The Yankees' officials were giddy, acting as if they had signed a free agent, and essentially they had. Bringing Notre Dame's football team to the Stadium to face Rutgers in the Pinstripe Bowl was similar to the pursuit of a highly coveted player. The Yankees expect a sellout when the teams meet Dec. 28 at noon.
Notre Dame (8-4), which did not qualify for a BCS bowl and did not have a bowl affiliation this season, lost to Alabama in the BCS national championship last season. It accepted the Pinstripe invitation over warmer weather venues including California and Hawaii. "We put a game plan together," Mark Holtzman, the Yankees' executive director of non-baseball events, said Tuesday. "We weren't going to stop."
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Lonn Trost, the Yankees' chief operating officer, deadpanned that he didn't know anything about Notre Dame, then mentioned everything from Knute Rockne to its record seven Heisman winners.
Holtzman had a shot at the Irish because the Big 12, the Pinstripe's contractual partner, did not have enough bowl-eligible schools. "By not qualifying so soon they gave me a leg up to try and get Notre Dame," he said.
Rutgers, headed for the Big Ten next season, finished 6-6 to add local flavor to the Pinstripe. Future Pinstripe matchups will come from the Big Ten and ACC, where Notre Dame will share an affiliation starting next season.
Holtzman dispatched assistant John Mosley -- a Notre Dame grad -- to South Bend. Coach Brian Kelly drew laughter when he said Mosley "would not take no for an answer." It really did not take much arm twisting, Kelly said. "We are playing a bowl game that is being organized by one of the great sports franchises in the history of athletics and we recognize that," he said. "We're not talking about a bowl game that doesn't bring that kind of cachet to the table."
What also helped, a person familiar with the negotiations said, was the Yankees adding an enhanced payout to seal the deal. But Holtzman said it was more than money: "Everyone wants them. They are a wealthy institution and they can [go] wherever they want."
Notre Dame was the first football team to play at the new Yankee Stadium. It beat Army, 27-3, on Nov. 20, 2010, before a crowd of over 54,000. Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick reminded everyone that this is the 100th anniversary of Notre Dame's first great team, which beat Army in November 1913 in a game where it was credited with introducing the forward pass into college football.
"It changed the trajectory of not just our program," Swarbrick said, "but our university forever."