Notre Dame football: Will ND, Wake play again?
Many influences were at work. Not the least of which was Wake Forest president Dr. Nathan Hatch.
Hatch made a name for himself in the academic world at Notre Dame. From 1975-2005, he was a key figure at the university, ultimately becoming university provost before taking the reins at Wake Forest.
Hatch, though, downplayed his role in landing a blockbuster attraction in the Demon Deacons’ 31,000-seat stadium.
“This came about because our athletic directors are part of a group of really good private universities that play each other, have high academic standards - Stanford, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Duke, Wake Forest,” Hatch said. “They’re trying to play each other more. It’s a great relationship between those athletic directors.
“(Notre Dame athletic director) Jack Swarbrick’s son was at Wake Forest. Jack was down here a number of times.”
There is something to be said about the natural fit between Notre Dame and Wake Forest, which has 4,500 undergrads and costs about $50,000 a year (room, board and tuition).
“They have great tradition - they’re both over 150 years old,” Hatch said, comparing his past and present employer. “They have a great commitment to academic quality; to the education of students, and to values. In that sense, there’s a great affinity of these institutions.
“With respect to athletics, they’re committed to the highest standards.”
But would this be enough to convince Notre Dame officials a move to the Atlantic Coast Conference would be a good move?
“I understand all the issues at Notre Dame, and (football) independence is very important,” Hatch said. “There would be great symmetry with the Atlantic Coast Conference, with five private institutions. Those are very complicated decisions that Notre Dame will have to sort out.”
The Irish presence makes for a good show. BB&T Field is a lively place, with the nation’s second-biggest JumboTron adding to the atmosphere.
“Notre Dame has such a legendary tradition,” Hatch said. “To be on anyone’s schedule is an honor. Our fans feel that. This is a very small stadium. (Athletic director) Ron Wellman’s goal is to make this the Wrigley Field of college football.”
Fireworks. Stadium songs even louder than Notre Dame’s new selections.
Of course, Wrigley Field still has a manually-operated scoreboard, hardly anything resembling a JumboTron.
“The people at Wake Forest wonder if my loyalties are divided,” Hatch said. “I know where my paycheck comes from. Obviously, I’m rooting for the Demon Deacons tonight.”
The 31,000-plus fannies in BB&T Field’s cement bleachers comprised only a portion of the total attendance. More than 5,000, sitting on blankets, crammed into a grassy area underneath the JumboTron.
Face value for tickets for the Notre Dame game was $65. That compared to $50 for Wake Forest’s game with Virginia Tech and $45 for the rest, including Florida State.
Wake Forest students were allowed 2,500 which caused an uproar, though they never came close to filling their section for any other game.
A scalper outside BB&T Field two hours before the game, with a fistful of tickets, just shook his head and said they weren’t moving too well.
“Most people bought tickets online,” he said with a shrug.
One online ticket distributor had tickets listed at $129.
-- While Notre Dame unveiled its spirit towels in a night game against USC. They were dark blue - didn’t really work. Wake Forest had bright gold towels to fill the stadium.
-- Two Demon Deacons qualify for the “all-name team:” Freshman defensive end Godspower Offor and fifth-year defensive end Gelo Orange.
-- Gotta love a mascot that leads the team out of the locker room on a motorcycle.