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Notre Dame football’s 273 home game sellout streak to end Saturday

| Thursday, November 14, 2019

Notre Dame football’s home sell-out streak of 273 games will end this weekend as the Irish take on Navy.

According to the South Bend Tribune, this Saturday will mark the first time since Thanksgiving Day 1973 that Notre Dame Stadium will not be sold out for a home football game.

Annie Smierciak | The Observer

Fans watch the Notre Dame football game against the University of Michigan in the stadium on Sept. 1, 2018.

The current streak is the second longest in NCAA history, per the Tribune. The only streak that is longer is the University of Nebraska’s run of 373 sellouts, which is still active.

Athletics director Jack Swarbrick said the streak itself was not a priority for the University, but rather the environment that accompanies home games.

“It was never sort of important to me to keep it alive, but I understand why other people thought so,” Swarbrick said in the Tribune article. “It’s a point of distinction to a lot of people and our fans. … For me it’s always been: What’s the stadium environment like? Are we creating a great environment for our team and for our student-athletes? That you can say it’s also sold out is sort of a byproduct of that.”

According to the Tribune, the sell-out streak has teetered on the brink of termination several times in the last several seasons. The Tribune referred to “creative” efforts on the part of the University to keep it going. Group ticket sales helped rectify the issue, Swarbrick said.

“Group sales were a big part of keeping the streak going, too,” he said. “We’d go to somebody who was ‘a friend of Notre Dame’ and say, ‘Gee, can you help us with this game? Can you buy 50 tickets and distribute them to your employees?’ That would be an example.”

Generally, such situations arise late in the season — especially in November, the Tribune reported. In past years, when there was only one game in November, Notre Dame could focus on finding buyers for the extra seats. But with three November home games against middling opponents, such a strategy would have proved ineffective, the article said.

Notre Dame’s national reach is another factor contributing to the end of the streak, Swarbrick said.

“When we’d have one game, we could clearly focus on it,” Swarbrick said in the article. “This is a circumstance, where you’ve got games in consecutive weeks in mid to late November, and so you don’t have some of the same strategies available to you. … And because of the number of our fans that travel (a great) distance to the stadium, is just a challenge for us. It’s endemic to that schedule. And we knew it a year and a half ago, as we were looking forward, that you know what, that might be the time where the streak ends.”

The Tribune reported there has been some consternation with recent policy changes regarding ticket pricing. The school recently abandoned a system whereby all ticket prices were standard, regardless of seat location and opponent. Swarbrick defended the change on the grounds that it was fair to consumers.

“It was basically an equity argument,” he said in the article. “The person who sat high in the end zone and the person who sat on the 50-yard line shouldn’t pay the same amount. We wanted to discount and create a lower price for corner seats and upper seats, and adjust the premium seats in the other direction.”

The November game problem is not a temporary issue, Swarbrick said.

“You can say limit the home games in November, but then is that fair to your football team to make them travel so much at the end of a season?” he said in the article. “You’re balancing the competitive desire to put yourself in a position with the (College Football Playoff) versus the challenges of selling games.”

The Irish take on the Midshipmen of the U.S. Naval Academy at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.

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