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  • A Question of Priorities

    by Mike Coffey

    Like most of you, the announcement yesterday of potential expansion / upgrade plans for Notre Dame Stadium caught me a bit by surprise. Given the efforts of our own NDRoman21 to do the same thing, it certainly wasn’t a foreign concept, but the desire to do something concrete certainly came out of the blue.

    There’s plenty to like about the design, provided that it doesn’t include a giant blaring television screen. I’ve never been opposed to luxury boxes, since they’re likely to draw the corporate-type, sit-on-their-hands-and-shush-you fans out of the lower bowl. I also see the value in giving the Stadium the capability of hosting a wider range of events, although I’d be interested to see what kind of events they had in mind. Nothing about the pictures looks untoward or otherwise garish, so I have no issues on a taste level.

    In fact, after perusing the plans and pictures and sampling some of the discussion on Rock’s House, I really was left with only one question:ND Stadium Plans

    This is going to be done after the basketball practice facility, right?

    You remember, the practice facility that was promised to Mike Brey and Muffet McGraw over 10 years ago? The one that replaces the cinder-box gym with embedded columns, and actually gives ND basketball players dedicated workout, meeting, training and recovery areas? The kind of place even programs who don’t have a history of success have built or are planning to build?

    I have to assume the answer to my question is “yes”. After all, how could it be otherwise? How could the pictures released today be anything but a slap in the face to Brey and McGraw — McGraw especially, given her team’s three straight trips to the Final Four — if somehow the multiple millions of dollars needed to upgrade Notre Dame Stadium for the second time in 20 years are sitting around available or otherwise easily accessible, while fundraising efforts for the much-needed practice facility fly so far under the radar you’d wonder if there’s even a radar?

    It has to be “yes”. How would it look if “right now, we’re nowhere close” on a basketball practice facility, with no conceptual drawings, money, or even a concrete plan, while designs like this can be brought out for public view? What would it say about Notre Dame’s actual commitment to basketball (as opposed to the talk-is-cheap version) if a major plan can be put together to buttress fundraising efforts for a heretofore unannounced plan for football but not for a going-on-15-years plan for hoops?

    There’s no way it can’t be “yes”. How could Jack Swarbrick look Mike Brey and Muffet McGraw in the eyes if it were not? How could he say with a straight face to Jerian Grant, Eric Atkins, Zach Auguste, Demetrius Jackson, Steve Vasturia, and all their teammates that Notre Dame is dedicated to championship-level basketball and wants to give them all the tools they need to succeed? What would Brey and McGraw say to recruits who saw the conditions of the Pit and then saw signs with the planned football expansion hanging right outside of it if their upgrade weren’t the higher priority?

    How can it not be “yes”? Plenty of men’s basketball programs make money for their schools, so an investment like that to improve the experience of the current student athletes and increase the chances of attracting more certainly isn’t unreasonable. Sure, football is the most popular sport on campus, but even the biggest football fan out there would admit a second stadium upgrade in 20 years when the basketball programs are going on 50+ in their concrete coffin is unreasonable. Non-money-capable sports like Fencing and Golf got significant facility upgrades because it was the right thing to do, not because dollars could be brought in as a result.

    Gotta be “yes”. Can’t be otherwise.

    Because if it is……………………

    27 Responses to “A Question of Priorities”

    1. This looks to me like a project designed primarily to enhance campus facilities in general, with a relatively minor effort to upgrade the stadium itself. It just happens that the stadium occupies prime real estate on campus, so it is a logical place to develop for necessary facilities on campus. I don’t think this is a slap in the face for the basketball program. That being said I can’t imagine that there would not be widespread support form alumni to build a new basketball practice facility!

    2. Talk about priorities, how is this unreasonable? Football brings in all the revenue. Football sells out every game. Football has an exclusive contract with NBC. You always find something to whine about. ND could win 3 football NCs in a row and you would be on here writing about how the bookstore is too crowded.

    3. John Cochtoastin says:

      What I don’t understand is why they don’t expand the seating upwards. Put another 20k seats in there and lets fill the place. As a subway alum I am not close enough to know what people’s thoughts are so I am genuinely interested why ND won’t get closer to 100k.

      • okerland says:

        Because the college market is getting harder and harder to sell tickets to. Last year despite an undefeated mark, the Ticket Office was still selling tickets the week of the Pitt game and Wake Forest game.

        Places like Tennessee are struggling to fill seats now that the team i struggling. ND can make more money by raising prices and creating demand rather than having empty unsold seats.

        • John Cochtoastin says:

          Thanks okerland, That makes sense. I went to the 2006 Penn State game with a bunch of Penn State guys and they were blown away with the generally modest game day experience. The fact that you have periods of time where your senses are not overwhelmed sends a message of sincerity. They enjoyed the fact that the game was the entertainment, and there was no effort to entertain you otherwise.

          The lack of a full assault on the senses is part of the charm to the stadium. It also sends the message that you as a fan are not a child requiring a constant prompting of your senses. If a campus with the Golden Dome, Touchdown Jesus, the Basilica and the Grotto is not enough to prompt your senses, well you are not able to be prompted. Austerity in the presence of those shrines is not only appropriate but is required.

    4. okerland says:

      If they wanted championship level basketball, Swarbrick would demand coaching staff changes like were done during Weis’ tenure. I want the basketball team to win as much as anyone but the disappointment the last two years should be met with more changes. A new practice facility may entice more recruits but if they aren’t taught how to play defense or wallow at the end of the bench, what good is it?

      • Mike Coffey says:

        And what does (a) a lack of a facility, and (b) the 13 years of broken promises regarding one say to potential coaching replacements?

