by Mike Coffey
This entry was authored by Chip Lewis, aka SBDomer, who ever since the announcement of the commission to investigate game day issues has been communicating with and giving input to the people involved in the process.
With the announcement of the new game-day policies for home football games, the Notre Dame administration has signaled that it is interested and engaged in changing the course of the Irish Football Saturday experience for fans. As a fan base, we need to match the University’s efforts with our own actions to improve the game-day experience.
Following widespread concern that the University had lost control of the behavior of its game-day policy makers and enforcers, the crucial first step was the appointment of a special committee to study the operations and procedures used by safety, security and hospitality employees at Notre Dame. This committee issued a report last spring that is now in the process of implementation. The April appointment of Mike Seamon, as the director of football operations, is a clear indication that ND is serious about improvement. Seamon is a former football manager for Lou Holtz and very familiar with the passion and excitement that overtakes the campus on a game day. As a Holtz disciple, Seamon is familiar with the concept of continuous improvement, and you can bet that he will apply that mindset to game-day operations on an ongoing basis.
It is not reasonable to expect that the many controversial aspects of game-day safety and security enforcement issues can be quickly implemented or would be publicly addressed. The job of overhauling the policies in effect and procedures to be followed is better addressed incrementally rather than immediately. It is better to fix the vision behind the policies in order to attain long term improvement. It will be better for fans if Seamon takes his time in addressing the many existing game-day issues. If some of the recently announced changes seem too quick and easy, it’s because they are exactly that, but that’s not a bad start. The quick implementation of certain changes is a reasonable beginning of the process.
As things move forward, the state of the art for game-day safety and security, both inside and outside of the Stadium, will be consistent enforcement of fair and fully-disclosed rules. It will be Seamon’s job to make sure that the major ND football weekend stakeholders—alumni, students and legitimate college football fans—enjoy the electricity and excitement of an Irish Football Saturday in a manner that allows for maximum fun while still addressing safety. While we should not expect that ND will ever condone or encourage underage drinking, we should expect that ND and its enforcement staff and partners will not bust family tailgates while the wild tailgate party with three party vans, refrigerator-sized speakers, a DJ and bottles of booze being passed around among people who are not even attending the game goes unaddressed. Seamon surely understands this, and if nothing else we can expect that he’ll put a stop to law enforcement patrols that view family tailgates as the low-hanging fruit for filling arrest quotas.
When viewed as an on-going process, it is easy to see our role as a fan base in the effort to improve game-day policies and enforcement. We should use the communication tools provided by the University to let them know what we think, game by game. All kidding aside, the crazy drunk who is truly a danger to himself and others ought to be text-reported and removed from the Stadium. The wild tailgate of un-invested people who are not going to the game but treat our campus like the venue for a Grateful Dead-style roaming party ought to be shut down. The trick is to make sure that the right problems are addressed, that the 5 or 50 worst offenders are removed from the Stadium rather than the 5 or 50 people that appear like they’d put up the least fuss.
We must continue our vigilance and be part of the long-term solution. Let’s use the Stadium texts to remove problems. Let’s notify security personnel of outrageous tailgates. Let’s keep them so busy addressing the right problems that there is no time or inclination to go after traditional tailgate activity, the kind that has brought Notre Dame families and friends together for generations. As time goes by, reasonable and fairly enforced rules that we all understand and can follow will improve the game-day experience for all of us.
As in all enforcement situations, there is what is said and what is done. Notre Dame has made the first of presumably many public statements on the plan to improve game-day processes. As this season unfolds, we’ll see what changes have occurred in the area of enforcement. It is up to us to remain vigilant for abuses by law enforcement or usher personnel, and then communicate them to University staff. Notre Dame has already shown by action that it understood there was a problem, so the University deserves our support as the new program is rolled out. We need to respond with cooperation and support to ensure that an Irish Football Saturday remains the outstanding shared experience for the Notre Dame family and friends that is has always been.