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Priest’ dupes fans, security

Marcela Berrios | Thursday, September 13, 2007

A man posing as a priest fooled football fans and security personnel Sept. 1 when he and his two-man camera crew marched into Notre Dame Stadium – and onto the field – without credentials as an unauthorized prank during the Georgia Tech season opener.

Assistant Vice President for News and Information Dennis Brown said Wednesday the man, dressed in a black outfit and a white clerical collar, joined the marching band during its pre-game concert at Bond Hall and led the procession to the stadium’s entrance. There, the man and his two assistants eluded security personnel, walking down the tunnel until they were on the field.

Once there, Brown said, the man continued his impersonation and started conducting interviews on the sidelines until the players rushed onto the field. He greeted them with words of encouragement.

“It looked like he was a Catholic priest and part of a legitimate NBC crew videotaping the band,” Brown said. “The security personnel at the north entrance made an honest mistake making this assumption and they didn’t check for credentials.”

Brown said the individual’s crew used a camera with NBC logos on it.

“That’s why the stadium security staff wasn’t as diligent as they would normally be in terms of checking credentials,” Brown said.

The third man in the crew was holding a boom microphone, he said. On Sept. 4, a University official received an e-mail from the pranksters, which was forwarded to Brown’s office.

He said the impersonator explained the prank to the University and asked for Notre Dame’s permission to submit the video to “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.” Brown denied the man’s request.

The video was, however, available to users on YouTube until Tuesday, when it was pulled off. Brown said his office was not responsible for the video’s YouTube deletion.

He also refused to release the prankster’s name or say if the man was affiliated with the University.

“We’ve decided not to release the person’s name because it would embarrass that person and expose that person to ridicule,” Brown said.

A “Tonight Show” spokeswoman told The South Bend Tribune the man was not working on NBC’s behalf and that the Leno program does not accept unsolicited material.

On Sept. 2, The Observer received a fax explaining the prank and announcing its possible transmission during “The Tonight Show.”

The fax said the man wore a priest’s garb and marched with the band, blessing spectators and cheering for the Irish along the way. The man then made his way into the stadium to pose with the team’s signature “Play like a champion today” sign and greet the players as they rushed onto the field, according to the fax.

Brown said field credentials or pre-game field passes are required to have access to these places. The three men did not have either type of clearance.

However, Brown said, the usher’s failure to check their credentials was an isolated incident and should not prompt questions about the stadium’s security procedures.

“We have [security] procedures in place. They just weren’t followed in this particular instance.” Brown said. “The bottom line is that this was a benign incident that serves as a valuable wake-up call for the stadium’s security personnel. Other than that, no changes need to be made.”