Notre Dame hoping fans are ready to take a staND


It’s hardly newsworthy to mention the fact that Notre Dame Stadium isn’t the most daunting home field advantage in college football. Between welcoming fans, overly protective ushers, and a geriatric portion of the fanbase that spends most of the game sitting on their thumbs, it’s been far too easy for opponents to walk into South Bend and exit with a victory.

The Irish have put together a mediocre 17-16 record over the past five seasons at home. The laundry list of ugly losses is far from impressive: Navy (twice at home), Air Force, Syracuse, UConn, Tulsa, and South Florida. All games you’d expect Notre Dame to win easily.

Make no mistake, the Irish didn’t lose those games because fans weren’t loud enough. They lost because the brand of football that’s taken place over the past few years has been about as unenthusiastic as the 80,000 fans passively supporting it.

But athletic director Jack Swarbrick has decided to be proactive about the demise of Notre Dame’s home field advantage. Last October, Notre Dame started piping in music during the games. It might have been a rough start (I’m not sure Crazy Train will ever be played again without a few people snickering), but the athletic department is committed to helping the Irish win by helping to elevate the crowd noise.

Eric Hansen of the South Bend Tribune spoke with Swarbrick about the challenges that come with trying to do the illogical: Making Notre Dame a less pleasant place.

“You have to change the culture,” Swarbrick told Hansen. “The ushers are often reacting to a request from somebody else who wants the person to shut up and sit down — and that’s what we have to get to. That’s what we’re trying to change.

“We still want to be the most welcoming place in the country. But I don’t want athletic directors telling me, ‘We love playing here,’ which is what they say to me with some frequency.”

Over at Strong and True, the official Notre Dame football blog, senior associate athletic director John Heisler announced Notre Dame’s official intentions to fix the problem: Take a StaND.

Notre Dame Stadium, its ushers and other University ambassadors have had a long history of extending hospitality to visiting teams. It’s common, particularly when an opponent plays in Notre Dame Stadium for the first time, for visiting fans to remark on the welcoming atmosphere they find.

Swarbrick would like to see that welcome end once the opening kickoff is in the air. He’d like to see a change to the 17-16 home record Irish teams have recorded over the last five seasons combined.

If you’re paying attention this weekend and in the weeks to come, you are likely to come across the phrase “Take A StaND.” It’s a subtle, yet pointed, way of encouraging fans at all Irish events to become more participatory.

Notre Dame students have participated in a long tradition of standing throughout the entire football game at Notre Dame Stadium—and that group generally makes its share of noise. However, students make up only about 10,000 fans out of Notre Dame Stadium’s 80,795 capacity. So there’s plenty of room for assistance in the decibel category.

Midway through the 2011 season, Notre Dame introduced recorded music (mostly on opponent third downs) to the in-game experience at Notre Dame Stadium. Expect that to continue this fall, with the Irish marketing staff tweaking the plan with three 2011 home games of experience now under its belt.

The 2012 also season marks a celebration of 125 years of football at the University of Notre Dame. You’ll see the logo marking that celebration just about everywhere. That means there are 125 years worth of reasons to throw a season-long party.

Long-time rival Purdue visits Notre Dame Stadium today to open the 2012 Irish home season. The Boilermakers won here in 2004, but, prior to that game, you have to go all the way back to 1974 to find a Purdue win in Notre Dame Stadium.

By Swarbrick’s tastes, that’s more like it.

So, any time you have a chance today, take a staND and cheer for the Irish. It just might make a difference.

Of course, the elephant left in the room is the product on the field. Put quite simply, win more games and the crowd will have a much easier job doing their part. Brian Kelly already knows that’s on his shoulders.

“I think it’s up to me to provide a better atmosphere in that stadium,” Kelly said. “We win games, it will be nice and loud.”

A boisterous home crowd and the Irish taking back their home field? It’s going to be hard to find anyone that can’t stand up and cheer for that.

Irish add commitment from CB Donte Vaughn

Donte Vaughn

Notre Dame’s recruiting class grew on Monday. And in adding 6-foot-3 Memphis cornerback Donte Vaughn, it grew considerably.

The Irish added another jumbo-sized skill player in Vaughn, beating out a slew of SEC offers for the intriguing cover man. Vaughn picked Notre Dame over offers from Auburn, LSU, Miami, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Tennessee and Texas A&M among others.

He made the announcement on Monday, his 18th birthday:

It remains to be seen if Vaughn can run like a true cornerback. But his length certainly gives him a skill-set that doesn’t currently exist on the Notre Dame roster.

Interestingly enough, Vaughn’s commitment comes a cycle after Brian VanGorder made news by going after out-of-profile coverman Shaun Crawford, immediately offering the 5-foot-9 cornerback after taking over for Bob Diaco, who passed because of Crawford’s size. An ACL injury cut short Crawford’s freshman season before it got started, but not before Crawford already proved he’ll be a valuable piece of the Irish secondary for years to come.

Vaughn is another freaky athlete in a class that already features British Columbia’s Chase Claypool. With a safety depth chart that’s likely turning over quite a bit in the next two seasons, Vaughn can clearly shift over if that’s needed, though Notre Dame adding length like Vaughn clearly points to some of the shifting trends after Richard Sherman went from an average wide receiver to one of the best cornerbacks in football, and Vaughn will be asked to play on the outside.

Vaughn is the 15th member of Notre Dame’s 2016 signing class. He is the fifth defensive back, joining safeties D.J. Morgan, Jalen Elliott and Spencer Perry along with cornerback Julian Love. The Irish project to take one more.

With Notre Dame expecting another huge recruiting weekend with USC coming to town, it’ll be very interesting to see how the Irish staff close out this recruiting class.




Days before facing Notre Dame, USC coach Steve Sarkisian to take leave of absence


When Notre Dame takes on rival USC on Saturday, they’ll be facing a Trojans team without a head coach. USC athletic director Pat Haden announced today that effective immediately, head coach Steve Sarkisian will be taking an indefinite leave of absence. Offensive coordinator Clay Helton will be interim head coach.

While the details are still coming into focus, multiple reports point to another incident with alcohol. Haden himself said that he made the decision after speaking with Sarkisian.

“I called Steve and talked to him. It was very clear to me that he is not healthy. I asked him to take an indefinite leave of absence,” Haden said, according to multiple Los Angeles media reports.

Sarkisian’s decision-making and alcohol use came into the spotlight this August when the head coach made inappropriate statements at a large booster event. Sarkisian addressed the media after the incident, acknowledged mixing medication with alcohol, and vowed to seek help and not to make the same mistake again.

Today’s incident appears to be a relapse, and one that requires immediate attention. Helton ran the team’s practice today and steps back into an interim head coaching role, a job he handled after the Trojans fired Lane Kiffin and Ed Orgeron left after not being awarded the permanent job.

“Fortunately or unfortunately, I have been in this situation before,” Helton said. “Once again, I’m very fortunate to have a group of first-class kids that are extremely talented and want to do something special here.”

This is the second major sports persona to leave his season to seek treatment in recent weeks. New York Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia left the team to seek treatment for alcohol issues. The Trojans are coming off an upset loss to Washington on Thursday night, losing 17-12 as a 17-point favorite.