        It’s not a case of “oh, well, we’ll just do it for the next guy.” The potential “next guys” know what side of the bread the butter is on here.

        • C. Carroll says:

          Football is the revenue driver and a story of improving the stadium shouldn’t be contaminated by “they should spend the money on bb practice facilities instead.”

          They spent money on the Joyce. There are a ton of top bb teams who have worse facilities and better coaches & recruiting than ND men’s bb and more success.

          As far as the women’s program, if you think better practice facilities would have brought more talent and championships instead of merely final 4 appearances you would need a lot more evidence to prove it.

          ND is the home of bloggers who crap on them no matter how much success the admin has allowed all the sports teams to achieve. Some people just like to bitch so they can hear the sound of their own voices.

    5. Andrew says:

      Part of me assumes that this is a question of “where are the donors.” I assume that donors would be lined up to improve the football stadium. I assume that donors of the same magnitude would not be as lined up to improve the basketball facility.

      Whenever something either gets done, or fails to get done, I assume the reason is substantially tied to whether a donor exists to fund it.

      • I don’t know. They found a donor to fund a brand new state of the art hockey facility. I would find it hard to believe that ND could not find funds to build a basketball practice building if that was something they really wanted. You gotta be kidding me.

        • Andrew says:

          I think reasonable donors could conclude that a practice facility is less important than upgrading the actual game facility. As bad and embarrassing as the basketball practice facility is, the old hockey game space in the JACC brought more embarrassment to the hockey program.

          I also think that reasonable people would be less interested in upgrading a practice facility just a few years after a somewhat expensive upgrade to the game facility for the same sport (the Purcell Pavilion renovation in 2009 was approximately $24.6M).

          Hey, I’d love the basketball team to get a new practice facility too. But I wouldn’t classify the fact that they haven’t as a “you gotta be kidding me” moment.

          • Mike Coffey says:

            Two problems here:

            The vast majority of that $26.6m was spent on non-basketball priorities (e.g. the ticket office, the Varsity shop, & the fat-cat club). So to say “the same sport just got $26.4m” isn’t correct. They got very little of it, while non-sport efforts got “rolled in”.

            If reasonable donors don’t believe practice facilities are important, how is it that football, golf, fencing and crew all have managed to secure donations for practice facilities, especially given just about all those sports received expensive upgrades to their game facilities in the last 10 years?

    6. flirish says:

      ND needs to get out of the dark ages. Improve concessions, visitor locker rooms and facilities overall. Please get jumbotrons. The only tradition the replay tvs will ruin is the tradition of a quiet home stadium on game days and the docile feel ND has compared to most every other big time stadium

      • Mike Coffey says:

        Right, because the SC game in 2005 was quiet, as were the Michigan and Pitt games this year. You could hear a pin drop in 1988 vs. Miami. Gotta get that fixed.

      • I really feel sorry for you if you need a blaring scoreboard to help you enjoy a game in ND Stadium.

    7. 31sorin says:

      Moving the press box to the east side would mean broadcasters, spotters, PA announcer and VIPs would have to look into the late afternoon sun and that doesn’t seem like the best idea.

      • The sun won’t matter 5 years from now when all of our games are Saturday night prime time starts.

    8. Joe Schaefer ND'59 says:

      Looks like a smokescreen to have luxury boxes, which the “purists” might object to as “too SEC” or Michigan or Ohio State. So the stadium is occupied for only seven events per season. Not so. The team now practices there once a week. Together that’s more wear and tear on the field; unless field turf is on the horizon. Though the stadium sits empty, it’s not costing much other than routine maintenance and minimal utilities. There is also something to the “hallowed ground” idea. So, just say it: “We want luxury boxes and we have the high rollers to fill them”

    9. flirish says:

      good point–those are four games since 1988 that you mentioned that had a lot of noise. that is the point exactly. every game should be like those. go to an SEC game some day and see how loud it is when a good team plays an average team. every game is like those that you mentioned. that is how it is in most stadiums around the country. They need the replay screens badly

      • Why do some traditionalist say the replay screen is to force senses unto us and, if we need that, we shouldn’t be attending games? How about getting a jumbotron so I can, what do they call it, oh yeah, see a replay!!!! Is that really asking too much? Is that really breaking with tradition to make it offensive? I’m quite OK if it won’t blast music and wild images but I sure would like a jumbotron to get better stats, other scores and, oh yeah, see a replay!

        • Mike Coffey says:

          If you want to see a replay, they sell hand-held televisions that you can use to watch all the replays you want.

          You get your replays, I don’t have to put up with a giant television screen blaring ads and kiss cams and “make some noise” bullshit.

    10. FightingSonOfNotreDame says:

      Coffey,

      I’m very happy to see the plans for the expanded football stadium but I agree with you that the basketball commitment ALSO needs to happen.

      In my opinion, it needs to happen to help the football program. How many elite universities truly have consistent football/basketball success at the highest levels. We’re joining the ACC now, if we’re competitive in hoops here we can reign in a great era of ND sports.

      Don’t get me wrong, ND football is, will always be and should always be the #1 priority. The work Coach Kelly is doing is primarily all that really matters in maintaining an elite football program. But having hoops at a high level helps with recruiting, funds, branding and overall morale boosting for the University.

      We have a great opportunity now to recruit football players in ACC territory, we have to represent with a highly competitive basketball program and there is no reason why the University can’t provide the proper resources.

      -FightingSon

    11. This whole hissy fit of a piece strikes an old fart like me as more than a bit childish.

      • Mike Coffey says:

        So you think it’s fine ND publicly blows off its basketball programs like this? How’s that going to play next time we need a coach?

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