Notre Dame will honor 33 seniors on Saturday, Nov. 23, in a pre-game ceremony.
The Irish should include a 34th senior on the list: The stadium's field grass.
Unlike Louis Nix, TJ Jones and Tommy Rees, the grass won't leave behind a legacy of success. In fact, the strongest memories the grass invokes are images of athletic director Jack Swarbrick stamping out rough patches before a game or the university laying down new rolls of sod on an almost weekly basis.
It can't be a coincidence that the grass chose Senior Day to make its strongest case yet that it needs to be retired. In pre-game preparation for BYU, the field has never looked worse.
The grass needs to go. Notre Dame Stadium needs artificial turf. This argument was old three years ago, but the grass has been even more vindictive than usual this season.
It's not a matter of tradition. It's not a matter of defiling "The House that Rockne Built."
It's a matter of player safety.
A wet, tattered field played a large part in the slew of defensive injuries Notre Dame incurred against Navy earlier in November. The Mids' option offense + an unforgiving field = sprained ankles and knees everywhere.
The issue seemed on its way to resolution in August 2012, when Brian Kelly told WSBT "FieldTurf is coming."
"It’s something that’s eventually going to be in the stadium," Kelly said. "We had a lot of construction in there this year, which kind of put us back a little bit, but that’s coming.”
Kelly later added that the turf could come as early as 2013. But Notre Dame is 45 minutes away from its last home game of the season, and the same ugly grass is on the field.
Swarbrick hasn't committed to FieldTurf yet, but he conceded after a slippery loss to Oklahoma in October that something had to change.
"Notre Dame can’t have a field like we had against Oklahoma again,” he said. “That’s just not Notre Dame.”
FieldTurf may be part of the proposed stadium expansion (there hasn't been word either way as far as artificial surfaces are concerned), but that's still in the early drafting process. Notre Dame enters its six month of a six-to-nine month study of the feasibility of a stadium expansion. Simply put, if Notre Dame wants to wait for a multi-year project to install synthetic turf, it won't be soon enough.
The Irish need FieldTurf, and they need it before the start of the 2014 season.