To the Notre Dame faithful:
“Do you want to be good or do you want to be great?” was a question often posed at the O’Neill family dinner table growing up, and while so simplistic in nature, it is a question I feel is applicable to the Notre Dame fanbase after contemplating what we all witnessed on Saturday night against the University of Georgia Bulldogs. Before I go any further, I’ll preface my discussion by saying that I am a Notre Dame “diehard” — I went to 24 of my last 25 games as a student. Since graduating in 2014, I have traveled to see ND play at Florida State, Clemson and Texas, I could probably tell you everything you would want to ever know about all 85 scholarship players — each player’s height and weight, where they went to high school and their Rivals rating. While I do not expect each Notre Dame fan, student or alum to be as passionate as I am (maybe I have too much time on my hands), I do expect our fans to provide a great atmosphere and a home field advantage for our guys when we play big games. On Saturday night against the Bulldogs, I do not believe we did this.
Much has been written about the Georgia crowd and their 30,000 plus fans invading Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday night. It was the first game that Georgia has played North of the Mason-Dixon line since 1965. As a fanbase, should we not be as excited (or more) as those same Georgia fans to be hosting a team from the SEC, the preeminent conference in college football, for the first time since 2005? Should we not want to prove to the rest of the college football world that we can hang with the teams from the SEC? Saturday’s “Sea of Red” certainly proved that our fan base certainly has some work to do. Imagine a Notre Dame player running out of the tunnel Saturday night to a near-even split of ND and Georgia fans. When a recruit and his parents Sunday morning ask, “Why was there so much red in the crowd last night? Is it like this for every game?” — what do we expect head coach Brian Kelly to say? Kirby Smart after the game said, “Our QB was able to go to his own cadence.” I dream of 1988, when Michigan refused to snap the ball because Notre Dame Stadium was so loud. Think about that for a moment — Notre Dame Stadium has gone from being raucous enough that Hall of Fame Michigan head coach Bo Schembechler refused to snap the ball to UGA true freshman Jake Fromm being able to use his own snap count in his first college start on the road under the lights Saturday night.
I was probably most disappointed Friday night when I saw less than 100 students in attendance for the pep rally. Do we expect our players, fans and administration to believe that we “have the best student body in the country” when less than 2 percent of undergrads go to the pep rally for the biggest game of the season? A message to the ND Students — you set the tone, it starts with you.
And so I will leave the Notre Dame faithful with a challenge: Do you want to be good or do you want to be great? We can complain all we want about our team losing some close games over the last few seasons, but let’s control the controllable — let’s provide a great (not good) environment for our guys when they run out of that tunnel. When USC comes into town and ND is 5-1 later on this season, will Sam Darnold be able to use his own cadence? Or will it be so loud, people will be walking out of the stadium thinking of 1988? The choice is yours.
Be great. Go Irish.
The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.