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Yankee Stadium face off

Editorial Board | Friday, November 19, 2010

When Notre Dame takes on Army this Saturday night, it’s safe to say the game will be about more than just the action on the field. The matchup will be Notre Dame’s second off-site home game, an event the athletic department hopes to make an annual occurrence.

Last year, Notre Dame played Washington State in San Antonio. The Irish will play Maryland in Washington, D.C., next year, followed by Miami at Solider Field in Chicago in 2012.

The idea itself may be slightly flawed. Because it is technically a home game, Notre Dame has insisted on keeping all gate revenue from the games, and it will be difficult to consistently reach agreements with top-tier teams without agreeing to split the profits in some way.

That said, if the administration is set on keeping the off-site home games in their current forms, this weekend is a perfect example of how to do it right.

Notre Dame has a huge following in New York City, drawn largely from the previous 24 games the Irish have played at Yankee Stadium. While those games, 22 of which were against Army, were about the football — with the Irish and Black Knights consistently being top-five teams — this one is seen as an opportunity to bring the Notre Dame game day experience to New York. The band will still do its traditional “concert on the steps,” only this weekend it will be in the middle of Times Square.

Even though Army and Notre Dame aren’t the national powerhouses they once were, both teams are still national brands with strong followings, and the venue of Yankee Stadium (even the new one) is one of the most hallowed in sports.

This weekend shows how the administration can keep these games interesting even if they aren’t necessarily relevant on the national college football stage. Last year’s game against Washington State in San Antonio represented the worst-case scenario for games like this: a contest against an awful team in a seemingly random location.

While a perfect off-site home game would probably have a top-10 opponent, this weekend is just about as good as it gets. It’s a high-profile primetime game that serves as a good reflection of Notre Dame’s tradition and why the Irish were able to play in these venues in the first place.

This weekend, Notre Dame won’t become famous for using the forward pass and Brian Kelly won’t implore his team to “win one for the Gipper.” But the game still affords an opportunity for Notre Dame’s famous subway alumni to see an Irish team that hasn’t played a game in the five boroughs since 1969. This weekend is about honoring all the things that have made Notre Dame football the unique entity that it is, and that’s the way it should be.