Lack of national relevance is among the factors negatively impacting Notre Dame football financially

Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly argues a call during the second half of a game last season against North Carolina State at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend. (By The Associated Press)

At 6 p.m. Thursday a rare opportunity will be presented to the Notre Dame football fan base. Or at least it used to be rare.

Single-game tickets will be made available for purchase through the Notre Dame ticket office online (UND.com/BuyTickets). In addition, they can be purchased beginning Friday at 8:30 a.m. at the ticket office on campus or by phone (833-ND-IRISH).

“We realize how cool it is,” Notre Dame special teams coach Brian Polian said earlier this summer of being at Notre Dame. “We appreciate the fan support and game day in South Bend, there is nothing like it.”

His point is well taken, but the fact remains that the Fighting Irish spent $400 million in renovations (really cool ones, at that) to Notre Dame Stadium a year ago, yet tickets remain available for every Notre Dame game, aside from the season opener vs. Michigan, which only sold out on Wednesday.

“I can tell you as somebody that was at Notre Dame and then left,” Polian said, “this place is so special and we don’t take that for granted.”

There are certainly a number of factors that play a role in this downward trend of interest. As with all sporting events, it is becoming incredibly difficult to compete with the comforting experience of watching a game at home.

When fans have the option of spending hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, to fight an intoxicated crowd, share a bathroom with thousands, and view the field from 125 yards away with no analysis, as opposed to sitting on their couch in sweats, scanning social media, using their own bathroom, and eating an endless array of food out of their own kitchen, they tend to take issue with Polian’s belief and say ‘There IS something like it.’

Notre Dame can’t contend with the evolution of society and technology, though it has taken a step in that regard by adding a massive video board for highlights, replays, and in-game entertainment. However, another issue that the football program has to contend with is the fact that it hasn’t been nationally relevant – with any degree of frequency – for a long, long, long time.

“We began with clearly a vision of where we wanted to go, and that vision was a tradition of excellence,” veteran coach Brian Kelly said to kick-off last season. “One that, here at Notre Dame, is epitomized with God, country and Notre Dame. We know what the bar is.

“From there, a mission, and that mission is really clear to our football team, and that is to graduate all of our players and to win a National Championship.”

That may be the “mission,” but it is almost never pursued.

The Irish haven’t won a national championship in 30 years and they have only finished a season among the top 10 programs nationally once in the last 24.

That has to play a part in the decline of interest in spending hard-earned money on tickets and it has to have some level of influence in recruiting, as well, though Kelly disputes that notion.

“I think kids look at more than just one season,” Kelly said. “They look at Notre Dame, the tradition at Notre Dame.”

Which begs the question: What is the “tradition” of Notre Dame football?

During these kids’ lifetimes, it has often been late-season fades, finishing 17th in the final national poll and playing in a nondescript bowl game.

Under Kelly, in half of his eight seasons, Notre Dame hasn’t finished ranked at all.

In the five seasons since he led the Notre Dame to the BCS Championship Game, his teams have lost 23 games, including 13 in November. So you can forgive the Irish Nation if it chooses to hold on to its money and stay at home.

Notre Dame eventually sold out all of its home games last season, and the Michigan game stretches that steak to 263; however, it appears to be on the precipice of that possibly coming to an end.

A poor performance against the Wolverines puts week two (a home game against Mid-American Conference doormat Ball State) in a very precarious position.

“I love it here,” Polian said of his employer. “I don’t know if there is an assistant coach in America that is as emotionally invested to a place as I am to this one. I don’t know if people understand how neat of a place this is. We talk about that all of the time. I wonder sometimes if the fan base does.”

Empty seats within the iconic landmark this season will answer that question.

For more on Notre Dame football, follow Tom Davis on Twitter at Tom101010, Facebook at Thomas Davis, and Instagram at tomdavis101010.

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