Notre Dame, one of college sports' most storied programs, has reportedly rejected the prospect of playing the 2020-21 football season without fans in attendance due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick said he doesn't see a scenario in which an "extended number of games" would be played without spectators, according to Adam Rittenberg of ESPN.
The fanfare typically associated with college football games is too important, Swarbrick explained.
"I don't see a model where we play, at least any extended number of games, in facilities where we don't have fans," he said. "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 also mentioned other strategies for holding games while observing distancing practices, in the event they should still be in effect by the summer and fall.
"There might be a middle ground where you say, the first two games of the season, you might have to make some accommodations," he 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."
The Fighting Irish's home stadium, Notre Dame Stadium, is one of the iconic venues in the sport, and a familiar sight for fans watching college football on Saturdays throughout the fall. The traditional gold helmets, austerely marked field lines, unmistakable fight song and the ever-looming presence of Touchdown Jesus are synonymous with college football itself for fans of a certain age.
All of Notre Dame's games are televised nationally, mostly on NBC. One exception is the season-opener, where the Fighting Irish are scheduled to play Navy in Dublin, Ireland on August 29 on ESPN.
Notre Dame is technically independent, but according to the ESPN report Swarbrick joins athletic directors from the ACC on their biweekly call.