A conversation with two football stadium ushers

The ushers at the Notre Dame football stadium have long been an integral part of the gameday experience. Every person coming to watch a football game in the stadium encounters the ushers, but the fast-paced game day atmosphere makes it nearly impossible to meet these unsung heroes who scan tickets and direct thousands of fans to their seats. The Irish Rover sat down with Larry and Vicky, some of Notre Dame Football’s most inconspicuous organizers. 

According to The Athletic, Notre Dame employs nearly 800 ushers. These men and women work most notably at Notre Dame home football games, as well as a variety of events including concerts in the stadium and student move-in. Head Coach Knute Rockne began the tradition of ushers at Notre Dame to create the optimal gameday experience for Notre Dame football fans. 

Larry, a third-generation Notre Dame usher with 29 years of experience, wears the navy blue and gold hat of a supervisor. He stands out from other ushers in his custom-made green suspenders with golden shamrocks, inherited from his father. For Larry, ushering is a family affair—he worked alongside his dad until his father’s passing a few years ago. Larry is passionate about carrying on the gameday tradition, both of ushering and wearing his dad’s suspenders, which have been worn at every home game for the last 50 years. The legacy does not stop with Larry, though. His three granddaughters will be working alongside their grandfather as ushers at the student gate for the 2023–2024 football season. “Family is everything,” he said, “I’m excited to work with them.”

Ushering was not the first job Larry had at Notre Dame. His first gig was working as a “mustard boy” during football games, a job he started at the age of seven years old. Larry explained that Notre Dame used to have concession stands outside of the football stadium, and it was his job to “keep the counters clean and the condiments full.” To be hired for the day, Larry would have to be the first volunteer at the concession stands; the night before home games, he would sleep outside of the Joyce Center, fighting off the cold with the help of outdoor vents that blew out hot air. 

Larry earned only $5 per game, but sometimes the luck of the Irish would land him a nice tip: “Once a man who had too much to drink handed me his football ticket. I took it, walked a few feet, and another man paid me $100 for the ticket. I had never seen so much money in my life.” 

When asked about the best part of being an usher, Larry’s supervisor chimed in, “The best part is the camaraderie we have. The ushers are a great community.” Larry and his supervisor recounted the “game of the century,” when #2 Notre Dame beat undefeated Florida State in 1993. “The students carried Lou Holtz off the field. I’ve never heard the stadium get that loud,” Larry recounted. When he left the stadium that evening, there were girls dancing on top of cars who tried to buy his usher hat. “I would’ve gotten into trouble if I had sold it!” he said, but Larry managed to hold on to both his hat and his job. 

Vicky, one of the ushers under Larry’s supervision, has been working at Notre Dame Stadium for 15 years. A self-described sports fan, Vicky loves working as an usher because she gets to see the students and fans: “Everybody’s pretty nice. A lot of people don’t like dealing with the students, but I enjoy working at the student gate and meeting new people.” After scanning mobile tickets and checking student IDs, Vicky enjoys watching one quarter of the game from the stands—a perk of her job. 

As the Rover  spoke with Vicky near the student entrance of the stadium during the second quarter of the Notre Dame v. California game, the shouts from the crowd got noticeably louder. Without a scoreboard in sight, Vicky could tell that Notre Dame had just scored a touchdown. She said her many years of experience ushering had trained her to know whether we were losing or winning a game just based on the noises from the stadium. 

The next time you are jostled through the student gate at a home football game, look for conspicuous green suspenders and take a minute to thank the ushers. Larry, Vicky, and the other ushers who help you get into the game choose to work the student gate specifically because of how much they love Notre Dame students. According to Larry, “It’s seeing the smiles that make it all worth it. Some days it’s challenging, but they really are incredible fans.”

Viana Schlapp is a sophomore majoring in the Program of Liberal Studies with minors in constitutional studies and theology. She loves people, watching movies, and Cuban coffee. If you ever want to ask about her day with Coach Lou Holtz, email vschlapp@nd.edu.

Photo Credit: Scholastic Magazine, University of Notre Dame