Brian Kelly can thank Charlie Weis for being the Notre Dame head coach that saw Notre Dame’s then-record 43 game winning streak over Navy end in 2007. Kelly now owns the distinction of being the Notre Dame head coach who saw the University’s home game sellout streak end though at the hands of Navy. Notre Dame announced on Thursday that after 46 years and 273 consecutive games, this weekend’s top 25 matchup will not be a sellout.
In a statement announcing the streak ending this week, the University cited three November games being a challenge for maintaining the streak this year. But this weekend’s contest features a Navy team ranked in the top-25, meaning that Notre Dame’s sellout streak was able to withstand seasons like 2007 and 2016, but will end in a matchup of top 25 teams.
Notre Dame’s streak of 243 straight sellouts was second all-time to Nebraska’s 373 that is still intact in Lincoln. There are a lot of November games in those 273. There’s a lot of cold-weather games in there too. And, there’s a lot of games that weren’t marquee matchups mixed in there as well. So why is it ending now?
The reason behind the streak ending isn’t cut and dry. There isn’t one specific reason, but rather it’s a multitude of events that have been accumulating over the years that have finally got us to this point.
Everyone saw this day coming for years when looking out at the stands during some games and wondering how there were so many empty seats at times for games that were technically sellouts.
In short, though, while three November games are a challenge, it’s more of an excuse than anything else. If the product that was being put on the field – and that is not restricted to the level of play – this game would be a sellout. For all of the physical enhancements to the stadium, though, Notre Dame has not addressed one of the biggest pain points of the fans for years, and that is creating a better game day environment.
People don’t want to travel far distances and sit in the cold to have ushers in gold jackets walk up to them and tell them to sit down because someone complained that they’ve been standing during the game. That type of thing happens every week inside Notre Dame Stadium. The gameday experience has been deteriorating for years, and Notre Dame hasn’t done anything to change that.
Look around the landscape of college football on a Saturday afternoon and compare Notre Dame Stadium to some other stadiums at big-time programs, and the difference is usually striking. For some big games, Notre Dame Stadium can get loud at times, but outside of those games, the environment inside the stadium isn’t creating an exciting environment for the fans. People don’t want to shell out all of the money that is needed for a game weekend to sit inside a stadium that can be lifeless at times.
Next year Notre Dame plays Clemson at home in November so they shouldn’t have a sellout problem next year. Still, if the University doesn’t take a look at how they can enhance the fans’ experience in games that won’t be hot tickets, we should get used to non-sellouts at Notre Dame Stadium.