On Sept. 3, the 2022 Notre Dame football season kicked off against the Ohio State Buckeyes.
Among the crowd in the third-largest on-campus national football stadium were Notre Dame students who had traveled four hours to watch the game.
Senior Katie Nolan was one such student who decided to attend the Ohio State game. “It's my senior year and I honestly just wanted to maximize the season,” Nolan said.
Initially, Nolan planned on watching the game at a bar with some friends after tailgating because she did not win tickets from the student lottery.
“I was originally going to go [to Ohio State] and just not go to the game,” Nolan said. “I thought that that would be totally fun … I know Ohio State’s a big school so I knew we’d have a fun time partying.”
Nolan instead ended up purchasing tickets last minute after seeing other students go inside the stadium right before the game. “I ended up going in and sitting with the student section,” Nolan said.
In contrast to Nolan, senior Meredith Wilson initially planned on attending the game after winning the ticket lottery. But instead, Wilson gave her ticket to a friend who really wanted to go into the game, while she watched the game at a restaurant with her cousin, an Ohio State student.
“I actually watched [the game] at a Mexican restaurant,” Wilson said. “But it was fun after being exhausted from driving all day and [tailgating] to not have to stand for a bunch of hours and eat chips and salsa instead.”
Earlier in the day, Wilson gained insight to what tailgating is like as a student at Ohio State.
“I was really fortunate because, since my cousin goes there, I was able to go to all of the Ohio State tailgates,” Wilson said. “I was able to go to frat parties with her and get into them.”
Wilson recounted how different the scale of student tailgates and parties were at OSU compared to Notre Dame. “I went to a tailgate that had a blow-up water slide,” Wilson shared.
Similar to Wilson, senior Jaden Bailey tailgated at a fraternity. “[My Notre Dame friends and I] went to my [high school] friend’s fraternity’s tailgates and then after that we went to the game,” Bailey said.
Bailey compared the tailgating that occurs at Notre Dame and at Legacy Village, off-campus student housing, to the OSU fraternity tailgates.
“I think the only difference is that they have five times the amount of kids that we do, so there’s like five times the amount of events going on,” Bailey said. “It's the same thing as [a tailgate at] Legacy, just with a frat and then across the street, there was the same thing going on.”
Bailey also added that the tailgating experience differed in regard to sober options for students at Ohio State.
“At Notre Dame, I feel like there’s a bunch of family-friendly opportunities to get excited for the game, like Saturday with the Saints, Campus Ministry tailgates, tents on Library Lawn,” Bailey said. “Ohio State didn’t even have a stadium tour [on Friday].”
Nolan also stated that there were less students, especially Ohio State students, tailgating at the parking lots by the stadium.
“One major difference I noticed is that there’s a lot more tailgating with your parents in the parking lot at a Notre Dame game than there is going to bars, going to frats — obviously because we don’t have them — and going to house parties [like at OSU],” Nolan said. “I think the thing that sets Notre Dame tailgating apart is the family aspect.”
Bailey similarly talked about how the environment at OSU felt more similar to that of an NFL game, while games at Notre Dame feel more family-oriented.
“I believe that Notre Dame football is a little bit more cozy, a little bit more intimate,” Bailey said. “This [Ohio State game] felt a little bit more populated… the stadium was filled with non-students.”
To compare, the OSU stadium seats 102,780 people, while the Notre Dame stadium seats 80,795 people. The difference in size impacted the typical game-watching experience for Nolan.
“I noticed one thing was that our marching band sounds so loud [at the Notre Dame games], but I could barely hear theirs,” Nolan said. “I couldn’t hear what was really going on and I felt like I was watching the screen a lot more than I was watching the field.”
Even compared to when Nolan sat higher up in the Notre Dame stadium during times of social distancing for COVID-19, Nolan recalled that she felt more removed from the Ohio State game.
For Bailey, the merit to the football experience at OSU was that there were more events, but they came with downsides.
“For Ohio State, their pros are that there’s more events, but that’s really just because they have more people,” Bailey said. “And then their cons are it’s less of a family event because there’s more people.”
In the end, Wilson reflects that the experience at Ohio State made her appreciate the football games at Notre Dame even more.
“Notre Dame game days make more sense for me and that structure — it feels like home to me,” Wilson said.
Despite reaching halftime with Notre Dame in the lead, the night ended 21-10 to OSU.