What Would Rockne Do? - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

What Would Rockne Do?

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You've probably heard the warning against discussing religion and politics at the dinner table.   You might want to add jumbotron to that list.  It's a controversial topic at Notre Dame.  But we've decided to tackle the controversy by asking the question... What would Rockne do? 

Notre Dame Football means tradition, and no one represents that history more than Knute Rockne. 

"We have a bust of him right over here," says Coach Brian Kelly.  Kelly has reminders of Rockne all over the team's offices.  He says Rockne had a vision for independence and playing all over the country.  "I think it starts and ends with Knute Rockne for me in terms of Notre Dame Football.  The foundation of this program really was about Knute Rockne and his vision."

But would Rockne be comfortable with modern amenities like a jumbotron?

We didn't put Coach Kelly on the spot with that question. If you head out to a tailgate you'll see why.  You certainly won't find a consensus.  There are many graduates like Jerry Hughes who loath the idea of a jumbotron.  As far as what Rockne would do?  "He'd say, 'What's a jumbotron?'  I don't think he'd like it.  I don't think Lou Holtz would like it.  I don't think Frank Leahy would like it because those guys weren't about the marking of the program,"  Hughes said.

"Notre Dame is about tradition and we are not jumbotron people," said Notre Dame Graduate Chris Burke.  "He (Rockne) would never go with a jumbotron." 

Ken Chowder, who wrote the documentary film "Knute Rockne and his Fighting Irish," says Rockne was not only media-savvy, he was ahead of his time.  Chowder says Rockne asked for the stadium to be altered for television cameras long before television was a reality.  Chowder says Rockne would have been fine with the "newfangled changes."

Rockne was also a salesman.  He was a celebrity spokesman for Studebaker.  "He really whipped a lot of life into the Studebaker sales force," says Museum Archivist Andy Beckman.  "From what I've learned about Rockne, he would have been happy to listen to anything that he thought might give himself or his team an advantage to win.  How that would translate into the technology of the modern day, I can't say for certain." 

Sylvester Cashen has mixed feelings about what Rockne would do.  Cash, as people call him, has maintained Rockne's grave site in South Bend since 1980.  It's a place where fans honor the coach by leaving behind small whiskey bottles.  We asked Cash what he thinks Rockne would say about a jumbotron.  "That is a good question," Cash said.  "Like I say he was easy going.  He'd probably think, that's going to cost a lot of money ya' know."

Historians say Rockne actually handed in his resignation once when the powers that be were slow to pay for the original stadium.  The Stadium was built and Rockne stayed.

Pro-jumbotron fans say Rockne wouldn't let money stand in the way.  "He would have the greatest technology as part of the stadium," said ND Graduate Peter Moulder.  "When he built this thing it was state of the art then."

Dan Rahill graduated from Notre Dame in 1979.  "Rockne was an innovator,"  he said.  "Rockne was the first one that came out with the forward pass.  Rockne would have had a jumbotron in here ten years ago."

Fans offered mixed reviews after attending games where they have big jumbotrons.  A thread on a UND message board lit up criticizing the atmosphere after the Oklahoma Game.  One fan wrote "Notre Dame should never, ever get a jumbotron."

But then there's what Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick said during media day this year about the state-of-the-art jumbotron at Yankee Stadium during the 2010 game against Army.  "I've had a lot of people come up to me, including people in the University and say, 'Hey I've changed my mind.'  Now that doesn't reflect any formal polling, but if you were in Yankee Stadium, you know that was incredibly impactful," Swarbrick said. 

The debate will no doubt continue over what a jumbotron would do to the Notre Dame game day experience and what Rockne would do.  What's not debatable is the importance of the Rockne tradition and what that means to Notre Dame.

"I think what we look at is that we want to uphold, what he's done here at Notre Dame and what he had envisioned for Notre Dame Football and that's what we try to aspire to everyday," said Coach Kelly.

Now that we've tackled that qeustion, how about this one... What would Rockne say about field-turf?  Check out reaction from fans!

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