Stats.

Notre Dame has an undergraduate population of about 8,000 and a graduate student population of about 2,000. Notre Dame Stadium has capacity for 80,795 spectators. Until 1996, Rock’s House had seats for 59,075 fans. The stadium was renovated in 1997 for the first time since its dedication in 1930, and the University added 21,000 seats in an upper bowl. Notre Dame has sold out every home game since 1966 except for the Thanksgiving Day game against Air Force in 1973. If we begin in 1973, Notre Dame has a 214 game sell-out streak.

Let’s do some math. We’ll assume that all of the 8,000 undergraduates and all of the 2,000 graduate students go to football games. That makes 10,000 Notre Dame people. It’s a very high estimate, considering that probably 1/3 of the junior class is abroad and that many grad students elect not to attend football games. But let’s just call it 10,000 and assume that the difference is made up for with various faculty and staff members who get football tickets.

The size of the student body has grown over the years, but to make my calculations a little simpler, I’m going to leave the student number at 10,000. I’m also going to assume that Notre Dame played 6 home games a year. I know that hasn’t always been the case (and now with this crazy 7-4-1 scheduling, who knows how many home games we’ll play in the future), but I’m no math major. 10,000 students, 6 home games.

In the 24 years of sold-out games in the old stadium, Notre Dame welcomed 49,075 visitors per game. At 6 games a year, the yearly visitor count is 294,450. Over 24 years of sold-out games, Notre Dame hosted 7,066,800 fans. After the stadium’s capacity was expanded for the 1997 season, the numbers change. 13 seasons of football have been played in the new stadium. 420,450 visitors come to Notre Dame each year, over the course of 6 games. Multiply that number by 13 seasons, and the grand total of new stadium visitors reaches 5,465,850. So since the 1973 season, Notre Dame Stadium has hosted 12,532,630 people.

I’m going through these numbers so closely because I really want to give a scope of the scale of a Notre Dame football weekend. Over 70,000 people descend on campus for a few days at a time, a few weekends each year. That is a mass of humanity. Some of the visitors are fans of the opposing team, but the majority of the visitors are Notre Dame fans. Fighting Irish. Domers. Alums. Subway alums. Rudy-wannabes. High school kids. Preschool kids. Parents. Grandparents. All of them come, and all of them experience the magic of a football weekend at Notre Dame.

For six weekends each fall, Notre Dame welcomes an entire city of people. The campus population septuples for two days, three at best. I’ve heard it said that Notre Dame becomes “Catholic Disneyland” on football weekends. The rituals, the traditions of football weekends take on an almost-sacred character. It’s a pilgrimage for football fans and Catholics alike.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Stats.

  1. Mike Holsinger

    A lot of people say football’s like a religion. If that’s true, the stadium would be St. Peter’s Basilica. There’s no more sacred place. And 12 million pilgrims would probably agree.

  2. Dan Jukic

    Amy, what’s it like for students nowadays during the football weekend swarm? I remember resenting so strongly the throngs you list. We felt invaded, trampled, impeded — or maybe that was just me.

    So how do students feel about the pilgrims and the pilgrimage? To connect to your other post, are you like Br. Andre, minding the campus doors and welcoming its guests? Or are you like I was, selfish, myopic and resentful?

    Funny thing is: I still don’t prefer football weekends to non-football weekends. Our one and only football trip back a few years ago was exhausting due to the crowds but we did have a blast watching the game in Reckers. Yes, that’s right: we went to campus to hang out while others in our party went to the game. That was kind of cool because I do love the energy of campus on game day, if not the crowds.

    Anyway, just curious what the student reaction to the influx is for this generation’s doorkeepers.

    • You make a really interesting connection.

      I think that the administration hopes students will be doorkeepers for all of the weekend visitors, and some undergrads live up to that ideal. Not to pat myself on the back or anything, but I think the admissions tour guide crew does a nice job of welcoming folks to campus. However, many (most?) students seem to feel a bit resentful about the changes that ND has made to some aspects of football weekends to accommodate the visiting crowds. The best example of this dissatisfaction is the turmoil around pep rallies.

      Last year, ND moved the pep rallies from the JACC to Irish Green, a lawn behind DPAC (sort of before Eddy St. Commons). Theoretically, the change was made because the JACC was under construction during football season and we had to have a non-Stepan Center venue for rallies. But, eager at the prospect of turning a profit at the pep rallies, ND made Irish Green a family-friendly place to buy foot and ND sweatshirts. As a result, the pep rallies became completely Disneyfied and lost a lot of the student-focus that they had in the JACC. Students were upset with the changes, so they stopped going to the rallies.

      This year, the administration, Hall Presidents’ Council, and the football office have joined forces to make pep rallies more student-friendly (as they should be). Brian Kelly has been integral in making this transition, and in an effort to get dorms to turn up, he has promised to visit 7 dorms after football season is over–a nice incentive for students to show up and make noise. These 7 dorms are winners of the weekly pep rally spirit contest, as chosen by the heads of HPC.

      A cynical part of me wonders if maybe the university just wants the students to show up with dorm shirts and flags flying because it makes for good publicity and cool photography (again, playing to the visitors), but I’d rather be manipulated knowing that there is at least some effort going in to making the rallies more student-focused.

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