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Swarbrick on the playing surface for 2014

by Brendan ⌂ @, The Chemical and Oil Refinery State, Thursday, December 19, 2013, 13:04
edited by Brendan, Thursday, December 19, 2013, 13:32

Excerpted from B&G's pay article - full text is here:

“We are now in the process of evaluating our options both to go in and tear that thing down to the very, very subsoil and build it back up and stay with grass or go to a synthetic surface,” he said. “We’re sort of in the middle of that evaluation right now. … Whichever we’re going to do when you come out of the winter for, you’ve got to be prepared to execute on, whether we’re completely rebuilding the field as a grass field or doing a synthetic field, probably have to make that decision in the next 60 days so we can implement it come March 1st or April 1st.”

A system similar to that of the Green Bay Packers’, which uses a surface that combines natural grass and synthetic blades, will not be used because of its cost, Swarbrick said.

“The Packers’ system is really interesting. It seems to work very well for them, but it’s very expensive,” he said. “You’re essentially creating a growth environment throughout the fall in this part of the country. You go online and see a picture of their system covering the field and it’s a massive undertaking. That’s probably not an expense that makes sense for us. Probably not where I’d put our resources.”

On the first point about evaluation and timeline, I take him at his word. I think anybody who thinks the university isn't really doing due diligence on this wears a tinfoil hat. On the second point about the Packers' system, duh. Still confused as to why some people think that's a good option.

EDIT: Something else occurred to me about the turf question while reading up on the Packers' solution. An article in the New York Times about the system closed with this:

For teams like the Giants, there are plenty of things to combat during a January visit to Green Bay: quarterback Aaron Rodgers, linebacker Clay Matthews, the likelihood of cold weather and an energized crowd among them.

The notion of the frozen tundra, despite the constant reminders, is one thing they can try to forget.

Sure, that's talking about the visitors, but it obviously applies to the home team too. The Packers, with their innovative system so touted by Notre Dame tradition ideologues*, have actually provided an excellent example of when it makes sense to break with tradition. The "frozen tundra of Lambeau Field" was a brand equity item for them; read in Facenda's distinctive voice it's undoubtedly the most famous line in the entire library of NFL Films. And yet they identified it as an issue not worth dealing with from a player comfort and safety standpoint and did something innovative to fix it. Hmm.

*Note that when I say "tradition ideologues," I don't refer to anyone who prefers grass. I refer to anyone who prefers grass by any means possible with no thought of the impact on the larger university mission - for example, pouring multiple millions into a grass-growing system that could instead go into a scholarship fund.

Listen to the voice of Life, and you will hear Life crying, "Be!"

swarbrick, field


Glad he specifically referenced the Packers system.

by ReginaldVelJohnson @, (FaytlND), Thursday, December 19, 2013, 13:49 @ Brendan

And I think that's a reasonable argument. Having a grass field is not a "tradition" worth blowing huge amounts of money on when that money could be better used other places.


Does anyone besides the Packers have the Packers' system?

by Jack @, Thursday, December 19, 2013, 14:27 @ ReginaldVelJohnson

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Denver and Philadelphia

by Bill, Southern California, Thursday, December 19, 2013, 14:38 @ Jack

Pittsburgh had it, but ripped it out. I don't think the Eagles field is any better than our current field. Denver's is really nice. But I think that the Packers are the only team with the more robust grow lights, etc.


It was an unmitigated disaster in Pittsburgh..

by mkmcfrlnd, Thursday, December 19, 2013, 20:46 @ Bill

..and I believe Philadelphia will be switching before too long. I believe it's been voted the worst field in the league by the players a few times, and I recall Gene Upshaw recommending that the eagles switch to field turf at the same time Heinz field was being redone


Pittsburgh and Philly host more than 2X the games ND does.

by ndroman21, Friday, December 20, 2013, 06:35 @ mkmcfrlnd

At Heinz it's probably closer to 3X.

The system seems to work well in GB and Denver, where both fields are used just slightly more than ND.


