BYU football: Going to Notre Dame is more than a game, it's an 'experience'

Published: Sunday, June 24 2012 9:00 p.m. MDT

One of the things fans should see if they travel to Notre Dame for a game is theGrotto of Our Lady of Lourdes.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

Editor's note: This is the second in a four-part series examining the relationship between BYU and Notre Dame and the impending start of a six-game football series between the Cougars and the Fighting Irish. Read part 1. Read part 3. Today: The Notre Dame Experience

Related top list: BYU football: Seven must see sites in South Bend, Ind. when playing Notre Dame.

PROVO — BYU fan Justin Bradshaw and some friends from Alabama traveled to South Bend, Ind., to attend a BYU-Notre Dame football game years ago knowing they didn't have a way to get into historic Notre Dame Stadium.

So the group hatched a creative solution, carrying a sign saying, "3 Mormons from Alabama will go to Mass for tickets."

Understandably, they drew considerable attention on the Notre Dame campus.

"We were instant celebrities," Bradshaw remembered. "We were probably offered 50 or so tickets, and we had to turn people away. Many of the Notre Dame fans asked to have their picture taken with us. They were the friendliest fans I've ever met."

At one point, a Catholic priest approached them and handed them tickets on the fifth row near the 20-yard line.

"You don't have to go to mass," the priest told them. "You are forgiven."

It may sound like the punch line of a joke, but Bradshaw insists that it is true.

"I believe they actually published a story about us in the Notre Dame Alumni magazine," he said.

A bevy of BYU fans who have visited Notre Dame Stadium has a story to tell.

Call it the "Notre Dame Experience."

BYU has played in South Bend four times, with the most recent meeting in 2005. The Cougars and Fighting Irish will play six times between 2012 and 2020, a series that was announced the day BYU declared its independence in 2010. The two teams renew acquaintances on Oct. 20, and Cougar fans are expected to flock to Notre Dame once again.

One of them is Joseph Houston from Missoula, Mont., who said the trip to South Bend in 2005 "was absolutely worth it," despite the Cougars' blowout loss to the Irish.

At the time, Houston lived in Columbia, Mo., where he was attending school.

"Six of us piled in a minivan the Friday evening before the game," Houston said. "We stopped at a hotel for a few hours, got to South Bend in the morning. Took it all in and drove right after the game in order to make it back for Sunday morning (church) meetings."

Houston and his party took advantage of every minute at Notre Dame.

"Not only did we tour the College Football Hall of Fame in South Bend, take in the tailgating, and check out the marching band, but just walking through the Notre Dame campus and sitting in the stadium gave me a euphoric sense that I was at the center of all that is college football," Houston said. "Hard to describe. I have traveled to other games where BYU got beat, and the loss always left a bitter taste in my mouth and a bad attitude on the trip home. I didn't feel quite so bad after the Notre Dame game. BYU got trounced, but I still felt satisfied because just being there made me feel like I had accomplished something worthwhile. Certainly a win would have been preferred, but it was far from necessary. Obviously BYU has a much better chance to win this year than they did in 2005, but my suggestion to fans going to South Bend for the first time — try to enjoy the experience and tradition as much as the game itself."

Charles Knutson, a BYU computer science professor, is planning on going to South Bend for the game with his son who is currently serving a mission in Italy.

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