|Saturday, September 9
Sea of Red leaves Notre Dame feeling blue
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- The HuskerNation arrived in full force for Saturday's Nebraska-Notre Dame game and turned Notre Dame Stadium into a sea of red.
When the top-ranked Cornhuskers met the Fighting Irish (No. 25 ESPN/USA Today, No. 23 AP), Nebraska fans clad in red appeared to fill about a third of the 80,232 seats in a stadium traditionally packed with faithful Irish followers. Adding insult to wounded pride, Huskers fans chanted "Husker, home game!"
"When I was on the field before the game I wish I was color blind," Notre Dame athletic director Kevin White said. "Disappointing, very disappointing."
Bill Byrne, his counterpart at Nebraska, sat in a chair in his stadium box, and smiled at the most unusual development.
"This would never happen in Lincoln," Byrne said. "We could play a junior high and this wouldn't happen."
After Nebraska won 27-24 in overtime, Irish coach Bob Davie joked about all the red shirts.
"I think that red must be a pretty bright color because the 4,000 that were there seemed to stand out," he said. "It seemed like they had a lot of fans there."
Although Nebraska was allotted just 4,000 tickets by Notre Dame, some 20,000 to 30,000 fans made the 500-mile trip from Nebraska just to tailgate in the parking lot and be near their beloved Huskers, making their first trip to Notre Dame since 1947. Clearly, many were able to buy tickets from Notre Dame ticket holders.
"I've got to be proud of them," Byrne said of the Huskers fans before adding: "The profit motive is alive and well in South Bend."
What this says about Notre Dame is not clear, but it sure sends a message that Irish fans were willing to part with what used to be the most coveted ticket in college football. The Irish went 5-7 last season, and off-field problems ended with NCAA sanctions and an overhaul of the athletic administration.
White, who took over as AD in March, added, "We'll just need to look to the future and continue to get better and not allow this to happen again."
Byrne said Irish officials turned down his request for an additional 5,000 tickets, adding that when the Irish visit Nebraska in 2001, they, too, would receive 4,000 tickets.
"We knew they had a rabid, fanatical community that likes to be referred to as the HuskerNation," White added, "But I am disappointed when seats are sold by loyal Irish fans."
Earlier in the week, Davie doubted fans would part with their tickets.
"I know the loyalty they have," Davie said. "None of them would sell it regardless of the price."