Not to the extent that they do

by Brendan ⌂ @, The Chemical and Oil Refinery State, Thursday, December 19, 2013, 14:29 @ Jack

At least the lighting part of it; the hybrid turf I think other places have, but I'm not sure. Anyway, they use the lighting for their entire field to combat the effects of northern Wisconsin weather; the company that makes the lighting system is Dutch and designed it to help the sections of soccer fields that never get sun, and it's very widely used for that.

Listen to the voice of Life, and you will hear Life crying, "Be!"


The lighting was added in 2010...

by ndroman21, Thursday, December 19, 2013, 18:06 @ Brendan

...when the Packers decided to enclose the south end of the stadium with additional club seating, cutting the fall/winter sun exposure of the field significantly.

The Grassmaster hybrid grass system itself was installed in 2007.

It shoudl be noted that Green Bay does play much later in the year than Notre Dame, but I tend to believe that the cost of the hybrid system is certainly a deterrent for ND and many other teams.


And not that I would expect that to hold up well

by Jeremy (WeIsND), Offices of Babip Pecota Vorp & Eckstein, Thursday, December 19, 2013, 14:33 @ Brendan

In the Wisconsin winter, but the field looked like crap a couple weeks ago, particularly between the hashes. I don't know that anyone was slipping all over it because I only saw a few minutes of the game, but it certainly wasn't a lush, beautiful surface.


Who else has hybrid turf of any kind?

by Jack @, Thursday, December 19, 2013, 14:32 @ Brendan

It should be noted that the Packers, under the supervision of Vince Lombardi his own bad self, also had the first heated field.


Apparently the Broncos have the same hybrid turf

by Brendan ⌂ @, The Chemical and Oil Refinery State, Thursday, December 19, 2013, 14:36 @ Jack

Who knew? All anyone ever talks about is Green Bay. It's also used very extensively in the soccer and rugby worlds, as it turns out; note the "Hybrid Grass" lists at the bottom of these pages from Desso's site:

Soccer -
Rugby -

Listen to the voice of Life, and you will hear Life crying, "Be!"


I'm curious, do we have any "grass only" folk?

by DCT, Thursday, December 19, 2013, 13:33 @ Brendan

I'm for the best surface for our players.

If that means a synthetic field, I am perfectly fine with that.

The Jumbotron issue I understand.

The field turf one, I don't.


I would be very disappointed with turf

by crazychester @, Chicago, Friday, December 20, 2013, 06:54 @ DCT

I really like football on grass. I'll tolerate it on good field turf. Can scarcely watch it in a dome.



by Buck Mulligan, Martello Tower, Thursday, December 19, 2013, 19:26 @ DCT

I don't care one way or the other - whatever the head coach prefers is fine by me. It's his prerogative as far as I'm concerned.

High quality Field Turf surfaces are great; they play fast yet are soft and forgiving like grass. You know what you're getting. I understand some folks only exposure to turf was crappy Astro Turf, but that's like avoiding home computers because the Apple IIe didn't suit you.


I leave this one to the football staff to figure out

by HumanRobot @, Cybertron, Thursday, December 19, 2013, 15:31 @ DCT

I do think the field winds up in fairly poor condition late in the season. I do see turf versus grass as a reasonable domain for performance impact. If the football staff thinks it's a strategic advantage to have FieldTurf, then go for it.


Gas and ass work for me, too.

by KGB, Thursday, December 19, 2013, 14:33 @ DCT

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That shows intestinal fortitude

by Jack @, Thursday, December 19, 2013, 14:34 @ KGB

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I realize this is being lazy

by Rob (Rakes of Mallow), Chicago, Thursday, December 19, 2013, 13:53 @ DCT

but are there any studies that show what exactly the best surface is for our kids?

A few thoughts:

1) I'd prefer a grass field. Just my general preference. I like the look of it and it's history.

2) I'm not willing to sacrifice someone's ACL for a grass field, but I'm not sure we have to (someone can obviously prove me wrong)

3) I do think Kelly wants a new playing surface and I do think he is pushing for one.

4) I don't like it when people call our field "embarrassing". I think we try to put out a good field and the ground underneath the stadium just hasn't allowed it. I also think people feel to realize how grass in November typically looks (it's not usually great) and it has been this way for 100+ years.

