FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — When the Arkansas Razorbacks and Notre Dame Fighting Irish football teams meet for the first time ever in a little more than three years, I have no idea who the starting quarterbacks will be. I can’t tell you if the teams will be ranked.
With college football the way it is, there’s no way to know if Bret Bielema and Brian Kelly will still be coaching the Hogs and Irish, respectively, on Sept. 12, 2020.
But, Arkansas fans, here’s one thing I can tell you with absolute certainty: If you decide to make the trip to northern Indiana for this game, you won’t regret it.
I visited the University of Notre Dame in September 2013 when I was working at The Oklahoman and the Sooners played there. The game itself was alright — Oklahoma won 35-21 — but the overall experience was top-notch.
First of all, there’s the campus. It is breathtakingly beautiful and there is so much to see. In fact, you could easily spend an entire day just touring the campus. The Golden Dome. The Basilica. Light a candle and spend a moment in silent prayer or reflection at The Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes.
“Touchdown Jesus” — the mural painted on the side of the Hesburgh Library — is one of those iconic things you’ve seen in photos or on television a million times that is 1,000 percent cooler in person.
And don’t be afraid to walk around in your Arkansas gear. Notre Dame fans are probably the friendliest I’ve seen when it comes to visitors. I heard from lots of OU fans who were blown away by the hospitality. On game day, Notre Dame employees drove around on golf carts and offered rides to Sooners fans who were trying to find the various campus landmarks.
The stadium itself is neat because it has very few frills. When I was there — in 2013 — Notre Dame Stadium still didn’t have a video board. The stadium has been modernized some since I was there — a video board will debut this fall — but I can’t imagine it has changed all that much. Walking through the concourse, I looked at section entrances and wondered if that might be where they filmed the “You’re 5-feet-nothin’, a-hundred and nothin’ and you’ve got hardly a speck of athletic ability” speech from “Rudy.”
Decent hotel rooms for an acceptable rate will probably be hard to come by in South Bend, but that’s OK. Chicago is only a couple hours away and if you fly, that’s probably where you’ll land anyway. So you get the added bonus of spending a little time in one of the coolest big cities in the country. Just be aware of the time change — you will go from the Central to the Eastern time zone on the drive from Chicago to Notre Dame. You won’t want to be late to the game or lose an hour you could use to walk around the campus.
Notre Dame is obviously far from the football program it once was. The Irish haven’t won a national championship since 1988 and have won only a handful of bowl games in the last 20 years. But that place oozes with history and if you’re a fan of the game — and I assume if you’re reading this, you are — you won’t want to miss seeing your favorite team play in college football’s coolest environment.
I write all of that realizing that Arkansas will play something like 40 games between now and then, so just bookmark this article and start socking away some money.
One-thousand, 164 days will pass before you know it.