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Students ejected for throwing marshmallows

Claire Heininger | Monday, November 17, 2003

As the final seconds before halftime ticked off the game clock and Notre Dame seniors braced for their traditional season-capping, section-wide marshmallow fight, Stadium ushers prepared for a battle of their own – one that resulted in between 30 and 40 student ejections from their last home football game.

Lining up one man to every few aisles, the ushers made an imposing front, senior Steve Carroll said. “They entered like the Gestapo,” he said. “At first, I honestly thought that they were going to let [the fight] happen, that they were just there to keep it from getting out of hand.”

Carroll was mistaken, as he and several other students involved in the fight had their ticket booklets confiscated and were ejected from the game. NDSP officers then escorted some students to the security office to issue citations.

Coordinator of stadium personnel Cappy Gagnon said the increased usher presence was intended to deter the fight.

“We hoped seeing the ushers would discourage it,” he said. “The mentality was ‘If we all do it, we’re all innocent – of course that’s not true.”

Tommy Gaeta, a senior who received a citation for allegedly hitting an officer with a marshmallow a few minutes before halftime began, said he felt he had been targeted unfairly for having a seat on an aisle.

“It seemed like they decided, ‘He’s accessible, let’s go after him,'” Gaeta said. “I was one of 2,000 other people.”

Gagnon said that it was impossible for ushers to use certain criteria to determine which students should be thrown out.

“There is really no way to differentiate,” he said. “We grabbed people in possession as well as people throwing the marshmallows. One of the most ridiculous things I’ve heard is that we should only [eject] the people stuffing them with other objects – you can’t see what’s inside.”

Seniors said they didn’t observe any distinctions being made.

“They have 2,000 people to choose from,” said Justin Feeney, who was ejected prior to the game for attempting to bring a bag of marshmallows through the entrance gates but obtained another ticket to re-enter the Stadium. “You could see the ushers running through the bleachers pulling out everyone they can. … You’d think they could find a better use of their time than to stop us from throwing things that don’t hurt anyone.”

Gaeta agreed, expressing disappointment that ushers “were cracking down so hard on a tradition of throwing marshmallows – they’re not anything harmful. I highly doubt I injured anyone.”

While the marshmallows themselves are not dangerous, usher Ken Scott said that he has witnessed students loading them with objects that can cause potential injury.

“The problem is they load them with pennies, with golf tees,” Scott said. “We realize it’s the seniors’ day and we want them to have fun, but we have to protect them from getting hurt.”

Gagnon reported two injuries on Saturday, including a female student and an usher who had to be sent to the hospital for slipping on the wet marshmallows that coated the stadium steps in the rain. He also added that problems arise when students begin “believing that throwing things is OK.” He said students were caught throwing ice on Saturday, as well as cans and water bottles during previous games this season.

Although no formal complaints were filed by NBC or the Notre Dame marching band, Gagnon said that the marshmallow tradition is more insulting than innocent.

“There isn’t a student out there who would do it face-to-face,” he said.

Gagnon also acknowledged the difficulty but necessity of the situation for his Stadium crew.

“Not one of the ushers likes it, and I hate it even more,” he said. “Not one usher says thanks for the new assignment. If we asked them, I think they would give the same vote as the students – not that they think it’s OK, but they don’t enjoy doing this. I don’t enjoy doing this. … It just has to be done.”

Carroll maintained that while safety is a priority, ushers shouldn’t feel the need to interfere with tradition.

“I think it shows a general level of disrespect for the students,” said Carroll, who was previously ejected from a game earlier this year for trying to bring marshmallows into the Stadium. “I’m frustrated because this is my senior year and to be thrown out of the second half of the last game of the season is just ridiculous.”