Fighting Irish Make Fenway Their Home
South Bend, Ind. — Notre Dame won’t play a Big Ten opponent in 2015, the first time that’s happened in more than 100 years, but the Fighting Irish will play a home game against Boston College at Fenway Park.
Athletic director Jack Swarbrick released schedules for the next three seasons on Friday, saying a goal was to follow the model Jesse Harper started back in 1913 when he scheduled games at Army, Penn State and Texas and helped give the Fighting Irish a national following.
“We play coast to coast. Jesse Harper made that decision a hundred years ago. It changed the trajectory of the football program and the university, and we’re not going to stray from it,” Swarbrick said.
The 2014 schedule was released so late because Swarbrick had to adjustments when the school agreed to play five games a season against Atlantic Coast Conference opponents after joining the league for most sports other than football. That left the Irish with too many games.
The problem was solved when Wake Forest agreed to move its 2014 game to 2015 and Swarbrick made the game against Boston College a Shamrock Series game, where the Irish play one home game a season at a neutral site.
Swarbrick said that fit in with his goal of playing games in special places. The Irish will face Boston College at the home of the Boston Red Sox — the team Irish coach Brian Kelly grew up rooting for. The field served as the home field for Boston College for 76 games from 1914 through 1956.
In 1944, Notre Dame faced Dartmouth at Fenway and won 64-0.
Notre Dame already has measured the field at Fenway to make sure there wouldn’t be a recurrence of what happened when Northwestern played Illinois at Wrigley Field in 2010 and they had to change the rules so that the offenses would run only toward the west end zone because the east end zone came within a foot of a padded brick wall.
“We spent a lot of time mapping it, staking it,” Swarbrick said. “The Yankees will tell you when we went there the first time, we drove them crazy. We had to outline the entire field. We had to walk in and see it.”
Notre Dame wouldn’t have scheduled the game if officials thought there was any risk to players, Swarbrick said.
The Irish also play Purdue at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis next season, Syracuse at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., in 2014 and 2016, Navy at FedEx Field in Landover, Md., next season and Army in San Antonio in 2016.
They open the 2015 season at home against Texas and open at the Longhorns in 2016.
Swarbrick said when putting together the schedule his other priorities were keeping the model of playing six home games, five road games and the Shamrock Series game, playing on Saturdays, preserving the games with USC, Stanford and Navy, maximizing the school’s geographic reach, maintaining a strong strength of schedule and playing other highly ranked academic schools.
Maintaining games with traditional opponents Purdue, Michigan State, Michigan and Pittsburgh weren’t as high a priority. Swarbrick said he took it as a compliment so many people got upset the Irish won’t be playing them as often.
“I can’t think of a higher form of flattery for Notre Dame football, that people got so upset at the prospect of losing games with us,” he said.
He said the schedule achieves the geographic reach by playing in nine of the nation’s 12 largest cities during the three-year span and nine of the 10 largest Catholic communities.
Swarbrick said a priority moving forward is trying to add a Southeastern Conference opponent to the schedule.
He said that’s difficult, however, because Notre Dame only has one open spot in its schedule for a road game and that is filled through the 2020 season. The Irish also owe BYU a game there.
The Irish also will be playing more home night games. Swarbrick said in addition to the annual Shamrock Series games being played at night, the Irish have agreed to play three night games every two years in South Bend.