This Fan Thankful for ND Experience

On Thanksgiving, it's appropriate that we present the thoughts of "Fan's Perspective" contributor Mark Allen. Mark has been visiting campus since the 1970's and actively pursues his passion on several different Internet message boards. Mark was particularly grateful to be on campus last Friday for a unique doubleheader. Here is his report.

Copyright by Global Electronics Telecommunications, publishers of IrishEyes.Com™

November 21, 2001

This Fan’s Thankful
For His ND Experience

By Mark Allen
For The IrishEyes.Com News Service

NOTRE DAME, IN (IE) -- Friday, November 16, 2001 was a crossroads day for Notre Dame sports. It was the ending of the home portion of the 2001 Notre Dame football season. It was also the beginning of the 2001-'02 Irish men's basketball season. And, could it be the beginning of the end of Bob Davie's reign?

Those three events made this trip to Notre Dame – one of many I’ve taken over a span now of four different decades – extra special.

The trip up US 31 from my hometown of Indianapolis takes about two and one-half. It is a straight shot and enjoyable, especially when you have a friend such as Jim Ritter to talk to. Jim is a huge ND fan and has been since about 1988. This is kind of funny, since in 1979, he did not know who I was and was not into Notre Dame. He would see my red Pinto driving around the neighborhood with "Go Irish" and the Leprechaun on the hood. He thought it was weird, but now is a huge fan.

I have been going up to Notre Dame since around 1978, primarily for football and basketball games. But I have also visited for no reason at all. If you have ever had the pleasure of seeing this campus, you know what I mean. In my opinion, it has to be one of the most beautiful campuses in America. Coming from US 31 and turning right on Angela Drive, you can look to the left and view the most recognizable landmarks of any University -- the Golden Dome. Even after all of these years, it still has an effect on me.

There is nothing like being on campus on a football Friday and Saturday. The place is electric with the different activities and the many visitors coming into town for the game. This day was unique. Due to an idea by Mike Brey, there would be a basketball game following the football pep rally. Great idea for those of us in Notre Dame Nation that have equal affinity for the gridiron and the hardwood.

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MOOD ON CAMPUS: Since we made it up to Notre Dame at around 4 p.m., we had time before the 6:30 Pep Rally at the Joyce Center. Since I was curious to find out the mood of the students in regard to coach Davie, the football team and the upcoming basketball season, I thought I would sample some opinions. What better place to hang out than at LaFortune Student Center ("The Huddle"). They serve food there (Chicken in a Pot for $1.75, a steal) as well as serving as a good study area for the students. There are a couple of big screen TV’s for viewing games.

I wanted to see if there was much of a difference in the attitudes of posters on Internet message boards, such as IrishEyes.com as well as the others that I frequent and contribute to. The overwhelming consensus of the boards are anti-Davie and pro-Jon Gruden as next coach. Would the real world be different?

Jeff, an off campus Notre Dame student was definitely a reflection of the attitude that Davie should go at the end of the season. I asked Jeff about his feelings about Notre Dame being 3-5. He said, "I am still excited about the football season (but) I hope Jon Gruden is the next coach as many also do on campus."

The subject then turned to basketball, since Friday night was the opener of the season versus New Hampshire. Jeff said that he was looking forward to basketball, but after the football season had ended. He said he was "Especially looking forward to seeing freshman Chris Thomas. I am also excited about next seasons recruits," referring to the blue-chip recruiting haul (Torrin Francis, Rick Cornett, Chris Quinn).

On the way over to the Joyce Center, I caught up with Colleen, a prospective Law Student. Colleen, a graduate of Cal State-Fullerton, boasts a 3.9 GPA. This was her first trip to see a football game in addition to Law School matters. I asked her right away what she thought of the job Coach Davie was doing and she immediately, and without hesitation, gave the thumbs down sign. "We need Coach Gruden," she stated.

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THE PEP RALLY: On to the pep rally we went. Would there be excitement in the air still? Would there be a sense of disappointment? I was anxious to find out.

"We only get 24 guaranteed games during our 4 years here," a Notre Dame Senior student said. He then went on to list the highlights of his four years as far as Notre Dame football was concerned:

  1. Jabari Holloway’s fumble recovery in the end-zone to beat USC in 1999.
  2. Jay Johnson’s game-winning touchdown catch in an all-too-close victory over Navy, also in 1999.
  3. Bobbie Howard’s interception return for a touchdown that keyed Notre Dame’s 39-36 victory over LSU in 1998.

He pleaded with the Notre Dame students to "take in the Notre Dame tradition." He said, "Appreciate the tradition, such as the grotto and the raising of the helmets by the players to the students after a victory."

Bob Davie was introduced after speeches by Paul Hornung and Casey Robin. While there was no booing, there was also no real enthusiasm. I thought to myself, "The man does not seem very inspiring." Contrast this with the man whom many are calling for, Gruden. Gruden seems very animated.

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A NEW BEGINNING: OK, now on to fresh starts as opposed to possible endings. I was looking forward to this game and the new season. Notre Dame hoops is on the rise and, with the recruiting class for next season, will continue. I was anxious to see how three players would do: Chris Thomas, Jordan Cornette and Jere Macura. This is not to say I was not looking forward to the others. But, these players, to me, were going to be crucial for the duration of the season as well as in the short term. Ryan Humphrey was out with an NCAA suspension. Tom Timmermans was hurt also and not due to return for awhile. So, the depth was not great.

The seats I had were great. I was in Section 101, Row 2 and seats 16-17. My neck had a workout. Can you say 'left, right, left, right'? The new-look Notre Dame whipped New Hampshire, 95-53.

The game was fast paced from the beginning. Up and down the court like has not been seen for awhile at Notre Dame.

Jere played great. He was a force on the inside. It is not my intention to give a play by play here. But, suffice it is to say that all 3 lived up to my hopes. Jordan Cornette, as Coach Brey said, "played like a junior."

Chris Thomas? Yes, he deserves a paragraph all by himself! Some may be "Doubting Thomases" around he Notre Dame program in the past. But, there is no doubting Chris Thomas! In his first game, Chris Thomas did what no other player in the entire history of Notre Dame basketball has done; He had a triple double. Chris had 24 points, 11 assists and 11 steals. He also now has the record in steals for a game.

To show you the pace of the game, I can use this as an example: I have always kept stats. I have a scorebook. At least twice something happened on the court while I was recording the score. On the play where Chris Thomas set the triple double record, he passed up a shot to give Chris Markwood the first bucket of his career. I looked down to record the basket and the crowd yelled. Thomas, intercepted the inbounds pass, stepped back behind the three point arc and buried a three!

This brand of basketball, if it continues, ladies and gentlemen, will be new to Notre Dame fans. It will be exciting. True, it was against New Hampshire, a not-too-good team. But, there is no doubt that we can have a good team and a point guard that will turn out to be the best!

Then the trip home to savor the night. I got what I came for. I believe the mood on campus is very much like the Internet. Coach Davie is not a popular coach right now. He appears to be on the way out. True, he may be a great human being. But, this fan as well as others, do not think he is very inspiring. At this point in time, I think ND needs an inspirational coach. Who will it be? Stay tuned. The basketball season is underway and it appears like we have a good team. The 3 players I came to see all had "A" games.

What a night!

(Mark Allen has been a Notre Dame fan for over 30 years. He lives in Indianapolis and is a regular contributor to many Internet message boards that focus on the Irish. He pens a "Fan’s Perspective" column for IrishEyes.)


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