As Nevada prepares to make a historic first visit to Notre Dame stadium, head coach Chris Ault is forced to deal with a question. How to deal with the rich tradition and history of his week one opponent? For the most part, Ault insists its a game just like all the rest.
“Travel and play a football game,” Ault would only say in a press conference.
But while Ault tries to keep the team focused and not in awe of the history beneath the Golden Dome, he also has done his best to at embrace the trip to South Bend. That’s why Ault is making a minor adjustment to the game week schedule. On Friday night, instead of the customary movie, the Wolfpack will be having dinner and a tour at the College Football Hall of Fame.
“We’re going to the Hall of Fame, they’ll get to tour the museum and have dinner there,” Ault said, who is returning for the first time since he was inducted into the hall in 2000. “It’s a chance to see the history of college football. We don’t have to go look at a movie — that’s what we do every Friday. It’ll be a lot more fun. It’ll break the monotony.”
Ault is far from the first coach to deal with the mystique of Notre Dame. Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden has always believed there was something special about coming to South Bend. Bowden even felt like that aura was part of the reason his Seminoles lost the classic matchup in 1993 to Lou Holtz’s Irish squad.
“Notre Dame has got the magic name in college football,” Bowden said later. “They always have in my lifetime, since Knute Rockne. If I were to look back, the Notre Dame game would have to be a very big one. You’re talking about the No. 1 tradition school in America.”
Pete Carroll has also talked about the aura of Notre Dame sometimes having a negative effect on his team’s performance. Carroll has talked openly about the mistakes he made preparing the mightily-favored Trojans during their 2005 last second escape, and how he thought talking up the traditions of Notre Dame might have played in the Irish’s favor.
(Since that meeting, Carroll’s made a concerted effort not to play up the tradition of Notre Dame. The results show he might be onto something…)
Ault seems to be hedging his bet during this trip. He’s not going to ignore the mystique and aura of the College Football Hall of Fame, which is a genuinely singular place to visit for football fans, but when it comes to Notre Dame, he’s going to go straight Curt Schilling.
“Mystique and Aura? Those are dancers at a nightclub,” Schilling said.