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Students lack winning tradition

The Observer Editorial | Friday, October 1, 2010

The tradition of Notre Dame football is on full display to anyone who walks around Notre Dame Stadium. Each gate is named for a championship-winning coach, whose likeness is etched in stone at his particular entrance.

The Knute Rockne gate, which leads to the tunnel, displays even more winning tradition: the banners from each of Notre Dame’s 11 national championships.

The last of those championships? It was January, 1989 — before a vast majority of current students were born.

The last winning season? It was 2006 — before all but those undergrads in five-year programs had matriculated.

Students live and die by the Irish for four short years. In those undergraduate years, each and every day throughout the fall, students talk about Notre Dame football. No other topic surfaces day in, day out. The intoxicated mistakes of the weekend only linger in conversation until Sunday night. The pressures of an Orgo exam disperse one lunch afterwards. Even the annual search for an internship only lasts a month or so.

But Notre Dame football, and all its pieces: Brian Kelly, Dayne Crist, Denard Robinson and Lane Kiffin, fill conversations across South Dining Hall tables, throughout DeBartolo hallways and over cold beers for four solid months.

Then, come second semester, football still reigns supreme. From National Signing Day in February to the beginning of spring football in March to the Blue-Gold Spring Football Game in April, students cannot escape Irish football, not that they want to. It is, after all, a life or death matter while an undergrad.

But for current undergraduates, the only four-year tradition to surface is losing. Losing big. Losing small. Losing on the last play (see 2009). Losing on the first play (see 2007).

The players don’t like this tradition.

“Losing is not okay by any means,” junior tight end Kyle Rudolph said in a press conference Wednesday. “When you are in the locker room after a loss, you can really see on people’s faces. Just looking around, the disappointment and the distress that they have, because you put so much time and effort into this.”

It may be in a different way, but students invest large amounts of time and effort into the team as well — but if they are disappointed after a loss, it is apparently unacceptable.

Complaints from alumni and even younger students have surfaced about members of the student section not cheering enough during the game, giving up on the team or even leaving the game early.

So, to all alumni offended by the student section’s displays Saturday against Stanford, we ask you to remember, to understand and to cheer.

Remember the joy you felt while an undergraduate whenever Notre Dame reeled off a long winning streak.

Remember the joy you felt beating USC or Navy with ease.

Remember the joy you felt when promises were actually kept and hopes fulfilled.

These are traditions on the verge of dying, and they will if you can’t keep them up. The current senior class can’t remember these feelings of joy — it has never seen more than a three-game winning streak and has seen three losses to USC.

Alumni — and underclassmen — please understand.

Understand the pain students have felt watching Senior Day losses to Syracuse and Connecticut.

Understand the shock students experienced after watching the Irish lose to Navy. At home. Twice.

Understand the loss of morale that the 16-24 record over the past four seasons has brought.

But do continue to cheer for the Irish. We will do our best, as well.

And once a promise is kept, a hope fulfilled, a reason given, then the 10,000 of us will once again match every cheer the rest of Notre Dame Stadium sends forth as we try to continue the Irish tradition.