I'm not going to get bent out of shape if we get field turf, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't have a preference.



by Slainte Joe, Raleigh, Friday, December 20, 2013, 07:19 @ Rob (Rakes of Mallow)

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fwiw, a few comments on field turf

by oviedoirish @, Oviedo, Florida, Thursday, December 19, 2013, 18:36 @ Rob (Rakes of Mallow)
edited by oviedoirish, Thursday, December 19, 2013, 18:43

First, for the record, I don't care what type of surface is used in ND stadium, as long as it is as good as any w/r/t injuries, looks good, and is durable. Personally, I don't get this notion that the type of field we have falls under "tradition." That just isn't important to me. With that said, my son's high school recently installed field turf in its football stadium. This field is beautiful and looks just like grass, but with no blemishes anywhere. It feels great to walk on too--like grass but more springy. I would have loved to play on it. If ND does it right, I'll be surprised if many complain about how it looks. I do wonder if there will be more injuries with it, but the research to date seems rather inconclusive. I'm also in central Florida, so I don't know how field turf (whatever brand) will fare in cold weather.

I believe it cost my sons school about $600K to install, but it was justified because we were told that it would pay for itself over the 10-yr warranty period by having zero maintenance and watering costs. The company fixes any problems. The school wanted all of its field-based sports teams and the band to be able to play and practice on it, which wasn't possible with the grass field that they had before.

(edit: Oops, I just saw Greg's post below, and I think we're saying the same thing.)


co-sign; also, Jumbotron is worse

by JD in Portland ⌂, Portland OR, Thursday, December 19, 2013, 17:21 @ Rob (Rakes of Mallow)

I hate sky boxes too.
Fuck that. Let the 1% sit in a seat like everybody else. They'll manage to end up in great seats and have fancier tailgates, that's enough.


The studies seem to be largely inconclusive

by Brendan ⌂ @, The Chemical and Oil Refinery State, Thursday, December 19, 2013, 14:33 @ Rob (Rakes of Mallow)

or at least not given to one consensus opinion. The old AstroTurf was unquestionably awful in every way, but turf has changed a lot since then; from an injury standpoint I don't think there's a big difference between it and grass, assuming it's a sunny day in September. I do think that the difficulty of maintaining a quality surface through November opens up both our players and opposing players to injury, and if there's a way to avoid that we should. If it's by taking reasonable measures to improve the quality of the grass, great. If it's by installing high-quality turf, that's fine with me.

Listen to the voice of Life, and you will hear Life crying, "Be!"


Mostly agree, although the field has been embarrassing

by Dylan, Santa Barbara, CA, Thursday, December 19, 2013, 14:21 @ Rob (Rakes of Mallow)

A program with our profile should not have a field that sheds its top layer like a Mick in July. That needs to be remedied, one way or the other. The status quo is unacceptable.

As for the ACL question, I think it's unresolved. The fact that it's unresolved leads me to think that there's no significant impact on injuries. I think the best evidence of this is that ND players must play at least 90% of their career snaps on some type of synthetic turf between Cartier, Loftus, and opposing stadia. We don't seem to be blowing out ACLs at a crazy rate.


I think I'm in this camp on all points.

by Savage, Around Ye Olde Colonial College, Thursday, December 19, 2013, 14:20 @ Rob (Rakes of Mallow)

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I'm here.

by Kevin @, Thursday, December 19, 2013, 14:04 @ Rob (Rakes of Mallow)

Well-said, Rob.

I also think outdoor sports should be played on grass whenever possible, and that Field Turf looks unnaturally green.


agree across the board

by Pat, Right behind you, Thursday, December 19, 2013, 14:01 @ Rob (Rakes of Mallow)

Being selfish, I'd like Swarbrick to explain the decision past platitudes if the decision is made to switch to an artificial turf.


I don't want to argue, nor would I burn my diploma.

by Tim, Chicago, IL, Thursday, December 19, 2013, 13:49 @ DCT

But I really am not excited about a turf field. So players slip and fall on our grass field in November sometimes. I don't see the big deal about trying to "fix" it. I guess I'm stupid or something.

