New additions to old traditions: Freeman to engage with fans ahead of first home game

Marcus Freeman will engage with fans at the Rockne Rally on South Quad Friday night and at the Victory March event on Library Lawn this Saturday prior to his first home game as head coach for the Irish.

The events are newly named, “enhanced” traditions for Notre Dame fans to engage in this weekend, associate director for fan experience Darin Ottaviani said.

“We’re excited to commemorate Coach Freeman’s first home game with some fun and new fan experience opportunities,” he said.

Rocking by Rockne

Sponsored by Dillon Hall, the Rockne Rally will begin at 5:30 p.m. and will include Freeman’s appearance, performances by the Notre Dame Band, Cheer team, Pom Squad and Dillon Hall-organized hype events.

Branded the “Rockne Rally” for the first time this year, the rally is a running tradition for first home game weekends on South Quad.

“It’s just a fun way to kick off the season and it’s more student-centric this year than it’s been in the past,” Ottaviani said.

Dawson Kaiser, president of Dillon Hall, said he and his fellow organizers are excited about the fun activities they planned.

“I think there’s going to be a good showing and a lot of crowd involvement, which we’re really excited about,” Kaiser said. “We didn’t want to make it just about Dillon and go up there and do a bunch of skits, we wanted to include the dorms as much as we could.”

Two specific events that were planned for the rally were the “Are You Smarter Than a Dillon Freshman?” game show and the “makeover challenge” where “we’re going to have girls put makeup on different guys from other dorms,” Kaiser said.

The Dillon Hall programming portion of the rally, Kaiser said, will open at 5:30 p.m. and the rally’s other events will take over at 6:15 p.m.

Marching to Victory with Coach Freeman

Formerly referred to as “the Player Walk” where football players walked from the Guglielmino Athletics Complex on home game days across Library Lawn and into the stadium, this year’s “Victory March” will instead begin at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart and include a speech by Freeman on Library Lawn, Ottaviani said.

The event organizers took the Player Walk event, “and now enhanced it,” Ottaviani said.

“We’ll have a sound system, it’ll be a bigger event and again a chance for Coach, who wanted to engage with the fans on the way into the stadium, to be able to do that,” Ottaviani said.

The event will also feature a musical performance as the football team makes its way to Library Lawn. Prior to the team appearing at the stage at 12:15 p.m., the Glee Club will perform at 11:30 a.m.

Similarly, for 7:30 p.m. home games, the Glee Club will perform on the stage at 4:30 p.m. and the football team will arrive at 5:15 p.m.

Ottaviani credited Freeman for much of the engaging activities planned for home football games this season.

“It’s always had a great following of people, and now we’re excited to just make it more of an event where there’s speaking and engagement because that’s what the coach’s goal was,” Ottaviani said.

Tunnel experience access

This year, fans will also be able to access to the North Tunnel at Notre Dame Stadium throughout the football season, assistant athletics director Juli Schreiber said in an email.

“For the first time in two years, we are opening the North Tunnel with two types of experiences,” she said.

 The “North Tunnel Experience” will be held on select dates throughout the season, not including home game weekends, she said, and the “Friday Tunnel Experience” will take place on home game Fridays, Schreider said.

The former will provide fans with photo opportunities including the North Tunnel entrance, the visiting team locker room and the iconic “Play Like a Champion” sign.

Similarly, guests will be able to take photos on the North End Zone and at the North Tunnel entrance for the Friday Tunnel Experience for a $10 fee benefiting the Rockne Athletics Fund. In her email, Schreiber said gifts to the fund “allow student athletes at the University of Notre Dame to be champions in the classroom, community and competition.”

Contact Liam Price at