hall Presidents Council (HPC) co-chair Katie Cordelli.

On Friday, the new Leprechaun will be introduced, the pom squad will perform and the football team will make an appearance. Cordelli said they also booked “solid talent” from other student groups to participate in the pep rally.

Last year, pep rally organizers started to require that non-students have tickets to get into the Joyce Center – a rule not in place on Friday, Heisler said, due to the “virtually unlimited seating” at the stadium. But after the USC game last October, attendance at pep rallies declined, and event organizers overestimated the number of students who would attend later pep rallies.

This year, organizers will make student-seating designations one week at a time after they estimate what the student interest is for the rally, Heisler said.

“I think the track record over the course of years suggests that those numbers do vary from week to week,” Heisler said. “That is probably the biggest challenge, trying to do everything we can to protect what the seating is for students.”

Cordelli said the HPC, the Student Activities Organization and the athletic department have been discussing ways to encourage students to attend rallies later in the season when the game hype is not as intense.

“The issues with the pep rallies and the time frame – we are doing all we can to have the students not have to get tickets,” Cordelli said. “It can be frustrating standing in line, then sitting there for 30 minutes waiting to start.

“With this season being maybe a national championship season, students are more excited, so we have tried to schedule the times to make it a little less time consuming – but some things just can’t be avoided.”

It’s a logistical impossibility to avoid a waiting period between when students enter the Joyce Center and when the rally starts, Heisler said.

“It’s just not physically possible,” he said, “to think that if you are going to start a pep rally around six o’clock, you can open the doors 10 minutes beforehand and expect everyone to find a seat.”

Last year, to cut down on entry time, the organizers staggered the entry times and moved the approximately 12,000 attendees through different entrances of the JACC, he said.

Friday’s pep rally will be the first one senior Ann Verwilst has attended in more than a year. Verwilst said she always goes to the rallies if she can, but last year she was abroad, and her freshman year physics lab conflicted with the rally time.

“I think everything about them is great,” Verwilst said. “It just gets a little repetitive.”

Freshman Tom Dybicz said he is definitely going to the first pep rally of the year to get excited about the Penn State game.

“I don’t really know much about it because I’ve never been to one,” he said, “but I’ve heard they’re good.”

Friday’s pep rally will be similar to the USC pep rally last October, which was the last one held in the stadium, Cordelli said. Before USC, the last pep rally held in the stadium was in 2000 when the Irish played Nebraska.