Notre Dame officials address criticism after fans storm field over Clemson upset


Fans storm the field after Notre Dame defeated the Clemson 47-40 in two overtimes in an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020, in South Bend, Ind. (Matt Cashore/Pool Photo via AP)

NOTRE DAME, Ind. (NewsNation Now) —  Norte Dame officials on Monday addressed criticism for fans storming the field after Saturday’s victory against Clemson.

Norte Dame, ranked No. 4, beat top-ranked Clemson in a 47-40 double-overtime victory Saturday night. Moments after their win, thousands of fans stormed the field in celebration — many not wearing masks. 

One student who didn’t want to be identified told NewsNation she ran on the field to cheer on her home team.

“Honestly, it felt very cinematic. And it was a memorable night. No comments on if it was good or bad. But I think it’s something that’s memorable and we hadn’t had something to celebrate in a long time,” said the student.

The concern by spectators was the lack of social distancing that took place.

“I think that seeing the pictures more masks could have stayed on. Like she said it was really in the moment. It was a really exciting game,” said St. Mary student Madelynne Keller.

Even professional athletes criticized the move online. 

“So it’s ok for fans to storm the field but not ok at the same time to have fans??? I’m confused,” said NBA star Lebron James on Twitter. 

University officials told NewsNation these students will not face punishment for this action. Norte Dame’s Vice President of Public Affairs and Communications Paul Browne said the image of the students rushing the field was more of a problem than the actual moment.

“One distinction I’d like to make right off the top is that the students at the game — even those who were out on the field — were not the problem in terms of COVID. The health officials here said they were only on for a brief amount of time, most of them were wearing masks and they were outdoors,“  said Browne. 

“The attendance for the Notre Dame-Clemson game was 11,011 in a 78,000-seat stadium — just students, faculty, staff and players’ families. We capped attendance at 20 percent or less of actual capacity, so this has been about the same number of fans for all five of the home games we’ve played,” Assistant Vice President Dennis K. Brown said in a statement.

Browne explained that every student must test negative for COVID-19 days before they could get their ticket to the game. 

But the university’s concern is the partying that happened before the game even took place. 

“The problem was at social gatherings or parties, like a block party in one incident with students very close together, no masks and for an extended period of time,” said Browne. “That happened in the afternoon, before the game. That’s what we’re focused on, that kind of conduct and violation of our protocols and we are trying to reinforce before they leave home, before Thanksgiving.”

Browne was asked if any of the same students who went to those parties also went to the game. 

“I can’t say for certain,” responded Browne. 

Browne said the university is now requiring all students to get tested for COVID-19 before they can leave for Thanksgiving break. 

“This is a must, it’s not a choice. They must be tested. And If they test positive, they have to remain on campus — in isolation or in quarantine until they are cleared. Which means they miss Thanksgiving and we’re requiring it,” said Browne.  

And if they don’t get tested, Browne said they won’t be able to enroll for the next semester. 

As for those students who hosted those large parties or even attended, he said they will face punishment. Some might even be suspended from the university. 

Notre Dame has one home game remaining on Dec. 5 and students disperse for the semester on Nov. 21, so students will not be in attendance. 

As of Monday, 258 COVID-19 tests were administered to Notre Dame Football student-athletes last week. Of those, there were two positive tests, according to a university physician. Those student-athletes are in isolation.

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