Notre Dame's double overtime victory over No. 1 Clemson was an instant classic, concluded by a classic college football moment: joyous students rushing the field.
It was in-your-face reminder that "normal" isn't normal in 2020, as 9.6 million viewers watched the scene unfold like a horror movie where the characters don't realize the killer is right behind them.
Notre Dame's athletics department said it prepared ahead of time for a field-rushing, working to protect Clemson and Notre Dame from a rush of students in the event it happened. AD Jack Swarbrick said the school has conducted 68,000 tests of its 8,600 students, and 500 tickets were voided who were deemed close contacts or failed to show for required surveillance tests.
"I told our team at our walkthrough today, I said: 'I just want you to know when we win this thing, the fans are gonna storm the field, and with COVID being as it is, we gotta get off the field and get to the tunnel," Brian Kelly said.
On Sunday, Notre Dame president Father John Jenkins issued a statement saying there will be consequences for Saturday night's fun. "Because we are now even more concerned about the potential for contagion in your home communities as you prepare to travel home at the end of the semester, the University will place a registration hold on the record of any student who fails to appear for testing when asked to do so."
A registration hold, Jenkins explained, essentially hold a student's academic career hostage. Students under a registration hold are not able to graduate, register for classes or even request their transcript should they attempt to transfer.
The ironic thing here is Jenkins himself was guilty of a flagrant protocol violation of his own not long ago.
Jenkins, unmasked, attended a ceremony celebrating the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett, a longtime Notre Dame law professor, to the Supreme Court in late September. Shortly thereafter, a number of high-ranking government officials tested positive for the coronavirus.
Notre Dame's faculty senate passed a "vote of disappointment" in Jenkins for attending the event just two days before the Clemson game.
“Whereas President Jenkins failed to abide by the University Policies concerning COVID-19 precautions during his trip to Washington D.C.; whereas Fr. Jenkins has apologized for his actions, be it resolved, the Faculty Senate expresses its disappointment in his actions. Be it further resolved, the Faculty Senate also accepts his apology.”
"I regret my error of judgment in not wearing a mask during the ceremony and by shaking hands with a number of people in the Rose Garden. I failed to lead by example, at a time when I’ve asked everyone else in the Notre Dame community to do so. I especially regret my mistake in light of the sacrifices made on a daily basis by many, particularly our students, in adjusting their lives to observe our health protocols," Jenkins said shortly after the event.
Having owned his own mistake, Jenkins is now attempting to manage an episode of... college kids being college kids.
"Our football team showed us how to finish strong on Saturday night. Please finish this semester strong by wearing a mask, maintaining physical distance, washing your hands and completing your daily health check," Jenkins said.