The Norman Transcript

September 29, 2013

Notre Dame Stadium thick with tradition

By Clay Horning
The Norman Transcript

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — One of the better pregame moments at Owen Field arrives when the Sooner starters introduce themselves on the giant video board above the south end zone. That didn’t happen at Notre Dame Stadium and the primary reason is pretty simple.

Notre Dame Stadium can handle a little more than 80,000 fans. Other than that, it is decidedly less modern than even a fair number of high school stadiums in Oklahoma.

There is no giant video board, or even a large scoreboard. There are two very small boards, facing each other at opposite ends of the stadium, only displaying the time, down, distance, line of scrimmage and time outs remaining.

Further, the number of luxury boxes remains zero. The stadium, which opened in 1930, looks its age. Venerable is the best description, though charmingly venerable seems like a stretch.

History: The stadium likely remains lost in time as a nod to the Fighting Irish’s glorious history, which drips in every direction.

There’s Touchdown Jesus looking down upon the field. There are statues of five ex-Irish coaches at different points outside the stadium: Knute Rockne (North Tunnel), Dan Devine (Gate A), Ara Parseghian (Gate B), Frank Leahy (Gate C), Lou Holtz (Gate D).

Inside the press box are oversized reproductions of magazine covers depicting Irish football. Among them are 28 Sports Illustrated covers, only one of which also includes OU (sort of). 

The issue date is Oct. 29, 1956 and Notre Dame’s Paul Hornung is on the cover, which also reads, “Paul Hornung: He leads the Irish against Oklahoma; scouting reports on the two teams.”

The coverage is pretty amazing considering Notre Dame was already 1-3 heading into that game, had just lost 47-14 to Michigan State and would go on to lose 40-0 to Oklahoma.

Another interesting cover is The Sporting News from Dec. 16, 2002, in which Irish coach Ty Willingham is named the magazine’s Sportsman of the Year. It was Willingham’s first season and the Irish were 10-2. 

They went on to lose the Gator Bowl 28-6, go 5-7 in 2003 and 6-5 in 2004. Willingham was fired, then hired by Washington where he failed to post a winning season in four tries. 

Sooner fans everywhere: It was pretty clear OU sold out its allotment of tickets. Sooner fans claimed two swaths of seating, the larger one southeast corner’s upper level,  from Sections 113 to 119, and a smaller one surrounding the lower entrance to Section 13.

Yet more interesting were many pockets of crimson and cream surrounded by Irish fans. Those fans had to have secured tickets originally intended for Irish consumption.

Coverage: Five newspapers sent multiple reporters to Saturday’s game: three from Oklahoma (The Transcript, The Tulsa World and The Oklahoman) and two from Indiana (South Bend Tribune, Fort Wayne Journal Gazette). The Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun Times both had a single reporter in the press box, as did USA Today.

Still in South Bend: Gerry Faust became famous for taking over Notre Dame’s football program in 1981, coming direct from the high school ranks, where he’d gone 178-23-2 at Cincinnati’s Moeller High School. Faust went 30-26-1 over five seasons and resigned before he could be fired. Saturday, not only was he in the press box watching the game, but according to the press box seating chart, he controlled 11 seats, well more than any media organization covering the game.