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Homefield advantage, R.I.P.

Steve VanDerhoef | Wednesday, September 29, 2010

I’m an ‘87 grad. Despite seeing a lot of frustrating games as a student, I have NEVER been in a more desolate sold-out stadium than Saturday’s. Even with the game still in reach at 19-6, all 81,000 of us could hear Crist clap his hands before every snap and the Stanford bench tipping its defense with “Pass!” and “Run!” calls. It couldn’t be clearer that Notre Dame no longer has any home field advantage.

My brother (class of ‘81) and I stared in shock as the student section stood in silence, waiting for another cue from the band. What happened to raising your keys as a way to focus your energy on your team before a “key” 4th and 1? And to the spontaneous, clever and LOUD goading of opposing players and coaches to remind them that they are there for more than a scrimmage? Instead, we have beach balls. Very cute and probably a lot of fun, but do you think Stanford thought anything but “Wow, that’s pretty?” Intimidating volume to disrupt audibles and snap counts is the rule in every major college football stadium. There simply has to be an idea or two besides “The [silent] Shirt” that will make Notre Dame Stadium a more difficult place to play.

We had a wonderful weekend bringing our sons to the game and showing them an unbelievable place that will always mean so much more than football to us. But the intimate effort of a student body willing their team to win was gone. The lavish Bookstore, Eck Center, Gug and amenities come at a price. Notre Dame has lost its edge. Instead of Catholics vs. Convicts we are the Notre Dame Experience. Instead of conjuring the Apocalypse, we now sustain and nurture opponents we used to dominate. Opponents do not fear the place, nor its noise or its power. They beat us in silence and take some of our legacy. Our long, dark decade is not just about bad coaching and unfulfilled talent. Notre Dame will not shake down the thunder again until its student body reclaims the house that Rock built.

Steve VanDerhoef


Class of 1987

Sept. 27