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Campus gears up for football

Jen Rowling | Friday, September 10, 2004

Football Saturdays at Notre Dame, deeply rooted in the University’s tradition and reputation, don’t just happen – it takes a lot to put the ‘fight’ in the Fighting Irish. Months of preparation are involved in creating these renowned weekends, when fans flock to campus from all corners of the world. From the students in the dorms to the chefs at the dining hall to the bookstore staff, everyone in the community has a hand in making a home game the spectacle it is.Along with the enormous flow of spectators comes the need for enormous amounts of food. The dining hall staff arrives at 6:30 a.m. to take on the task of feeding an expected 4,500 diners for brunch. They also prepare 2,000 lbs. of hamburger patties and 1,000 lbs. of brats to supply the student-run concession stands.The food service responsibilities continue postgame with the special candlelight dinner in South Dining Hall, which is prepared for a flood of up to 3,000 students and guests”Candlelight is special. We dim the lights and try to set the mood,” said Tony William, SDH unit chef. “It is not your normal, everyday [dining hall experience].”Because a trip to Notre Dame wouldn’t be complete without a piece of Kelly green paraphernalia, more than 100,000 tourists are expected to converge upon Hammes Bookstore. “There are so many people you can’t see the floor,” said event and commission relations manager Hedge Harridge.Complete with 60 open registers and a pianist playing traditional Notre Dame songs in the background, the bookstore is ready for the onslaught. Extra merchandise has been packed into backrooms and two rented trailers. The bookstore will also feature special events, including a book signing by University President Father Edward Malloy and a performance by the Notre Dame cheerleaders.”Some folks have saved up money. This is their Disney World,” said Harridge. “They want to bring home souvenirs; we want them to have an amazing experience.”Amidst all the excitement, safety cannot be ignored. Notre Dame Security/Police began preparing for the home football games over the summer by hiring 35 South Bend and 35 county police to patrol the stadium. Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and subsequent legislation, the stadium and packages entering it are thoroughly searched.Beginning at 5:30 am, the NDSP will be working 12-hour shifts, and for the first time have taken on the task of parking the thousands of guests, when once an outside company was paid to do the job.”With 80,000 people you are going to have some problems,” NDSP director Rex Rakow said. “We have a good staff to anticipate problems and react to them.”Each game, NDSP ejects approximately 60 people for alcohol-related issues, thrown objects and fighting.The Notre Dame usher team, the yellow-clad staple of home games, is composed of 857 members that hail from 15 different states. Many travel to campus for the weekend, and 550 of them are unpaid volunteers. While many ushers are veterans of the trade, 50 to 60 are hired each year. Head usher Cappy Gagnon said he selects new members based on their expressed love for the ideals of Notre Dame. “My team of ushers are Ambassadors for ND,” said Gagnon.While their actions might not get their names down in the books with all the Notre Dame football greats, the dedicated workers certainly have a hand in writing history.