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A Legion of extraordinary gall

Alex Caton | Sunday, April 21, 2013

Last week, the Leprechaun Legion, the self-proclaimed “voice of the student body to the athletic department,” announced a new student ticket policy for next season’s football Saturdays. In doing so, they have committed numerous errors. From top to bottom, the policy does not have a leg to stand on, and here I would like to state why.
The new policy is as follows: There will be, as before, sections assigned by class (seniors will be closest to the 50-yard line, then juniors, etc). But the assigned group-based seating you have come to know is gone. This, I feel, will have two primary effects. The first is that of putting students in an uncomfortable – and perfectly avoidable – position of having to choose which part of their gameday experience they would like to compromise. Secondly, by undermining the guarantee to a specific seat (a guarantee literally every other fan in the stadium has as part and parcel of buying a ticket), the policy will create an atmosphere of antagonism between students who will now have equal claim to the same limited pool of premier seating. It will also engender the rather antisocial behavior of hovering in front of the gates in the hours leading up to the game while the other 70,000 ticketholders enjoy the pomp and circumstance of the Notre Dame gameday experience. All of this runs contrary to the greatest asset of Notre Dame football Saturdays: community.
It may be possible these costs will prove small compared to the benefits. So here we turn to the rationale of the policy to see whether it is “worth it.” The supposed rationale in plain terms is that our student section is broken. Not enough people in the student section are “being rowdy.” Our student section isn’t pulling its weight. The Legion implicitly holds the stadium could have been more electric when our defensive front seven made a goal line stand in the pouring rain against Stanford last fall. Furthermore, the reason our 82,000-seat stadium is so quiet compared to Death Valley or Bryant-Denny Stadium rests on the shoulders of 8,000 students who just aren’t trying hard enough. It has nothing to do with the other 90 percent of the stadium, a group with a large percentage of middle-aged and elderly fans whose “rowdiness” has gone by the wayside. If our student section could just be “rowdier,” we would have a greater home field advantage and win more games. The new policy, the Legion tells us, assures the “rowdiest” students, by waiting outside the gate three hours before gametime, will stake out prime seating and set a better tone. “You go to other schools and their students are in the stadium, jam-packed and rowdy at least an hour before the game,” one Legion officer said in an interview with The Observer last week (“General admission,” Apr. 19).
There are a few things at work here, then. The first is an extreme preoccupation with other schools’ student sections and an apparently low opinion of our own student section for not creating enough buzz. The second is the ignorance of the real source of our home field advantage woes: an older, more buttoned-up fan base. The third is the mistaken understanding a lottery system is unfair, that you should have to earn your seat every game and that your commitment to Notre Dame football can be measured by the time you spend waiting for the gates to open.
 “The assigned seating system, from what we’ve seen, is very rare,” the Legion’s president said in The Observer interview. “One part of that is the fact that these bigger schools with 40,000 kids just don’t have an assigned seat for everybody.” This is true, but it’s also rare for a university of only 8,000 undergraduates to hold a deserved reputation as an academic and football powerhouse. It’s rare to have a tailgating atmosphere with our level of family-friendliness and mingling between people across such wide age gaps. And it’s rare to have the best college marching band in the country do multiple performances across the campus, almost to the last possible moment before kickoff. To take as given that a school with a set of gameday traditions this unique should limit our enjoyment of these to imitate larger schools is, in my view, wrong.
What should not get lost in this debate is the question of just where the Legion got the authority to institute a policy that affects nearly every student at this university. The Legion is an unelected body with zero accountability. When they were given the authority to administer this procedure is unclear. Regardless, the passing of this policy without one preliminary survey of the people it affects displays an arrogance and groupthink only an unelected body who just strong-armed its way onto the left sleeve of The Shirt could produce. Their surprising insistence they are “not considering revising the plans” despite a petition gathering more than 600 signatures in a matter of hours and a palpable student response that is lukewarm at best is unreflective of their supposed mandate to represent the student voice. How a group that makes such inclusive statements as “the entire student body is the Leprechaun Legion” so miserably failed to engage the people they purport to represent is beyond me. The greatest offense here isn’t the policy itself, which, despite being quite flawed, is well-intentioned. The problem is an unaccountable club overstepped its mandate in the name of an unquantifiable concept of “rowdiness” and took no actions to get a sense of our feelings toward the policy. As a member of the Legion, this is something I cannot accept.

Alex Caton is a sophomore studying political
science.  He can be contacted at acaton@nd.edu
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.