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The real focus of pep rallies

Staff Editorial | Friday, October 10, 2008

Dwindling student attendance. Little interaction between players and students. A dorm boycott, complete with its own manifesto.

The Friday night pep rallies are meant to be an hour or so of cheering, excitement and school spirit. Between the band, the players and the students, the whole crowd ought to get excited. Moreover, the pep rallies should focus on encouraging the team, playing the game and taking down that week’s opponent. But in the end, they should focus on the football.

But the focus of Notre Dame pep rallies now feels displaced. The students’ biggest role is in weekly competitions between host dorms, organized by a committee of the Hall Presidents Council. While watching your fellow Vermin or Knights dance in ridiculous costumes may be fun, it takes away from the real focus of the rally – the game. Why pit students against each other at a time when the student body should band together? Campus dance groups, like the Irish step dancers or similar clubs, are worthwhile and entertaining, but they don’t belong at a pep rally. The pep rallies feel less like a cheer session devoted to the team, and more like a production for the larger community and fans.

If student attendance is any indication, the show can’t go on.

Some might argue that student apathy is to blame for the recent rally debate. If more students came to pep rallies, detractors often claim, the energy level would skyrocket.

It would also be shortsighted and self-centered for currently enrolled students to think that only they would find a pep rally exciting. Our alumni network is one of the strongest in this country, and alums are more than eager to return to campus and take part in the football weekend festivities. Even outside of the alumni, fans of Notre Dame are widespread and numerous, often filling the Joyce Center.

But when the pep rallies start to feel disconnected from the students – and the game – and more like the University is putting on a display for alumni, families and visitors, something’s not right. Low attendance levels are only the most visible indication of how widespread that feeling is among the student body. Something needs to be done.

A separate question is why pep rallies are exclusive to football at Notre Dame?

True, football is the highest profile sport at the University. But our football players are hardly the only athletes of merit on campus.

Men’s basketball has the support of the Leprechaun Legion, but why not hold a pep rally in the Stepan Center before a big game? Say, on the Friday before a big Saturday home game. (This year’s Connecticut game, with ESPN College Gameday coming to campus would be a prime opportunity). Women’s soccer is consistently stellar, yet the JACC has yet to be filled with futbol fans cheering them on.

Bring the excitement and school spirit. Scream, yell, and maybe even raise the roof for our other, equally deserving athletes. But regardless of the sport, the pep rallies need some revision if they are going to serve their purpose.