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Is the Notre Dame football student section culture dysfunctional?

| Wednesday, September 21, 2016

I ask this question honestly in light of my experience at the home game on Saturday vs. Michigan State.  Just like the home game vs. Nevada the weekend before, my friends and I were caught up amidst a big crowd of students entering the stadium, an experience comparable to a herd of stampeding cattle. Except these were not steers but college seniors — sweaty bodies pressing on each other, pushing, pulling, stumbling and yelling with flushed faces, glazed eyes and slurred speech amidst the pervasive smell of alcohol. Once in the stadium, it seemed that as my friends and I climbed higher into the stands, the more drunk students were.  In response to some of the calls by a referee, we heard chants and comments from numerous students such as, “You’re blind and deaf, how can you be a ref?” and “The ref beats his husband,” somehow managing to combine homophobia and domestic violence into one slur. Before we moved to a less rambunctious section at halftime, someone who had been yelling by my friend’s ear for the entire first half sank behind us in a drunken stupor.  

I understand that this may be only one experience among many, that it is not indicative of the entire student section and that perhaps I was unfortunate enough to be sitting among particularly rowdy people. I also know that some people may think these smells, sights and sounds wonderful and even regard them as an integral part of the Notre Dame football experience. I argue, however, that the Notre Dame football experience is not one that necessarily includes excessive drinking and charged insults. Yes, there is a certain camaraderie intrinsic to Notre Dame football, especially in the student section, but that should not include harm to self and to others. Being a spectator comes with shared standards of accountability and decency.

I’m disappointed in my classmates, especially my fellow seniors. Is this what we consider a senior privilege? What kind of example does our behavior and attitudes give to underclassmen and show to alumni, teachers, family and friends? Can we really sing the Alma Mater at the end of every game if this is what we do during every home football weekend? Why drink to excess “just because you can?” You don’t need to drink excessive amounts of alcohol in order to enjoy a football game. It doesn’t matter if you think that you can “hold your liquor.” Nor is this a matter of “having fun” because excessive drinking is not fun for anyone, especially when people wake up with hangovers, start vomiting or lose consciousness. Drink responsibly, or don’t drink at all.  

I fear that we are losing this camaraderie of the Notre Dame football experience. As fans, we do injustice to the game with these slurs and excessive drinking. Yes, let’s get excited. Yes, let’s cheer on our team. Yes, let’s do push-ups in the stands. But do we really need to pregame for five hours beforehand with excessive drinking and call out derogatory insults that are affronts to the dignity of others? I feel that does a disservice to our team and to who we are as Notre Dame students. We attend the University of Notre Dame. That’s a privilege. Let’s act with class, not with debauched revelry, and be considerate of other people’s backgrounds and experiences. Let’s support and respect our players, coaches, referees, ushers, announcers, band members and cheerleaders who work diligently week after week to carry on our golden tradition, even when they mess up, fumble or get sacked. That’s the nature of teamwork.  

Instead of “rising above ourselves” and “surrendering to excellence,” let’s aspire to excellence and rise above a campus culture of excessive drinking and charged language. Let’s make this red dot into a green dot. Let’s take a stand and cheer for Old Notre Dame. Let’s preserve our time-honored tradition of Notre Dame football. This is something worth fighting for.

Grace Agolia


Sept. 18

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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  • Fantastic letter, Grace – “…and ‘The ref beats his husband,’ somehow managing to combine homophobia and domestic violence into one slur”! Brilliantly poignant and, sadly, sad.

    Going to football games in the student section when I was a student was a completely disgusting experience, so much so that I decided after my first semester to attend only one game a year, and by my last year I didn’t show up at that game until halftime.

    And he’s another really sad thing – many of those drunken idiots will continue that behavior as Alums. Which is why we haven’t been to a game in years.

    And these same upstanding Alums will probably also do the same at NFL stadiums as well.

    Special indeed.

    • ayy lmao

      ayy lmao

  • Andrew Smith

    This is…incredibly judgmental. Statistically, when there’s alcohol involved across such a large group of people, you will get a few bad eggs, but that by no means incriminates the whole. To essentially imply that students do not have the right to sing the alma mater after a game because they tailgated with their friends before is ridiculous, and not something you have a right to call for.

    In my four years in the student section, I had some of the absolute most memorable times of my entire life. And guess what! For a bunch of them, I drank before, my friends drank before, and we were loud, because we don’t play in a mausoleum (although you wouldn’t know it from the level of crowd noise on big third downs). This is different from being disrespectful towards those around you, and although I witnessed some level of bad behavior a couple times among the masses, by no means did I ever think it was an ingrained issue specific to this student body.

