Notre Dame home games, fake ref whistles, and a pattern.

Submitted by BlowGoo on October 14th, 2012 at 1:07 AM

Two years ago, we were fortunate enough to be in South Bend to watch Michigan defeat Notre Dame. It was a great college football atmosphere. We were sitting in the middle of ND established fan seating, as we were guests of friends whose child is on the ND band. Though we were dressed in maize and blue, the spirit of good sportsmanship and prevailing sense of a common love of the game (with deserved mutual respect for each other's programs) meant we had a good time among the ND faithful.

Fast forward to THIS year, and the atmosphere was different. We should have been tipped off by the article the Friday before about ND's efforts to make their home field louder and more advantageous. Still, we were surprised when the game commenced and the amount of pumped in music was DRAMATICALLY louder.

But, hey, we're used to noise in the Big House, right?

Yet we AREN'T used to piped in music being played CONSISTENTLY even AFTER the opposing QB had STARTED HIS SNAP COUNT. In fact, I had NEVER seen that happen consistently at any football game I had previously attended, on ANY level.

The shenanigans didn't stop there: our friend's child on the ND band told us after the game that, for the first time ever, their band was microphoned the week prior as a warmup to Michigan.

For the Michigan game, ND used DOUBLE the microphones from the week before. All for the sake of amplifying the crowd noise, and irresponsibly TIMING the amplification beyond decent sportsmanship.

Why am I (re)writing about this now? Because throughout that game, we heard repetitively fake ref whistles coming from the crowd. They were subtle enough that they were hard to precisely localize, but they seemed to come from the same part of the field. And occurred throughout the entire game. I had supposed that the whistle was too faint to effect gameplay, because the refs weren't commenting on it... ... until the second half, wherein Michigan fans will no doubt recall the refs threw a flag against Michigan on either a false start or offside, but took the unusual step of announcing that there would be no penalty assessed against Mich due to a whistle from the crowd causing undue/unfair confusion.

No formal penalty nor warning was issued to the fans in attendance by the refs as was their responsibility.

Now, I recognize as much as the next football fan that when you have six turnovers, well, you get what you get and to blame the refs for the loss is tacky. So I'm not doing that.

But after tonight's Stanford game in South Bend, wherein, ESPN writes, "The Irish got a stop on third down, though the Stanford players CONTENDED THEY HEARD A WHISTLE ON THE PLAY AND STOPPED PLAYING.. They settled for Williamson's field and a three-point lead," given how critical that stop turned out to be, well, it seems something stinks in South Bend.

Once again, the refs failed to act, and in so doing, merely encouraged fake whistles in the future.

I've never seen a PATTERN like this before of outrageous lack of integrity. Isolated episodes? Yes, of course. But repeated stuff like this? No.

Am I being naive, and this fake whistle / amped music during snap count / overamplifying home band-stuff happen ALL THE TIME, and I'm only noticing it now? Because I've been to a ton of games at multiple levels and not seen this repeated crap before.

Am I the only one seeing this?

Are there other (in)famous examples of habitual stretching of "home field advantage" to questionable limits?

Is this cheating?



October 14th, 2012 at 1:16 AM ^

The loud RAWK playing through the snap count was absurd, and I hope Brandon had a talk with Swarbrick about it. The whistles though, idk man, weird shit just happens at ND. It just is.


October 14th, 2012 at 4:23 PM ^

Yeah, it toss it under "weird shit" rather htan have to think about the blantant bullshit that happens there all the time like phantom touchdowns and shit like "it's not a excessive celebration penalty because they thought the game was over." Well, Nebraska thought that too in 2006 Alamo Bowl, doesn't mean it's NOT a penalty.


October 14th, 2012 at 1:31 AM ^

Yeah, I put the Enter key paragraph breaks in, and it still came out like that. Then I REEDITED it and put TWO Enter key presses between paragraphs just now. Same result. :(. Sorry about the wall of text. That isn't the format that appeared on my screen when I submitted it. Update: i just now MANUALLY put in the denoted page breaks, and that worked. Sorry about the formatting issues. Fixed now (but for the record, I initially wrote this with paragraph breaks using the Enter key)!

snarling wolverine

October 14th, 2012 at 2:00 PM ^

That's historically been their M.O.  We stopped playing them in 1910 because they would not agree to adhere to eligibility conventions (three years of eligibility, full-time students only) that most of the rest of the country was adopting.  (ND's version of the story is that we harbored "anti-Catholic bias."  They love to make that accusation of anyone who points out their hypocrisy and rule-bending.)  The NCAA was then in its infancy and did not yet have the teeth to sanction programs, so ND happily skirted the rules to gain advantage.

Later, ND players pioneered the practice of faking injuries to stop the clock.  The NCAA had to step in and rule that those players would be forced to leave the game for a play.

We lost the 1980 game when an ND player jumped on top of his teammate's back to block our field goal attempt.  The NCAA quickly closed that loophole.

