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University reduces seats for students

Justin Tardiff | Friday, November 11, 2005

Due to the recent decline in student attendance, today’s football pep rally will guarantee designated seating for approximately 3,000 students – just half of was allotted for students at the last pep rally.

The new pep rally ticket distribution system, which debuted Nov. 4, allowed for a specific amount of student seats and required non-students to wait in line to obtain a ticket prior to the event. The number of available general seating tickets was calculated by subtracting the estimated number of students from the 10,000 seats available in the Joyce Center for the rally.

Problems arose after the estimated number of students proved to be a gross overestimate of the actual student attendance. Consequently, some Irish fans were turned away despite sections left vacant by students who opted not to attend.

Student body vice president Lizzi Shappell said the decision made this week to minimize seating in student sections to 3,000 was based on attendance at the Tennessee pep rally, which garnered 2,400 students.

“While this [new] number grants an additional 600 to attend the rally, I do not believe we have any way of assuring that this will be a perfect number,” she said. “We have no guarantee that this number will be large enough or that we will even have 3,000 students attend the rally.”

Shappell said student government is working with administrators to discuss future changes in the 3,000-seat allotment.

“We taking a proactive role to meet with administrators to talk about the new system and make sure that students are a part of further decisions,” she said. “We want to assure that all interested students are able to attend pep rallies. The key thing to communicate to students is that if we want the number to increase, we must prove that we can meet these attendance numbers.”

Hall Presidents Council Co-chair Dan Zenker said students need to show administration officials that they are “excited about supporting their football team on a weekly basis” – in spite of the opponent or record.

“The Student Activities Office and student government have fought hard to preserve as many pep rally seats as possible for students,” he said. “We need all students to uphold the Notre Dame spirit and attend these pep rallies to prove that student support and enthusiasm for our football team doesn’t wane with time.”

Shappell said student presence at the pep rallies is crucial to the event’s success.

“The students are the life of the pep rally,” she said. “They are the most energetic supporters of the team and are the most current members of the Notre Dame community. As roommates and classmates of the players, students should have a protected place at the pep rallies to support their friends.”

The goal to accommodate all students is what initially drove Student Activities to set such a high estimate – 6,000 projected students – for the Tennessee pep rally, Director of Student Activities Brian Coughlin said.

“A great deal of time was spent trying to settle on the number of students we believed would attend,” Coughlin said. “Although everyone recognized that in this new process some people would be turned away due to limited capacity, no one wanted it to be the students.”

Coughlin said “historical data” – namely numbers from the Sept. 16 Michigan State pep rally earlier this year – were used to make the 6,000-student prediction, which Student Activities hoped would enable students who wanted to attend gain entrance.

“Ultimately, I am the one responsible for holding to the 6,000 number for student attendance,” he said. “I regret this over-estimation, especially as it affected so many fans who had to be turned away even though there was room in the Joyce Center … [but] the only real disappointment is that students did not attend the pep rally to support their team in the numbers we thought they would.”

Coughlin said the Student Activities Office received “a great deal of feedback” because of the discrepancy between projected and actual student numbers and this newfound input is “a good thing when dealing with such a new process.”

Zenker said the Student Activities Office, student government and the Hall Presidents Council are working with athletic administration officials to resolve this issue and arrive at a fair and practical solution.

“We intend to improve communication between all of these groups in an effort to represent students and fans who are eager to enjoy themselves at the pep rallies,” he said.

Zenker, Shappell and Hall Presidents Council Athletics Co-Chair Justin Doyle met with Athletics and Facilities administrators Thursday to propose increased student input on the set number of students allowed into future pep rallies.

“We talked about continued student input and I believe that we will now be able to be a greater part of the conversation about future pep rally changes,” Shappell said. “I cannot comment on what will happen next year; however, we are trying to work with the current system so every interested student has an opportunity to attend the last two pep rallies of this season.”

Shappell said she hopes to start regularly communicating with administrators to assure “direct student input” in future decisions.

“I am optimistic that we will be part of future conversations,” she said. “We believe that student attendance is an essential part of pep rallies and would like to see the students’ ability to attend protected.”

Coughlin said it should not be that difficult to determine how many students will attend pep rallies.

“I have heard the statements that it depends on the time of year, the quality of the opponent, or the record of the team – I just don’t buy into them,” he said. “This is our team, playing on our campus, every game is a big game.”

Shappell could not say what would happen if student government pushed for more tickets only to have students fail to fill the seats again, but said she and her constituents are collaborating with all parties involved to ensure any student who wants to attend future pep rallies has the ability to do so.

“I think there are a great number of people on this campus doing the best they can to make sure the pep rallies are safe for everyone in attendance, full to capacity, supportive of our team and provide a memorable and enjoyable experience for all,” Coughlin said. “With time I believe we will have a safe and effective way for students, alumni, friends and fans to attend pep rallies that accomplish all of our goals.”

Non-students who wish to obtain tickets for today’s pep rally must line up at Gate 10 of the Joyce Center at 4:30 p.m. Shappell said the time change will solve last week’s issue of fans having to make two trips to the Joyce Center – once to obtain a ticket and again to attend the event.