O’Neill Hall seniors host ‘bus tailgate’ before every home football game
Courtney Becker | Friday, November 18, 2016
While tailgating is considered a staple of a Notre Dame home football game, many students don’t have a consistent tailgate to go to every week. In 2013, a group of seniors from O’Neill Hall solved this problem by purchasing a renovated school bus to use to create a consistent tailgate at which all students are welcome.
The bus tailgate has become a tradition for O’Neill Hall, with a new group of juniors buying the bus from the outgoing owners at the end of every school year.
“The tradition is an LLC, [a Limited Liability Corporation],” senior bus co-owner Tom Taylor said. “So there are shares and we’ll sell our shares to the incoming class. We pay the incorporation fee, we pay the insurance fee, we pay the costs of tailgating supplies every week. We split it among all the seniors.”
Taylor said registering the bus as an LLC has made the tradition easier to continue in multiple ways.
“It removes liability from all the guys involved, and it’s just easier to pass it down that way,” he said. “It was incorporated three or four years ago. The guys bought an old school bus, fixed it up and one of their dads was a lawyer. … It’s registered as the ‘Bus Beverage Provider, LLC,’ and it’s officially listed among the bars of the state of Indiana or wherever it’s registered.”
Sophomore O’Neill Hall resident Liam Bryson said he appreciates that the bus serves as a unifying tool for the dorm.
“I love the men of O’Neill — they’re one of my favorite parts of Notre Dame. And the bus always brings O’Neill together,” he said. “There’s a really interesting section dynamic in O’Neill where it’s kind of like you’re a part of O’Neill, but you’re mainly a part of your section. Your section is your really tight-knit group and you’re always with them, so this is one of the few things that I feel like really unifies all the sections.”
Although investing in the bus doesn’t make sense financially, Taylor said juniors each year still look forward to putting in the time and money to pass the tradition down.
“All the kids I looked up to when I was a freshman … they had they tailgates, they were the ones who were having us to their houses and showing us the ropes,” Taylor said. “We were all pretty pumped to get involved and we were all warned very clearly that it was a black hole for money.”
“None of us really have that, particularly, to blow [on the bus],” he added. “But it’s worth it for the fun.”
Bryson said he plans on investing in the bus as a senior because of the importance of the tradition to him.
“I feel like that responsibility is kind of passed down from class to class,” Bryson said. “Your freshman through junior years you’re kind of given that gift of having the bus be there every time, and so when you finally get to be a senior it’s kind of your turn to step up to the plate.”
One aspect of the bus Bryson is disappointed to miss out on is traveling with the bus to away games, he said.
“I do wish that I could have been a part of the bus traveling,” he said. “That sounds like so much fun — getting together with a bunch of guys and getting on the bus and traveling to a road game. … I know they haven’t done it over the last few years due to the engine always breaking down.”
Senior bus owner Max Walsh said it is unlikely the bus will ever be traveling farther than Innovation Park again.
“With each week being so expensive just to put everything on, it’s hard to put more money into improving the bus, which is why she’s gotten worse and worse,” Walsh said. “We were going to try and take it last year to the Kentucky Derby, and the kid that wanted to drive it clipped a car making a right turn. Then we didn’t have anyone that wanted to drive.”
Still, the bus remains a staple of O’Neill Hall.
“It’s definitely something that is very apparent when [first-year students] move into O’Neill, I think,” Taylor said. “It’s pretty big because it’s a relatively new dorm so it’s not like we have a million traditions. The ones that we do have are pretty well ingrained.”
Bryson said he considers the bus to be one of O’Neill’s defining attributes.
“I do think it is a signature keystone of O’Neill — something that everybody in O’Neill knows about,” Bryson said. “I feel like it’s really well known around campus that there is the O’Neill Bus.”
The bus is not just important to O’Neill Hall residents, Walsh said, as the owners welcome students from many dorms throughout campus to the tailgate each game.
“I went there when I was a freshman and I had a lot of fun,” Walsh said. “Now we own it and so it’s fun, hopefully for everyone else. … We try to welcome everybody.”
This year, the bus has been absent from its usual tailgate location at Innovation Park, instead remaining at an owner’s house for tailgates.
“Right now it stays at one of our guys’ houses on Willis Street between games,” Taylor said. “Since they’re doing construction at Innovation Park, parking passes have been less available so we’ve been having the tailgates there, at the same house.”
Although this new location makes it more difficult for students to attend the bus tailgates, Taylor said there is still a strong turnout every week.
“When it was in Innovation Park a lot more people came just because it was so visible,” he said. “There’s all the tailgates happening right there, so people would wander over. [Still] O’Neill guys are mostly outnumbered — in a good way — when the bus is pumping.”