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Irish defend the Alamodome in rout of Cougars

Liz O'Donnell | Monday, November 2, 2009

The Notre Dame community was welcomed to San Antonio with open arms this weekend as the Irish football team traveled to the Alamodome to play their first ever “home away from home” game.

Director of game day operations Mike Seamon said the game felt more like a bowl game than a road game due to the abundance of support the team received from the city and fans.

 “We wanted to have an academic element, a faith element, a service element, a social element and an athletic element,” Seamon said. “We wanted all these different core Notre Dame elements replicated down there.”

On Friday evening fans gathered at the Alamo for a pep rally, which featured Notre Dame announcers Don Criqui and Allen Pinkett, San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro and athletic director Jack Swarbrick.

“We started with a pep rally in front of the [Alamo] that was attended by 8,000 to 10,000 people,” he said. “[The Alamo] people said it was bigger than anything the had seen.”
The festivities continued throughout the day Saturday with the recreation of many of the typical game day events.

One of these events was the Saturday Scholars Series. Three Notre Dame professors traveled to San Antonio to lecture about the Catholic Church and the Latino population and how the two affect each other.

In the afternoon, University President Fr. John Jenkins and about two dozen other priests celebrated Mass at the San Fernando Cathedral.

“We had one of the most beautiful Masses I’ve ever seen,” Seamon said. “Fr. John preached and did a wonderful job.”

Seamon said the trumpet section of the band played the Alma Mater after communion and a Mariachi choir also sang at the Mass.

“The Cathedral was standing room only. We fit 1,500 people inside and there were probably about 1,000 people outside,” he said. “Wherever we could put a body we put a body.”

After the Mass was over, Seamon said the Band played on the steps of the Cathedral in front of thousands of fans. The San Antonio police then cleared the streets and the band marched a mile to the stadium.

“It looked like the beginning of the New York City marathon,” he said. “Anywhere from ten to fifteen thousand people followed the Band to the stadium.”

While Seamon said it is impossible to replicate Notre Dame Stadium, he said the people of San Antonio helped create a home-like atmosphere.

“The people were great, they opened up their arms and welcomed us. It felt like home away from home,” he said. “They dressed up the inside of the stadium, all the banners said ‘Go Irish.'”

While much of the talk about Notre Dame’s game in San Antonio was centered on the recruitment of Texas athletes, Seamon said that was only one small component of the school’s decision to play there.

“This whole idea came up in 2005 when the NCCA allowed teams to play 12 games per season. We knew we’d have seven home games in South Bend and then started looking at playing an eighth on the road,” he said.

Seamon said the city of San Antonio campaigned to host the first game of this nature, and it fell into the schedule well.

“The people of San Antonio made a very good pitch for this to happen, and the [Alamodome] had a lot of structure in place that could accommodate a crowd,” he said.
Seamon also said traveling to San Antonio was a perfect way to travel to a different area of the country than the schedule normally permits.

“We don’t get to certain parts of the county on a regular basis and we wanted to replicate [game day] to those who don’t come to South Bend,” he said.