    Football is football, it’s just a sport, it’s meant to be a fun Saturday diversion. Alcohol will inevitably involved – ND is not and should not be holier-than-thou in that respect. Obviously, everyone should participate responsibly, but there’s a better way to encourage responsibility and respect than condescension and judgment.

    • Jack Mags


  • Joe

    You need to get there early and sit in the front. My friends have done this every game for the past 4 years and we always have a great time. Never have I experienced anything like this. The idiots are usually the ones that show up late and stumble to the back. It’s not like they came to watch the game anyway.

  • Jimmy B

    I, for one, am all for this. If you can’t handle the blatantly offensive comments and aggressive drunkenness, sit in the front… Or stop watching sports

    • John C

      What’s the good in discouraging a student from challenging behavior that she understands to be problematic? Your advice is a sound, pragmatic compromise. But the author is interested in challenging the location of slurs, irresponsible drunkenness, etc. in sports culture (at ND) more generally, not only insofar as it affects her experience. Paradigms can and do shift through this kind of critical discussion. Whether or not people are receptive to this particular attempted revision of standards is, of course, their prerogative, but I certainly applaud the author for attempting to start a conversation.

  • MC

    Just another reiteration of this awful article: http://ndsmcobserver.com/2013/10/rethinking-football/

    It’s college football, give me a break.

  • McLovin

    I was so offended when someone shouted “I shower with my dad!”

  • McLovin

    “In response to some of the calls by a referee, we heard chants and comments from numerous students such as… …”The ref beats his husband,” somehow managing to combine homophobia and domestic violence into one slur.”

    Or maybe you somehow managed to become misogynistic by implying the ref had to be male

    • Gabriel

      “The ref beats husband” makes it pretty clear the ref is male, bruh.

    • James H

      You labeled yourself as poorly educated in grammar.

  • Jerry Beckett

    Drunkenness is practically required for watching what ND football has become over the last 20 years.

    Maybe instead of worrying about “derogatory insults” and “homophobia”, perhaps you should be more concerned about an administration that seems perfectly happy with a coach who has 1 Top 10 finish and 0 major bowl wins in 6 (soon to be 7) seasons and who declined to replace his defensive coordinator after giving up 30+ points in 11 of the previous 21 games.

    • CatholicMillennial

      I’m going to screenshot this and use it as an example for how our society is unhealthily obsessed with sports. Thanks.

      • Jerry Beckett

        “There is no academic virtue in mediocre football.” – Theodore Hesburgh, former ND president (1952-87), in 1958

        “We’re not going to be second-rate in anything.” – Also Hesburgh, talking about the place of football at ND, in Sports Illustrated in Sept. 1986

        I guess Fr. Hesburgh was “unhealthily obsessed with sports” too, huh?

        • CatholicMillennial

          Since you used that quote…Fr. Ted would also not want to be 2nd rate in regards to behavior in the student section. I doubt he ever would have entered a conversation about acting in a more respectful (/Christ-like) manner and saying “forget it, worry about winning”.

          Thanks for proving my point again, though.

          • Jerry Beckett

            I’m sorry that you think that anyone who thinks ND shouldn’t settle second-rate football while simultaneously being unable to work up much indignation over drunk college students is “unhealthily obsessed with sports”. There was similar behavior at ND Stadium when I was a student, but having transferred into ND from SEC country, I just couldn’t get my shorts in a knot about it, nor can I now over the behavior the author described.

            How about we agree that ND shouldn’t settle for second-rate football or second-rate behavior from its student body?

          • CatholicMillennial

            Sounds good.

    • James H

      I’d argue that respect for one’s fellow person (homosexuals) is significantly more important than a lazy defense. I want a stronger defense, yet more importantly, respect for every fellow man and woman

      • Jerry Beckett

        Sigh. I’ll repeat, from my comment above (which you upvoted): How about we agree that ND shouldn’t settle for second-rate football or second-rate behavior from its student body?

        • James H

          No. Love for fellow man first. That’s why I can up vote one of your statements and down vote another. Agreeing on one thing is nice but that first statement I downvoted stated that we should be more focused on ‘excellence in football,’ essentially. F that. I’ll root for em but its entertainment, that’s it. Football ain’t my god.

          • Jerry Beckett

            Good grief: one guy accuses me of being “obsessed” and the another one implies that football is “my god”.

