Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 19, 2018

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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4 NOV. 19, 2018 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED T he entire Sham- rock Series initia- tive seemed like a good idea about 10 years ago when the in- augural game against Washington State was being planned for the Alamodome in San Antonio. Notre Dame's na- tional appeal allowed the Irish to play a "home game" away from home in strate- gic venues around the country to help grow its forever burgeoning fan base, attract and land some top recruits in these areas, and stuff a few extra bucks into the coffers with an aggressive one- and-done merchandising strategy. There isn't another football pro- gram in the nation that carries the clout to pull this off, so why not take the show on the road? The Irish would host games at the Alamodome and Cowboys Stadium to attract recruits from the talent-rich Lone Star State, and then at Yankee Stadium to celebrate the long history of Notre Dame in the Big Apple, dating back to Knute Rockne. It would play at Soldier Field in Chicago and Fenway Park in Boston to tap two of the biggest Irish fan hubs in the country. But does exposure and financial gain outweigh the travel and time demands put on the Irish players and coaches? Results suggest maybe not as Notre Dame makes a second Shamrock Series trip to Yankee Stadium this weekend for a "home game" against a top-15 Syracuse team, as of Nov. 10. And what's waiting for Notre Dame after going to New York this week- end for a tough test against a ranked opponent? It's a 2,100-mile one-way trip through three time zones to Los Angeles for a date against rival USC in the regular-season finale. "I'm not in favor of it," Irish head coach Brian Kelly told Blue & Gold Il- lustrated in the preseason when asked about having the Syracuse home game moved to Yankee Stadium. "… Going to New York and then going to L.A. is not the easiest way to run the table." The abrupt and unexpected re- location of this Syracuse game last December — which was originally scheduled to be played at Notre Dame Stadium — complicates an al- ready difficult path to the playoffs for the Irish because it adds another 1,500 miles to an already grueling travel schedule that essentially only the University of Hawai'i and a cou- ple of other coastal-based Football Bowl Subdivision programs face. From east to west and north to south, Notre Dame will travel about 12,550 total miles round trip this regular season, which is three times more than Alabama (3,880) and about twice as many as Clemson (5,570). A couple of other top College Foot- ball Playoff contenders — Georgia and Michigan — will not even travel 2,500 total miles during their entire 12-game regular seasons. To be clear, the actual Shamrock Se- ries game is not the anvil. Notre Dame is undefeated in the first eight such games. More worrisome is the jet lag and travel hangover after playing this home game so far away from home. The Irish are 5-3 in the game fol- lowing the Shamrock Series trip, and two of those five wins came with a bye week sandwiched in between, meaning Notre Dame is just 3-3 in games played on weekends following the Shamrock Series stop. Furthermore, Notre Dame has won these five post-Sham- rock weekend games by a precarious aver- age score of 20-14. In 2015, the Irish squeaked out a 19-16 win over Boston Col- lege at Fenway Park in this self-imposed road game, improv- ing to 10-1 on the sea- son to keep its CFP hopes very much alive … only to travel across the country the following week and get knocked out of any playoff chatter after a 38-36 defeat at Stanford. The primary explanation for mov- ing the Syracuse game from South Bend to New York was that keeping a seventh game this season at Notre Dame Stadium would drive up season ticket prices. The secondary and more typical response is that this Shamrock Series event will further build the ND "brand" in New York City. But given its independence, a long- term multi-million dollar television deal with NBC, along with a sched- ule that already allows it to play all over the country, does Notre Dame really need to build its brand? Eleven consensus national champi- onships, seven Heisman Trophy win- ners,192 first-team All-Americans and 268 consecutive sellouts at Notre Dame Stadium all suggest the brand is healthy, and it's time to put team success before unnecessary travel for the sake of branding. Notre Dame Stadium recently un- derwent a $400 million renovation as part of its Campus Crossroads Project, giving the football program a beauti- ful new look along with a perfect exit strategy to ditch this pointless Sham- rock Series and proudly proclaim there's no place like home. ✦ The Shamrock Series Is Starting To Wilt UPON FURTHER REVIEW TODD D. BURLAGE Todd D. Burlage has been a writer for Blue & Gold Illustrated since July 2005. He can be reached at The Fighting Irish surrendered a home game so that they could play Syracuse at Yankee Stadium in the ninth edition of the Shamrock Series.

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