While it's already one of the nation's most prominent football programs, Notre Dame is really trying to become America's team. The school announced Friday that it would take on Washington State on October 31, 2009 in San Antonio. This will mark the first in an annual "home away from home" game for the Irish.
Notre Dame Athletic Director Kevin White likened the off-site home game to the concept used in the 1920s by legendary Notre Dame coach Knute Rockne.The game marks an effort by the school to increase its national footprint, essentially making an additional bowl game for itself every year. Stops in Florida and other cities are planned for future years. It makes sense for the school to travel nationally, as doing so increases its popularity and helps in recruiting. But the location and opponent of this game will really put Notre Dame's drawing power to the test.
"It's a little bit like the barnstorming approach that Knute Rockne took back in the 1920s," White said. "We believe these events will provide great opportunities for fans to see our team play when they may be otherwise challenged to travel or obtain tickets for games in South Bend."
Will the 65,000-seat Alamo Dome be at capacity for the game? Notre Dame is obviously a draw, but Washington State is hardly a team worth seeing. What makes the top-tier bowl games that Notre Dame is accustomed to playing so special is that they're often against other marquee teams. WSU does not fit that mold.
The location is also curious. Yes, Texas has a humongous population, but there are 4,600 Notre Dame alumni living there. They would hardly fill up a section let alone the stadium. In order for this experiment to be a success they'll have to draw from the "extended family" that Notre Dame thinks it has.
By keeping its non-conference schedule a national affair Notre Dame has already proven that they are loved nation-wide. But in the past they've traveled to road games, not neutral sites. By scheduling this game Notre Dame is putting not only its reputation on the line, but probably its financial success out there as well.