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Alumni Association hosts events for Football Fridays

| Friday, September 28, 2018

Each home football game weekend, Notre Dame attracts many spectators, many of whom are alumni. Of course, these alumni come to see the football games themselves, but the Alumni Association also offers events for those in town looking for other activities.

Michael Sullivan, an alumnus of Notre Dame and the senior director of alumni programs, said the Alumni Association aims to connect alumni to each other no matter where they are in their life.

“Our mission is to connect people to each other and to the University to support them throughout their life, wherever they are geographically, whatever their affinity to the University and whatever stage of life they’re in,” Sullivan said.

Events sponsored by the Alumni Association during game weekends help to foster these connections between alumni, current students and fans. According to Sullivan, the signature event for home game weekends is the “Football Fridays at the Eck” series, which sees about 1,500 people.

“It’s essentially a fan-fest, so between 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and it features live music,” Sullivan said. “ … The area between the bookstore and the Eck Visitors Center kind of becomes a plaza for a fan-fest, and then we also have seating inside our building as well. We do interviews and we have food and drink available, so it’s a nice event.”

During this “fan-fest,” the NBC commercial that typically runs during games, titled “What Would You Fight For?” is previewed, and the student profiled in the commercial is often interviewed to discuss his or her work on campus and why he or she was selected.

“We debut the commercial, but the rest of the country doesn’t see it until it runs on NBC Saturday,” Sullivan said. “We also do an interview series called ‘Catching Up With …,’ and we’ll usually interview two former athletes or coaches who are back in town for the game, … Notre Dame celebrities more generally, … somebody connected to the Notre Dame family that’s related to sports and celebrity.”

Some past “Catching Up With …” guests have included Lou Holtz, Hannah Storm and Dick Vitale. Also during these “Football Friday” events, there is a pre-game analysis done during “Chalk Talk with Bill and Bill,” who are two former Notre Dame assistant football coaches.

“So throughout the day there’s different featured items, and in between it’s just kind of a game day atmosphere and we’ll have alumni and friends from all over the country stop by,” Sullivan said. “Sometimes visiting fans are on campus and they’re not sure what’s going on and they find a way into the visitor’s center and then within the visitor center we highlight different parts of our office and the programs we offer for our alumni, like our travel program or clubs.”

The “alumni and friends” aspect of the Alumni Association is an important one, Sullivan said. Anyone, even if they are not directly connected to Notre Dame, is welcome at these events.

“Our mission is really to connect people to each other for alumni and friends,” he said. “That’s an important part of who we are and what we do. So you don’t have to be a graduate to be part of the Notre Dame alumni clubs network. We have some clubs where the president of the club is not even an alum.”

Saturdays feature less events from the Alumni Association, although they host a young alumni mimosa bar twice a year at larger games. If they are not hosting an event like the mimosa bar, the Alumni Association support the Notre Dame clubs around the country if they come back to campus for the games or host tailgates.

For away games, the atmosphere and events are slightly different. The Notre Dame clubs from each particular area that the away game is at will take the lead and plan events instead of the Notre Dame Alumni Association directly running the events.

“On Saturday the local folks host tailgaters, and we just try to help facilitate that for them, but they really take the lead and do the planning and those kinds of things,” Sullivan said. “So depending on where the game is and kind of how big the game is, there might be other events too.”

Sullivan said the draw back to campus for international alumni, and other alumni living far away, is unique to Notre Dame, and the Alumni Association aims to make them feel back at home.

“We just want people, no matter what, to know they can always come by the visitor center,” Sullivan said. “That’s their home on campus as alumni and friends of the University.”

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