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Editorial Board: Acclimate to the ticket policy

The Observer Editorial Board | Friday, April 26, 2013

Ever since the Leprechaun Legion sent out an email proclaiming a general-admission student ticket policy for the next football season, campus has been buzzing with mostly negative comments about the change. Many students are concerned the Notre Dame football experience will change for the worse. We fear football Saturdays won’t be the same if we have to worry about having less tailgating time, losing friends in the stadium or fighting over prime seating. People have been outspoken about their dissent, and a petition has circulated in an attempt to reverse the policy change.  
The problem is not that the student body disagrees with the Leprechaun Legion’s goal for the policy change, increasing spirity and energy in the stadium. Everyone wants the football team to feel supported and the most ardent fans to be at the very front cheering them on. But, was altering the ticket system from a functional, assigned-seating plan to a general-admission policy the only solution?
The Leprechaun Legion could have used a variety of more positive incentives to encourage students to get to the stadium on time. For example, it could bring the Leprechaun and the cheerleaders out earlier, play live music, distribute free T-shirts or invite special guests to pump up the crowd. Notre Dame students don’t have a problem with generating hype on game days. The issue is that this policy introduces a sense of friction and competition into the fan experience.
The conflict also stems from a lack of communication between the decision makers and the student body. The decision was made by a small, insulated group of students who don’t seem to reflect the majority opinion of the student body, and this lack of transparency has been a primary source of frustration on campus. When it comes to football, tradition is one of the most important aspects of our four years at Notre Dame. Any change will meet some kind of reaction or backlash from the student body, especially when it is unexpected, but the reaction to the policy change probably would have been less severe had students at large been given the opportunity to weigh in on the decision.
Despite the negativity surrounding this issue, the Legion has made it clear they will not change the policy. Since there is nothing we can do to change it at this point, we have two options. One option is to continue to complain and to berate the Legion, or one can start planning how to acclimate to the new gameday environment.  
For example, in order to avoid losing your friends during the rush into the Stadium, it might be a good idea to walk in at the same time to make sure you sit together, since saving seats is technically not allowed. Because the cell-phone reception on game days is less than reliable, choose a meeting place somewhere inside the stadium to reconvene in case your group is separated.  
One of the most-vocalized concerns about the new policy is its expected minimization of the amount of time left for tailgating and visiting with family and friends before games. One logical solution that still allows for a decent seat in the stadium is to start the festivities earlier. Let your visitors know about the new policy so you can stop by their tailgates before you would have seen them in past years. This way, everyone will have just as much time to spend enjoying the gameday atmosphere as they had before.  
In order to accommodate large groups of people who want to sit together, go into the stadium expecting to do a little negotiating. Since no one will have a claim to one specific seat, everyone will need to be flexible so all can enjoy the game with their friends. If that means your group has to move up a few benches so the entire first floor of Carroll Hall can stand together, take the high road and make the move.
That also means those in large groups need to be as polite as possible. Don’t be obnoxious and try to squeeze where you obviously cannot fit. Except for the final few rows of the student section, there really aren’t any bad seats in Notre Dame’s relatively small stadium. One of the benefits of this change is that students aren’t fixed to one spot and will be able to be more social. Who knows, you might make some new friends.
Finally, part of the reason the Legion implemented this new policy is because of its success at other schools, such as Ohio State University and the University of Oregon. If you know anyone at schools with general admission tickets, find out what strategies they use to make the most of their gameday experience.  
Even though we do not always approve of change right away, traditions here clearly have been molded so they can meet the needs of the ever-changing student body. At first there was a negative reaction to canned music in the stadium, but now, when “Crazy Train” blasts from the speakers, the entire student section is bursting with energy and good spirits.
Similarly, this change might receive negative attention at the moment, but years from now, it might become just another gameday tradition to go into the stadium an hour and a half before the game, listening to music during a mini pep rally before kickoff.
No matter how much our campus is rooted in tradition, the passage of time means sometimes these traditions will be tweaked. Although next football season might be different because of the new policy, hopefully we will learn to accept it as a piece of Notre Dame’s very special gameday experience.    
After all, it’s more about who you sit with than how close you are to the field.