by Mike Coffey
Mixed in with the rest of the angst generated by Saturday’s loss to Oklahoma is some discontent from the Notre Dame student body regarding a portion of the football team not staying to sway during the Alma Mater post-game. While I wasn’t at the game to witness it, according to some media reports, the decision was made by Brian Kelly to allow the team to go directly to the locker room if that’s what they wanted to do. Given some of the reaction on the Observer Viewpoint page here, here, here and here, that decision doesn’t sit well with some of the students.
Those of you who expect me to excoriate Brian Kelly for somehow ruining a Notre Dame tradition may as well stop reading here. Not only am I not going to excoriate him, I’m going to suggest he take it a step further — Nix this silly exercise altogether in favor of what the actual post-game tradition was prior to a failed former coach putting his ill-conceived stamp on it.
If we’re going to consider “tradition” as something that’s been done for more than 10 years, the team’s post-game tradition for decades was to go over to the student section following a game, win or loss, and salute with their helmets. It would last about 30 seconds or so, then the band would play the Victory March and the team would head for the locker room. If you watch a tape of the legendary 31-30 victory over Miami in 1988, when Brent Musberger is saying “there is no love affair like the one between the Notre Dame team and the student body”, that’s what’s happening on the screen. The Alma Mater would be played, but it was much later during the band’s post-game show while the team was long gone to the locker room.
Sometime during the early part of his tenure, Charlie Weis got the idea of having the band play the Alma Mater during the salute and having the team sway along with the student body. Like so many other ideas Weis had during his five years at Notre Dame, it was stupid and should have been re-thought. While solidarity with the students is of primary importance, I also believe asking players who just suffered an emotional loss on the field to spend more time on that field than necessary is a bad idea. Salute the students for a couple seconds, sure — maintain the solidarity. But there’s no need to overdo it with sappy sentimentality. Hanging around for two or three minutes while swaying to the Alma Mater (a practice I find off-putting and creepy to begin with) does no one any favors. And “saluting the other team” by participating in their alma mater traditions is even dumber and more pointless.
Coach, you’ve got the right idea here. Bring the tradition back to its true roots. Go back to the helmet salute and head to the locker room with the Victory March as your anthem. Let your players celebrate or suffer in privacy while maintaining the important bond between them and their classmates.