Irish in the NFL (Stadiums): Where Should Notre Dame Play Next?
Oct. 3, 2020. It had been circled on Irish fans’ calendars since 2017.
This was the date Notre Dame was scheduled to play Wisconsin at Lambeau Field as part of the Shamrock Series. The game was canceled due to COVID-19.
Because of the Shamrock Series, Navy “home” games and bowl games, Notre Dame football is not a stranger to NFL stadiums. Of the 30 professional stadiums currently operating, the Irish have played in 14 of them. They will play USF at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa at some point in the near future, they will play Georgia Tech at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in 2024, and they will presumably play Wisconsin at Lambeau Field in the coming decade, as both schools have expressed serious interest in rescheduling the canceled 2020 contest.
That leaves 13 NFL stadiums where the Irish have never played and are currently not scheduled to play. Below is a suggestion for each stadium using a team that is currently on the schedule coupled with a dream game that I would love to schedule if I was in charge. Maybe one day.
Allegiant Stadium (Las Vegas) - UNLV
The Irish are supposed to host UNLV in 2022, but why not move it to Vegas? This is UNLV’s home stadium, but I’m confident the crowd would be majority Irish. One of the NFL’s newest stadiums is also one of the coolest. The giant Roomba has massive screens plastered around the stadium and real grass that is rolled out of the building to get sunlight. The roof is partially see-through, so the sun shines in during games. I would really enjoy watching Irish Catholics interact with a largely Mormon fanbase on the Vegas Strip.
Dream game: BYU
GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium (Kansas City) - Arkansas
The Irish and the Razorbacks are scheduled to play at Arkansas in 2025 after the 2020 South Bend meeting was postponed. Arkansas AD Hunter Yurachek has signaled interest in rescheduling the matchup down the road, so there may be two games between the teams in the coming decade. The football-shaped video screens in either end zone are a little reminiscent of the screen in Notre Dame stadium.
Dream game: Nebraska
Bills Stadium (Buffalo) - Syracuse
This one is obvious. These two schools have met at a neutral site the last two times they were scheduled to play a Syracuse “home” game. In 2016 they played at MetLife Stadium, and in 2018 they met at Yankee Stadium. The Irish are scheduled to go to the Carrier Dome in 2022, but it would be fun to move it to Buffalo. As one of the oldest stadiums in the NFL, Bills Stadium is not a shiny new toy, but the Bills Mafia and the Irish faithful have a number of striking similarities.
Dream game: Penn State
FirstEnergy Stadium (Cleveland) - Toledo
This game kicks off in 183 days, so it is very obviously not moving to Cleveland (in all likelihood. none of these games are moving, but still). Toledo is just a couple of hours from Cleveland, but the crowd would not be an issue for Notre Dame. Playing a game in this recruiting hotbed would be great - the Irish could use another Liam Eichenberg.
Dream game: West Virginia
Ford Field (Detroit) - Michigan State
When I think of Michigan State, I think of these two horrible occurrences: the 2005 flag planting game in South Bend and the 2010 fake field goal game in East Lansing. To avoid bringing either of these memories back to the front of my mind, let’s move the 2026 and 2027 games between Notre Dame and Michigan State to Ford Field.
Dream game: Indiana
Gillette Stadium (New England) - Boston College
Like Syracuse, there were few options that made sense here. It’s a little surprising this game has never been moved to the Patriots stadium, as it is only a little over 30 minutes south of Chestnut Hill and seats 20,000 more people than Alumni Stadium. Boston College played games there in 2014 and 2016, so it is definitely possible. From what I’ve heard, the space around Gillette is far more suitable for tailgates. This is important to two Catholic fanbases.
Dream game: Army
Levi’s Stadium (San Francisco) - California
Notre Dame hosts Cal in a couple of years, but it is not a home-and-home. There is only one game between the Irish and the Golden Bears scheduled as of now. Moving a home game to a stadium that is 30+ hours from your stadium and one hour from your (very formidable) opponent’s stadium seems like a dumb move. It probably is. That being said, this would be the perfect opponent to do so.
Dream game: Arizona State
Lumen Field (Seattle) - Navy
There are several naval bases in the Seattle-Tacoma area, so why not move one of the annual meetings between the Irish and Midshipmen to Seattle? As Notre Dame fans are aware, when this game is a Navy “home” game, it is never actually in Annapolis. These teams have played in a number of NFL stadiums in the past, the most recent being TIAA Bank Stadium in Jacksonville, FedEx Field outside of Washington, and M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore. A Pacific Northwest trip would be a great future destination.
Dream game: Oregon
Paul Brown Stadium (Cincinnati) - Louisville
I’d love for Notre Dame to break the Cardinal Stadium capacity record set last time they were in Louisville, but they should more this game to Cincy one year. Notre Dame and Louisville have several games scheduled in the next decade, so there are plenty of options for a game at the Bengals home stadium. Like Cleveland, this is an important recruiting area for the Irish. Zeke Correll and Tommy Kraemer are from the area. Offensive Line U would benefit from another game in the Buckeye State.
Dream game: Kentucky
Empower Field at Mile High Stadium (Denver) - Stanford
This is a little far from Palo Alto, and I know Levi’s Stadium is only 20 minutes away from Stanford’s campus, but this would be a fun, in-between location for two very national schools. The Farm can be fun when Stanford is good, but when the game on the West Coast takes place Thanksgiving weekend AND Stanford is struggling, Stanford Stadium is empty. It might be a little cold in Denver in December, but the advantage goes to the Irish there.
Dream game: Air Force
NRG Stadium (Houston) - Texas A&M
I would not actually want either game in this home-and-home moved away from either campus. Kyle Field is a bucket list destination, and if the Aggies get a home-field advantage in 2024, I do not want to give it up for 2025. But this is the only game the Irish are currently scheduled to play against a team from Texas, Oklahoma or Louisiana, so to Houston we go.
Dream game: Texas
SoFi Stadium (Los Angeles) - USC
I fully understand the history of the Coliseum. I would like to go someday. That being said, I have been told the viewing experience, especially for Irish fans, is terrible. Move this over to the beach and away from South Central LA just once. The Irish and the Trojans already draw a huge crowd because they are college football’s greatest rivalry (Alabama, Auburn, Ohio State and Michigan fans - you all are a close second and third. Please do not contact me on this point at this time), but a new setting at a new stadium would be fun just for one year.
Dream game: UCLA
U.S. Bank Stadium (Minneapolis) - Northern Illinois
This game is scheduled to be in South Bend in 2024. While Minnesota is not the most fertile recruiting state in the country, it has been good to the Irish this millennium. Marcus Freeman (no, not Irish defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman), Ryan Harris, John Carlson and Michael Floyd are Minnesota natives.
Dream game: Minnesota