Then under Lou Holtz, all kinds of shady crap went on - steroid use, academic fraud to name two - but ND fans happily sweep that under the rug and revere the guy because he won a national title.

Fake whistles in the stands?  Piped-in music until the snap?  That's just the Domers being Domers.




October 14th, 2012 at 1:31 AM ^

I complained about that in the moment because it was in obvious poor taste. On 3rd downs for Michigan they blasted stadium music up until the snap. Isn't that a violation of some kind, like calling out snap counts, ect?


October 14th, 2012 at 2:11 AM ^

Only thing I could see in NCAA rules that was related to this was:

Rule 9-2, Article 1, subsection a-2-b-5  (I have no idea if that's how it actually would be designated, but that's what it looks like to me)

PENALTY—Dead-ball foul. 15 yards from the succeeding spot [S7 and S27].
Automatic first down for fouls by Team B if not in conflict with
other rules. Flagrant offenders, if players or substitutes, shall
be disqualified [S47].

5. Persons subject to the rules, including bands, shall not create any noise
that prohibits a team from hearing its signals (Rule 1-1-6).

And rule 1-1-6 specifies who is subject to the rules:

Persons Subject to the Rules
ARTICLE 6. a. All persons subject to the rules are governed by the decisions
of the officials.
b. Those persons subject to the rules are: Everyone in the team area, players,
substitutes, replaced players, coaches, athletics trainers, cheerleaders, band
members, mascots, public-address announcers, audio and video system
, and other persons affiliated with the teams or institutions.


October 14th, 2012 at 1:34 AM ^

will back you up on this one, as I am noticing a trend with some schools where things will break their way very favorably at home for no explicable reason. Maybe some people say this about us, or will call it poor sportsmanship or something, but I just notice it some places more than others, and it really  hurts the integrity of the game, I think.


ED: By "no explicable reason", I mean random calls in the home team's favor.


October 14th, 2012 at 1:41 AM ^

To be honest, when I was watching the Michigan/Notre Dame game on TV, I asked my roommate if the music was coming from NBC or if it was being played in the stadium.  Don't get me wrong I'm not unfamiliar with piped in music, but it was being played so close to the start of the play that it resembled an NBA team bringing the ball up the backcourt more than it did a football game.


As everyone knows, ND is going to get the benefit of the calls more often than not in South Bend, but I don't know that I can disagree with OP's sentiments.  While it comes off ass grasping at straws, there definitely seems to be something fishier than usual going on.



October 14th, 2012 at 1:46 AM ^

Even from a South Bend publication, there's a story highlighting the problem:…

Article titled "[Stanford coach] Shaw Irked By Phantom Whistle.". Highlights:

"But that wasn’t the only thing that upset Taylor and Stanford. On a third and 2 play from the Notre Dame 3 with just over six minutes left and the score tied 10-10, Taylor was stacked up for a 7-yard loss, forcing the Cardinal to kick a field goal.

Taylor was certain he heard a whistle.

“Oh, yeah, I heard a whistle,” said Taylor, who finished with 102 yards on 28 carries. “That’s why I stopped. The line stopped as well.

“We all heard the whistle. I was surprised the play wasn’t stopped.

“Everybody heard the whistle. If I had known it wasn’t the right whistle, I would have kept going. It was an offsides type of deal when it blew. It was like the ball was snapped and the whistle blew. As soon as the ball was snapped I assumed it was an offsides call. I heard a whistle. I didn’t know what it was, but I heard a whistle.”

"Shaw closed out his postgame press conference with a statement about the whistle.

“I’ll just make one comment,” Shaw said. “In case you’re wondering, just before our last field goal down there, we had a third and 2 and there was a whistle that came from the crowd. That’s why our guys stopped playing. It was verified. It was heard. The play did not stop."

“I don’t know what the rule is on that. I’ll double check with the officials, with the head officials and make sure that whatever we can do gets done in that situation. That one hurt. The whistle came from the crowd. I don’t know what can be done about it. I’ve heard from many people that it’s happened here a few times. Once again I don’t know what can be done outside of maybe stopping the play. But I’ll check the rules and talk to the officials about what can be done there.”


October 14th, 2012 at 2:49 AM ^

How is it "everyone" on the Cardinal heard the whistle and reacted, while none of the ND players did? If ND is being coached to play through the whistle, you'd expect a hell of a lot of personal fouls to result and probably wouldn't have seen their defensive players celebrating at the end of the game while Taylor was crawling toward the goal line. It doesn't make sense.


October 14th, 2012 at 2:05 AM ^

I would encourage Michigan and Stanford to talk to the ND, and then the NCAA about it, but I also wouldn't make the complaints public. We fans have a bit of a tendency to accuse and sentence and brand quickly, and while it may be warranted in some cases, a few fans blowing whistles and Notre Dame doing unsportsmanlike things to get a home edge are neither of them new nor insurmountable.

