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ESPN’s “The Season” features Irish

Observer Scene | Tuesday, September 9, 2003

Last year, the Notre Dame football team entered the season with a new coach, a new spirit and a burning desire to return to glory.

This year, the Fightin Irish take the field with the same coach, the same spirit, the same goal -and an ESPN camera crew recording their every step along the way.

Due to the success and renewed reputation of the Notre Dame football program, ESPN decided to feature the Irish for its show “The Season.” Every Tuesday night, the sports network will air a 60-minute episode following Notre Dame and the team, both on and off the field.

“The Season,” which started a few years ago, has followed such teams as St. John’s college basketball program and the Oklahoma Sooners college football program. The show followed both the successes and failures in the lives of coaches and players.

‘The Season” was created when producers decided to film a different South Eastern Conference (SEC) school each week during football season, following them through preparations for the games, the games themselves and the happenings of a collegiate sports program.

On their filming adventures of SEC schools, ESPN featured the Louisiana State University Tigers, the University of South Carolina Gamecocks and the University of Georgia Bulldogs, along with a few other schools also included in the SEC.

“The Season’s” crew began filming the week-long preparations for the upcoming game, which would take place on Saturday at the end of each week. “The Season” taped the numerous practices, whether physical or mental, like when the team sat down and watched film footage from the opposition to prepare themselves for their tactics. The show also revealed numerous other traditions that the specified school participated in to prepare themselves for the game on Saturday. “The Season” gives an in-depth view of each school’s athletic program by going behind the scenes into the locker room and through the rigorous training.

“The Season,” approached former Irish head football coach Bob Davie two years ago but was forced unexpectedly to conclude filming their season before the first episode even aired. Complications arose and upset Davie; the crew for “The Season” overstepped its allotted guidelines, forcing Davie to remove the ESPN crew from the locker room.

This year, the producers of “The Season” approached Notre Dame Coach Tyrone Willingham to follow the Irish as they progress through the 2003 football season. Willingham agreed, as long as they follow his guidelines. He set forth strict rules and regulations for the crew; they are not allowed inside the Irish locker room or at Irish staff meetings. Willingham does not want the influence of ESPN to get in the way of their focus on finding success in their football season. He has informed ESPN that, if “The Season” crew interrupts or affects the team in any negative manner, they are to leave.

ESPN began its coverage of the Notre Dame program with the start of training in early August. It plans to show how the coaching staff prepares each and every player for the upcoming season.

Although Notre Dame has been nationally televised every Saturday for the last decade, “The Season” provides a unique view into the heart of the tradition that Irish fans consider to be Notre Dame. From student managers painting the football helmets each week to the famed student section that has turned into a “Sea of Green,” there is more tradition in Notre Dame football than in most schools. “The Season” reveals a glimpse of what goes on behind closed doors, showing a Notre Dame that most people, even students and fans, never see.

This season, with “The Shirt” reading “Here Come The Irish,” Notre Dame intends to be known as a terror in the eyes of their opponents. The Irish are already revered as one of the teams to beat for the 2003 season.

Whether the Irish play well or not, Notre Dame has, and always will be, a team that colleges will want to play. They represent prestige that has culminated in years of success. It is only expected that such a storied program as Notre Dame will finally be recognized for the heritage and tradition it has promoted for decades.

Part of the heritage includes The Four Horsemen and Knute Rockne, but from there, the list goes on. Eleven national championships have graced the walls of the house that Rockne built.

Fitting as it is, the Fightin’ Irish of Notre Dame will finally have their story told. They will no longer simply appear on NBC for a mere four hours each Saturday afternoon of college football season. For one hour a week, people can look in on this hallowed Notre Dame football program – “The Season: Inside Notre Dame.”

This look into Notre Dame football premieres tonight at 7 p.m. South Bend time. It will air for the next 10 weeks on the same night and time, giving Irish fans all over the country a wonderful opportunity to take a deeper look into a developing program, which many fans hope will bring even more glory and honor to Notre Dame football.