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Modified pep rally format debuts

Justin Tardiff | Monday, November 3, 2008

Students that attended the pep rally Friday at the Joyce Athletic Convocation Center (JACC) might have sensed some changes in the rally. These changes are part of a new format for the pep rallies that will allow for greater unity between the team and the students. The changes are partly in response to Sorin College boycotting the Oct. 3 rally and the subsequent student reactions.

“Ideas for change have been on the table for a few years now, we’ve just never had a group that was proactive enough to make it happen,” Hall President’s Athletic Co-Chair Laura Burdick said. “The dissatisfaction of the students just kept getting greater and greater and we didn’t want to see that. The football team started to notice and we got on it and got the ball rolling.”

While many in the Notre Dame community expressed disbelief at men of Sorin’s actions, Burdick said that she was not surprised by the actions of the Otters.

“The Sorin boycott wasn’t a shock,” Burdick said. “People have been feeling that way for a while but have continued coming to the rallies. That was just the first time the dissatisfaction was put into a student publication.”

After the Sorin boycott on Oct. 3, many students voiced their concerns over the lack of connection between the football team and the students. Several students said that they were frustrated at having to be at the JACC for over an hour before the team arrived. In response, the arrival time of the students was modified.

“The biggest change is the amount of time the students are asked to be in the JACC,” Burdick said. “Students aren’t asked to get there as early as 5:15. Instead they are filtering in between 6:00 and 6:15 and will be followed very shortly by the football players.”

At Friday’s rally, students did not start entering the JACC until around 6:00 and the team had arrived by 6:30. By the time they had all taken their places, the building was almost booked to capacity.

The seating arrangements were also adjusted so that students could physically be closer to the football team. At Friday’s rally, there were specially roped off sections on the floor for Notre Dame students, only a few feet away from where the football team sat.

“The students are going to be up much closer to the team so they feel like they are almost on the floor with them,” Burdick stated.

Burdick said that much thought and consideration was put into getting the students fired up and keeping the energy going.

“We won’t ask students to be wild and crazy, now quiet down, ok now be wild and crazy again,” Burdick said. “Energy just doesn’t work that way.”

Before the students entered the JACC at the Oct. 31 rally, Chuck Lennon emphasized the importance of energy and the significance of the crowd’s enthusiasm for not only the team but the students as well.

“This is a Notre Dame pep rally,” Lennon said. “Not a library, but a Notre Dame pep rally. I want you all on your feet and cheering for this team and for the students.”

When Notre Dame Coach Charlie Weis got up to the podium he thanked the students and addressed them personally.

“We appreciate the great turnout and we want to see if we can make a lot of crowd noise in here,” Weis said.

A lot of crowd noise was not a problem after Coach Weis introduced a surprise guest for the evening.

“We needed to add a little more pep to this pep rally so we incorporated a rock star from New Jersey,” Weis said before introducing rock legend Jon Bon Jovi.

The screams of the students and the fans as Bon Jovi walked into the JACC with his two sons were deafening.

The band played “Living on a Prayer” over the screams of the students and the others gathered in the JACC. However, Coach Weis was not satisfied with just one rendition.

“I’ve seen Bon Jovi in concert,” Weis said, “and he doesn’t quit after one song.” This prompted the band to play two more Bon Jovi hits.

After the din died down slightly, fullback Asaph Schwapp, offensive tackle Sam Young, and linebacker Scott Smith spoke and then the team judged a costume contest put on by the students.

In his closing remarks, Coach Weis stressed the importance of the relationship between the students and the football team.

“There is no ‘us’ and ‘them’,” Weis said. “We, as a team, feel like we’re part of the student body.”