An away game isn't just tough because you slept in a hotel instead of your dorm. Field turf ended this, but when I was in high school our school would overwater the opponent's sideline, or maybe it was just sloped down that direction or something--anyway our rivals would always complain that playing us meant having to play in soaked cleats. At away games the atmosphere is against you. It's part of sports. I wouldn't take it too seriously.


October 14th, 2012 at 2:15 AM ^

But the stadium music is something controllable, and even planned, it seems. So there's definitely a tangeable issue to complain about there. I agree the whistles are something I hear on tv a lot, and wouldn't waste time getting outraged over. Besides, no amount of whistles will help ND against Oklahoma or USC anyways.


October 14th, 2012 at 3:28 AM ^

The whistles are out of control. You could clearly hear them on TV during both the Michigan game and today's Stanford game. If that isn't dealt with, it's going to cause outcome-changing issues in many games to come. I don't know how the refs could stop it, but it's a big deal. The piped in music being played until the ball is snapped, too, but the whistles are a bigger problem IME.


October 14th, 2012 at 3:48 AM ^

but I would have definitely called an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on ND had this been a hockey game (followed by a game misconduct penalty assessed against their head coach). It's somewhat different in a stadium with 80,000 fans and a bunch of ushers, but the correct protocol is to alert them to escort the offenders out.

I can't imagine it's much different in football. Fake whistles are dangerous and a serious danger to any player out there. The ND fans with the whistles deserve to be shamed publicly, their actions are inexcusable.


October 14th, 2012 at 10:57 AM ^


As Justingoblue says, fake whistles are dangerous.  Blowing a whistle in the stands is not just unsportsmanlike, it can lead to serious injuries on the field.  When players think the play is over, they relax their guard and are vulnerable to players who might hit them full force.  

Anyone blowing a whistle in the stands during a game deserves to be called out and be pointed out to the stadium ushers so they can be removed.  


October 14th, 2012 at 10:53 AM ^

Michigan? Probably not, which is probably why we didn't go public with complaints (if we complained at all).

But the Stanford game? DEFINITELY made a difference. I mean, the phantom whistle stole a third and goal attempt from the goal line, forcing Stanford to settle for a FG, in a game eventually lost in OT. And it was bad enough that Stanford DID go public, even though they, unlike us, still have an ongoing rivalry with ND.


October 14th, 2012 at 8:25 AM ^

Is this a copy and paste job because I recall some of the same exact things being said on this site right after we lost to them....O well


October 14th, 2012 at 9:40 AM ^

I didn't cut and paste, but yes, I wrote a post in someone else's thread about this, and moved on...
... until I saw and heard the phantom whistles AGAIN in last night's gsm. And thus time it really had an effect on the game. And therefore it probably effected the BCS picture.

So I got pissed off enough that it was still happening to write it out.

The Stanford coach seems to agree that there's a pattern here.


October 14th, 2012 at 8:48 AM ^

This is where being an independent gives ND an advantage.  If this sort of thing were happening in league play, I'm sure the league itself would step in and put a stop to it.  


October 14th, 2012 at 8:49 AM ^

I hear fake whistles over the TV at a lot of games this year.  That is something fans do, and it's tough to really police.  The bands, however, are just plain cheating.  A couple of 15-yard penalties for any marching band trying to "jam" the opponent's snap count would be more than enough to stop what bands are doing.

Since the rule is already there, it's just a matter of enforcement.  Then again, in basketball, I've been waiting for almost 50 years for refs to call the obvious intentional fouls that the team who is behind always commits on the team who is ahead in the last two or three minutes.  The fouls drag the game out for fifteen extra minutes and allow a team to benefit from "illegal" plays, but refs don't seem to care.  

It's sad that the politics of many sports often mean more than the integrity of the rules.


October 14th, 2012 at 8:55 AM ^

I know it puts a sour taste in your mouth but I doubt we'd be talking about this if we won our game with them, or if they were in their conference already.  I believe karma will come back to bite them before the season is over. 

In the mean time I enjoyed the best 3 hours of my weekend yesterday.


October 14th, 2012 at 9:49 AM ^

Sure, I agree when it comes to Michigan, what with six turnovers.

But it made enough of a difference in THIS game vs Stanford that the coach called it out on the post game presser, even noting that the phantom whistled seem to have happened in South Bend before.

So he could have been referencing US.

In any event, the butthurt spreads all the way to California, and all the way up to Head Coach Shaw.

So whatever complaints we might have made, it ain't working. So that makes it discussionworthy.


October 14th, 2012 at 10:41 AM ^

Your reading comprehension skills are lacking, since the OP clearly and directly stated that Michigan did not lose to ND because of this, nor is he blaming our turnovers on the problem he identifies. Nor are any of the commenters.

The whistles from the crowd are a real problem in terms of competitive fairness, and Stanford is entirely justified in bitching about it.