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Weather fails to put a damper on Irish victory

Kristen Durbin | Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Notre Dame’s victory in its second home night game in 20 years capped a “hugely successful weekend” of festivities celebrating the 125th year of Notre Dame football, according to director of game day operations Mike Seamon.

“Being the second year in a row with a night game, we saw noticeable improvements this year versus even last year’s game against USC,” Seamon said. “As a campus, we’re getting used to having night games every season, and I think that showed between year one and year two.”

The team’s undefeated record and the prime rivalry matchup against regional opponent Michigan drew an estimated 140,000 people to campus on game day, Seamon said, and fans descended on campus in high numbers throughout the weekend.

“We had record crowds at the band concert, and there were a lot of people tailgating in parking lots and taking in all the pageantry,” he said. “We knew the Stadium was completely sold out, but a lot of people not attending the game were still leaving campus when the game started after spending the day there.”

Seamon said the game’s crowd was one of the largest in Notre Dame history. Total numbers were unavailable at press time, though attendance was tallied at Notre Dame Stadium’s official capacity of 80,795.

Despite the challenges a mid-afternoon storm front presented, Seamon said the game went off nearly without a hitch.

“We were luckily able to dodge the lake-effect rain showers that popped up all around us Saturday night during the game,” he said. “They never made it to campus, which was a huge blessing.”

As for challenges specific to a night game, Seamon said post-game traffic was more difficult to manage than at a normal afternoon game.

“After typical home games with 3:30 kickoffs, people go to Mass, eat dinner, tailgate or go back to see their kids in their dorms. But getting done at 11:30 after a great game meant everyone was incentivized to stay until the end and wanted to leave at the same time,” he said. “It took a long time to clear the traffic, but we knew it would and we did it to the best of our ability.”

Aside from being a night game, this particular game held special meaning in the context of the ongoing celebration of the 125th anniversary of Notre Dame football, Seamon said. Friday evening’s pep rally, featuring former Irish coach Ara Parseghian, the 1977 national championship team and ESPN commentator Dick Vitale, was a highlight of the weekend’s festivities.

“The pep rally was incredible and had a great positive emotion. To be on such a historic site where Knute Rockne and his team used to practice way back in the day and for the team to come back there was really great,” Seamon said. “Having Ara Parseghian back and honoring him was very special, and people loved seeing him.”

Thousands of fans in attendance at the game also honored current Notre Dame linebacker and Hawaii native Manti Te’o by wearing leis as a show of support in the wake of the deaths of his grandmother and girlfriend.

“Everyone was surprised at the number of non-students wearing leis at the game to pay tribute to Manti,” Seamon said. “That was one of those special Notre Dame moments, so to witness that and be there to support one of our own is what being part of the Notre Dame family is all about.”

In spite of the extended game day, Notre Dame Security Police (NDSP) Chief Phil Johnson said his department did not arrest significantly more people than a traditional game day.

NDSP arrested seven people outside the Stadium on Saturday, including three for liquor law violations, two for criminal trespass and two for public intoxication. Inside the Stadium, police arrested one person for public intoxication.

Though night games require more collaboration on the part of everyone involved, Seamon said the payoff in showcasing the best of the University makes the hard work worth it.

“[Night games] make longer days for everyone, but it’s a labor of love,” he said. “Whether you are a police officer, concession stand worker or usher, people enjoy the game and take pride and ownership of their jobs on game day.”