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Notre Dame AD Wants 'Traditional Game-Day Experience' Upon COVID-19 Return

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistApril 7, 2020

SOUTH BEND, IN - SEPTEMBER 08: Notre Dame Fighting Irish athletic director Jack Swarbrick is seen before the game against the Ball State Cardinals at Notre Dame Stadium on September 8, 2018 in South Bend, Indiana. Notre Dame defeated Ball State 24-16. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said he does not want the school to play games without fans, even if college football receives approval from the medical community to play games. 

"I don't see a model where we play, at least any extended number of games, in facilities where we don't have fans," Swarbrick told ESPN's Adam Rittenberg. "College football is about the cheerleaders and the band and the campus environment on game day. We're interested in solutions that allow us to have a traditional game-day experience."

Swarbrick did not say Notre Dame would outright refuse to play fan-less games, but his comment ranks among the strongest rebukes of the idea since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

College football is one of the few sports leagues that has not had any major impact yet because of the coronavirus. While spring games and other team activities have been wiped out by the virus, the impact hasn't even been as great as the NFL, which has had to conduct a virtual offseason. 

Conferences and the NCAA are currently in contingency-planning mode. President Donald Trump said over the weekend he hopes sports can return "sooner rather than later," but the idea of fans being in stadiums anytime soon seems unlikely. Even sports leagues that are putting potential plans in place for a return are doing so while planning for stands to be empty.

Swarbrick seems vehemently opposed to the concept. 

"There might be a middle ground where you say, the first two games of the season, you might have to make some accommodations," Swarbrick said. "Maybe you only have students in attendance and you don't invite other fans. I couldn't see us going past a very limited example of that."

Notre Dame is a football independent, so it would not be bound to any conference-wide declarations. However, the university likely would have to forfeit television revenue and repay opposing schools who were slated to be on their schedule if the university refused to play games without fans. 

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