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Irish head to Yankee Stadium for 25th time

Douglas Farmer | Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Irish last played in Yankee Stadium in 1969. Then, Ara Parseghian and the Irish trounced none other than Army 45-0. The victory brought Notre Dame’s record in The House That Ruth Built to 15-6-3.

More than four decades later, Notre Dame and Army return to the Bronx, but not much else has remained the same. Brian Kelly now fills Parseghian’s place as Irish coach. Yankee Stadium has moved 100 yards north of its previous location. Nonetheless, the Irish have hardly contained their excitement about the primetime game in New York.

“They know they’re going to New York,” Kelly said in his Tuesday press conference. “I don’t think I’ve ever had more injured guys ask me if they were traveling this week. They’re all excited about that.”

Notre Dame’s history at Yankee Stadium is well-chronicled: from Knute Rockne’s “Win one for the Gipper” speech in 1928 to a 3-0-2 record under Frank Leahy in the 1940s, when Notre Dame won four national championships. In fact, two of those titles resulted largely from the outcome of the Irish match-up with Army. In 1943, top-ranked Notre Dame beat No. 3 Army 26-0, and in 1946, the No. 2 Irish tied the top-ranked Black Knights at zero.

“I think [this is] just a great atmosphere for college football,” Kelly said. “50th meeting of Army versus Notre Dame, so there’s a lot to the game. We’re excited about that certainly.”

The encounter may be the 50th in the historic series between the Irish and the Black Knights, but this version of Yankee Stadium, now two years old, has never hosted a college football game.

“Just to have the first game to be played there, it’s an exciting time for us,” Irish junior receiver Michael Floyd said.

The tradition the Irish will add to began in 1923, when the original Yankee Stadium opened with Yankees slugger Babe Ruth sending a three-run home run over the fence in a 4-1 win over the Boston Red Sox. Up until its closing in 2008, the Stadium hosted event after historic event, including the first televised boxing match, when Max Baer defeated Lou Nova on July 1, 1939, the debut of soccer great Pelê in the North American Soccer League in 1976 and three Papal Masses, as Pope Paul VI (1965), Pope John Paul II (1979) and Pope Benedict XVI (2008) each said one. Thus, while the field may still be 100 yards long by 53.3 yards wide, playing at Yankee Stadium holds more weight than the average game, sophomore linebacker Manti Te’o said.

“Same size, same field goals, but of course it’s going to be different playing in Yankee Stadium,” Te’o said. “Similar to here, you can feel the tradition there, and it’s going to be fun.”

Amid the tradition, playing a football game in a venue designed for baseball brings its challenges. The end lines in the end zones will be closer to walls than usual Saturday, but Kelly said precautions have been taken to insure player safety.

“I know that has been a great concern of everybody involved,” he said. “We have a lot of people that have been working on this for quite some time. … It’s clearly something that has been at the forefront of every conversation that I’ve heard of, from moving a foul pole to making sure there’s enough access on the sidelines.”

Once on the field, and assured of safety, the Irish will have only one goal on their mind.

“We’ve just got to make sure we keep all the laughter and joy down and just make sure we compete on Saturday and do everything we’ve got to do to win,” Floyd said.

Although, junior defensive lineman Kapron Lewis-Moore did admit he wouldn’t mind seeing some celebrities at the game.

“I’m pretty excited about it,” he said. “Hopefully, it’d be kind of cool if some of the Yankees players were there, but you never know.”