            Here’s where I’m coming from: The actions of college students of an institution does not concern me as much as the actions of the adults who are in charge of that institution. As far as I can tell, no one in the administration of ND has ever voiced support for the type of behavior the author describes. I know there are rules in Du Lac against vulgar behavior, and I know that attempts have been made to ‘crack down’ (for lack of a better term’) on such behavior in ND Stadium (though with mixed results). Therefore, I’m not much concerned with the behavior of some drunk college kids: time and maturity will show them the error of their ways if the Office of Student Life (or whatever its called now) doesn’t get to them first.

            However, the administration HAS expressed approval for the second-rate results Brian Kelly has shown with the football program. This alarms me more than the student behavior described by the author, as ND has done about as much as they can do to curb such behavior (again, with mixed results over the last 20 years or so).

            Should I take my 7 year-old daughter to an ND game, I won’t have any trouble explaining to her any vulgar behavior we encounter: some people are idiots, even ND students. I will have a lot harder time explaining what has happened at ND such that Brian Kelly’s results are not only tolerated but celebrated.

  • JonathanJennings

    Well put.

  • code 6

    Attention all snowflakes! If you don’t like being around college students doing what college students do at college football games, South is wide open between 3:30pm and 6:30pm every Saturday. Pax

  • Harold Eckard

    It’s a college football game at a major institution. There will be rowdy folks in the crowd, and that’s unavoidable.

    If you cannot tolerate the fact that there will be rowdy folks at such an event, then simply put, don’t go.

    It’s no different than going to a rap concert and demanding that the performers not use naughty words, or that the crowd not scream those words with the performer that you may find so offensive.

    There are plenty of areas of the world that don’t exactly qualify as sheltered, nice places, after all.

    • Harold Eckard

      Do you have anger issues? That would certainly explain why you’re using all capital letters, which is the equivalent of “shouting” over the net. I strongly suggest you read up on what “netiquette” is, and how it can help you convey your messages without your looking foolish.

      In the meantime, you should really learn how to deal with your abruptness if you wish to succeed in real life.

  • T-Mac

    Grace showers with her dad!

  • Murray Beaulieu

    I blame Davie

  • WhatsUpp222

    How could a school with a higher average SAT admission score act like this!?!?!?! Welcome to college. Sorry you drank the Kool-Aid which made you believe a group of academically gifted people weren’t going to get drunk and get rowdy at a football game. Sorry a pamphlet with the words “Welcome Home” and a collage of the only two ethnic kids on campus smiling made you believe Notre Dame would be some utopia of perfect, robotic, aristocrats who golf clap and high five each other at football games. Most of the people on this campus are stressed, miserable, and need to vent.

    When you leave this isolated bubble we’ve created for ourselves on this campus, you are going to be absolutely miserable in the real world if this kind of thing bothers you. Unless you end up being a housewife in some small, middle america town, homeless people will probably scream a variety of slurs at you during your daily commute to work.

    • graybarn1


  • JIm Kress

    Why should the students strive for excellence when the Administration is satisfied with mediocrity?

  • Brendan

    Someone’s response to this article on Total Frat Move. http://totalfratmove.com/notre-dame-opinion-drinking-yelling-football/

  • Bwiss

    Character, culture, Christ… Is it missing at ND? This isn’t just about football games.

    Win or lose, ND reputation is changing. It is no different than a state school. They have rapes, drunken students, and athletes that don’t stay out of trouble.

    Can Coach Kelly bring in those bad actors and keep them focused… Doubtful.

    Will the student body change the drinking tendencies, also doubtful.

    Change won’t happen until the administration makes changes at the top and it trickles down to the students. And that means rectors are accountable. And students who can’t or won’t meet the standard of common decency are sent packing.

    Coach Kelly … It is not all his fault. Football players are bigger stronger and way more physical. Look at most rosters… Some schools have 75% of players that are tatted and very rough looking and acting. ND players look like choir boys.
    Most football players need to be kept on a shorter leash. And yes, in order to win that means a few bad actors who are monitored from the time they arrive on campus to the time they leave in the spring. They need to be monitored like 5 year olds.
    You want to win… That means finding the most athletic/mean/physically fit defensive/offensive players that can meet the ND standard. That by itself won’t be easy.

    Change starts at the top!

    And yes ND students are stressed, study hard but the play hard mentality needs to change as it relates to alcohol.

    • ayy lmao


    • ayy lmao


  • conway0516

    Move the kickoff times up to where they used to be. Especially the way the team has been playing, do we need 2 7:30 kickoffs every year so we can embarrass ourselves? I graduated in 2004 (not 50 years ago) and games were usually 1:00 kickoffs +/- an hour. It allowed plenty of time to have fun before, during, and after the games, but not enough time that everyone showed up a sloppy mess. Granted, this is all at the direction of NBC and the media because it translates to $.