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September 26, 2001
Davie Takes Heat on Another Front
By The IrishEyes.Com NewsService
NOTRE DAME, Ind. (IE) -- Bob Davie is taking flak for more than his team's 0-2 start. He and the university also are taking criticism for Irish players staying in their dressing room during the pre-game tribute Saturday to those slain in the attack on the World Trade Towers and the Pentagon.
It's an issue that Davie calls "totally ridiculous," and he probably has a point.
During the pre-game ceremonies, some 80,000 fans held up paper flags which were passed out to each of them as they entered the stadium. Notre Dame President Rev. Edward Malloy led a pre-game prayer and the Notre Dame band played the national anthem while the colors were smartly raised, then lowered to half staff.
Like ceremonies around the sports world the past week, it was a stirring one. Michigan State players had come out of the tunnel beforehand and were lined up on their sideline for the entire program. Notre Dame players stayed in their dressing room and some of their fans and alumni, watching on television, were rather shocked, judging from feedback on Internet boards and to the administration.
Notre Dame athletic director Kevin White issued a statement, saying there was a breakdown in communications between Notre Dame and Michigan State representatives after it was White's understanding that both teams agreed to adhere to the usual pre-game protocol and stay in their respective dressing rooms until after the national anthem. MSU changed its mind shortly before game time, and White was never contacted about the decision, leaving Davie and his team in the dark while they went through their usual pre-game routine as the tribute occurred on the stadium floor.
Davie refuses to take the heat. He said he and his team fittingly went through their own grief for more than a week after the terrorist attacks.
"I've always been someone [to believe] it's more what you do when nobody is watching that's really important," he said.
He noted that within a couple of hours after the attacks, Notre Dame cancelled football practice that Tuesday even though the game at Purdue was scheduled for the following Saturday. He said the team came back and attended a 3 p.m. outdoor Mass on campus with 7,000 other students Tuesday afternoon. He said after the Purdue game was cancelled, he cancelled football practice again on Thursday and Friday.
Nearing game weekend with MSU, Davie said he didn't go to the Dylan Hall pep rally on Thursday night "because I didn't feel comfortable for me to be out there with a bunch of students without putting things into the proper perspective."
Davie said he waited until Friday at the luncheon, which he asked to be led off with a prayer and some words of perspective before talking football. He also asked a prayer be said during the Friday night pep rally in the Joyce Center.
When the team returned to campus Saturday from their Plymouth hotel, it had the traditional pre-game Mass.
"We walk over to the stadium, We do just what we always do," Davie said. "We pray about that game. We come out into the stadium and it's a great scene. I don't see how any of this in some way would be perceived as a positive or a negative based on the way our football team and our university reacted to this situation."
Davie also noted the logistics of both teams entering the stadium through the same tunnel poses problems and has for some time. Ironically, one of the MSU players knocked and shoved quarterback Matt LoVecchio before the kickoff and MSU was penalized 15 yards on the kickoff.
Because of the logistics, both bands on the field, a group of former Notre Dame players which Notre Dame players ran through to get onto the field, the timing of the broadcast by NBC, "We were staying in the locker room and make it as simple as we could make it," he said..
"I think it's unbelievably ridiculous that this thing has taken on a life of its own," Davie said.
AD White issued a statement, hoping to clarify the situation and exonerate Davie and the team from any misunderstanding.
"We took the better part of the week working with NBC and the campus community to coordinate the details of Friday's Kickoff Luncheon, the pep rally as well as the pregame ceremonies," White said. "On Friday morning, Michigan State athletic director Clarence Underwood contacted me after becoming aware of the extensive pregame program.
"He asked if the teams had any direct involvement. At that time, I shared with him that the focus was on the prayer and on both bands. I suggested that perhaps, because of the field and the locker room logistics we might maintain our regular pregame protocol with the teams. He agreed.
"While I was doing a pregame radio interview from the press box, I observed the Michigan State team coming onto the field. This was a 180-degree departure from our understanding. During halftime, when I went to the visiting athletic director's box, Clarence indicated that he tried to find me in my box before the game (but couldn't).
"In retrospect, I wish Clarence and I would have spoken again prior to the pregame ceremonies and/or, I wish that we would have collectively decided to incorporate both teams into the plan.
"Lastly," White wrote, "it is important for everyone to know that the coaching staff at Notre Dame was not involved in any of these deliberations."
Davie said he's "really disappointed" that there is criticism over what occurred.
"I think it's totally ridiculous that this is even an issue," he said. "I'm speaking from the heart. That's how I see it."
POOCH PUNTS: Chris Olsen, the New Jersey quarterback who was rated one of the best high school QBs in the nation and who gave an early verbal commitment to Notre Dame, will be out for his senior season after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament …
Notre Dame students, who passed buckets around to the record crowd last Saturday, raised $270,000 for the relief of the families of the New York City fireman and policemen who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks...
For the first time in a long time, the Notre Dame regional telecast on ABC won't be seen in the Chicago area, where more ND alumni live than in any other single city. The local ABC affiliate instead will show the Illinois at Michigan game.