Why Notre Dame’s football programming strategy needs a makeover

The tickets for the five Irish home games in 2022 at Notre Dame Stadium went on sale this week.

But with the usual launch of availability came an unusual stipulation for those wishing to attend the marquee game with Clemson on November 5.

From the und.com ticketing site: “Clemson game tickets are currently only available in a 2-game package. Each package includes a ticket to the home opener against Marshall as well as the Clemson game. A $50 donation from the Rockne Athletics Fund is required per package.

There was a time, not so long ago, when “winning” a few tickets to any The Irish home game through the annual lottery was a badge of honour. Now Marshall is being traded as a hostage to lure people into the home opener on September 10.

Unfortunately, with another ho-hum home schedule, Notre Dame is doing whatever it takes to get the butts in the seats for the first-year head coach’s home debut. Marcus Freeman.

Where’s the beef?

ESPN already gives Notre Dame more than 90% chance to win four of their five games at the stadium this season.

And with odds like that, expect the Irish to be among the three-touchdown favorites in each of those four games: Marshall, Cal, Stanford, Boston College.

It’s a Burger King menu at a Ruth’s Chris price that people are less and less willing to pay.

Take Clemson out of the equation (10-3 last year), and Notre Dame’s last four home opponents in 2022 have combined to go 23-38 in 2021.

To be honest, schedules are built years in advance and construction is never an exact science, especially at independent Notre Dame.

But college athletic director jack swarbrick continues to move forward, as best he can, under some difficult time constraints.

Over the next 12 years, Swarbrick has already clinched home series with Ohio State (2022-23), Texas A&M (2024-25), Alabama (2029-30), Arkansas (2025 and 2028), Michigan (2033 – 34) and Michigan State (2026-27).

All are good opponents, indeed. But they still don’t provide enough planning “umphh” for an independent program that Freeman said he hopes can stay that way.

The problem?

Notre Dame’s five-game annual deal against lousy competition from the ACC, coupled with the dwindling value of the Navy and Stanford playoffs — and a layoff period for USC — has created a planning storm. flaw that has undermined much of the value of Notre Dame’s records in recent years.

In its five-season streak of at least 10 wins — including a 26-game winning streak at home against Cincinnati last season — Notre Dame Stadium has hosted eight ranked teams in 33 home dates.

Still, 2020 No. 1 Clemson and 2021 No. 7 Cincinnati are the only two ranked opponents to play at Rockne’s House since 2019.

When the 46-year, 273-game sold-out streak ended at Notre Dame Stadium before the Navy game in November 2019, Swarbrick downplayed and deflected the news.

“The fact that this is happening during a period of continued success for our football program reflects both the challenges impacting the ticket market nationwide and the unique dynamics of this year’s schedule,” said Swarbrick said, in part, in a statement he released to the South Bend Grandstand and The Indianapolis Star.

But what Swarbrick didn’t mention was how these no-sells would become more the rule than the exception.

Taking the 2020 season out of the equation because of the pandemic, since the Navy game in 2019, Notre Dame has only sold two of its previous nine home dates. Those were the Cincinnati and USC games last season, and Bearcats fans obviously helped the stadium reach full capacity.

The solution?

As college football reinvents itself through broadcast buyouts and conference consolidations, Notre Dame’s programming philosophy must keep up with the changes.

Unfortunately, the ACC’s five games are here to stay as long as Notre Dame is a league member with its Olympic sports programs. In reality, ACC opponents for Irish already set until 2037.

And with Clemson now the only elite member of ACC football, Notre Dame must be creative and proactive to break free from its straitjacket. And that requires a thorough examination of the value of playing at Navy and Stanford each year.

Dropping those two annual games would give Swarbrick some needed scheduling flexibility, though some feelings are hurt when those long-running streaks come to an end.

What Swarbrick does with those dates is his business.

But finding some planning maneuverability would give him a chance to put together more notable home streaks, and it would give Notre Dame fans the product of home game weekends they’re being asked to pay for… no forfeits. is not necessary.

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