When the Lions and Eagles played in 6" of snow a couple weeks back, didn't people love it? Isn't snow football almost universally loved because of the elements? But what about everybody falling down? The slipping and sliding and ruining of plays? Nobody seems to mind in the snow because its awesome or something.

I'd rather have grass and let nature take its course rather than roll out a fake-ass rug. But again, I'm not going to get into an argument about it. It's just my opinion. Put me in the mouth-breather category.


There's a huge difference between weather and a bad field

by NDTex ⌂ @, Dallas, TX, Thursday, December 19, 2013, 15:09 @ Tim

If there is bad weather during a game, the conditions will be slick no matter what surface you are playing on. A grass field will take a bit of abuse during such a game, but a good field will recover and be ready to go the next game.

On the other hand, a bad field, like ours, comes up by the chunks no matter what by the end of the season. And it happens a lot more than just "sometimes" when it finally gets to that state.

Her Loyal Sons | Twitter


Which is your beef: our field looks bad or plays bad

by Tim, Chicago, IL, Thursday, December 19, 2013, 15:18 @ NDTex

I mean, if you had to pick only one.

With respect to looks, I think a torn natural grass field still looks preferable to me than a fake one. It's real. Again, it's just my opinion but fake turf just seems cheap to me.

With respect to play, both teams have to deal with the surface. I think having to deal with the elements is a part of the game, whether it's wind, rain, or horrible footing. Trying to fix all of those issues is what leads to soulless domed stadia.

Again, it's just my opinion. If you prefer fake turf (or couldn't care less) that's your prerogative.


It plays bad, and particularly bad for Kelly's offense.

by PAK, Thursday, December 19, 2013, 21:34 @ Tim

Our run game is heavily zone-based, and it's very difficult to plant your foot in the ground and turn upfield like you're supposed to do on zone runs (and like we're always yelling at George to do) when you're expecting the turf to give way at any moment.

Plus, with the field in as bad a shape as it is, we can't even really practice on it for fear of making it worse.


Plays bad

by NDTex ⌂ @, Dallas, TX, Thursday, December 19, 2013, 18:48 @ Tim

I prefer grass too, for what it's worth. However, I also don't believe for a second the playing surface would make any place "soulless".

I'm fine with some level of wear on a grass field, but ND's field completely falls apart year after year. It needs to be fixed, period. I don't care how they do it.

Her Loyal Sons | Twitter


I think it plays bad

by irishvol @, Music City, USA, Thursday, December 19, 2013, 15:30 @ Tim

I completely understand the argument that both teams have to play on it, and that's absolutely valid. It's why I can't get too worked up about it. I would prefer a natural turf, assuming that it doesn't have a meaningful impact on how a team plays the game.

But I don't think having to dodge divots for fear of slipping or adjusting to slippage after it happens should be elements of the game. And it seems to be nearing that point - particularly as the turf condition deteriorates through the year.


And the issue of "both teams have to play on it"

by Greg, sittin on the dock of the bay, Thursday, December 19, 2013, 15:58 @ irishvol

also goes to the type of play that the home team prefers. If the home team is Stanford and runs a #manball offense then having a crap-ass grass field really doesn't matter (other than for pride/aesthetic reasons) unless and unitl a kid like Ty Montgomery destroys his knee as the turf goes sliding away after he catches a long pass. If the home team is Oregon, well, you can see why they have FieldTurf.

Personal note: I went to a high school with only one field (hey, it's in California in a city where 1400 sf fixer-uppers on 7000 sf lots regularly sell for over a million bucks; they're landlocked, OK?) and it was used by 3 football teams and 2 soccer teams. By the end of football season, the rectangle between the hashes and the twenties was a mess. By the end of soccer season, it was dirt. Then it was resodded in part and seeded over in part. By the time for summer football, it was usable. Then the cycle began anew. The school put in field turf about 12 years ago. At the time it cost approximately $1 million, but they were spending approximately $150,000 to maintain/replace the real stuff and they figured the useful life was 10 years. They got either 10 or 11 years out of the first go-round on the field turf, though anyone will tell you that the last year or two it started to look pretty bad. The new stuff looks even more like grass than did the first implementation (better science, I'm told) and they expect another 10-year life. We'll see how it looks in years 9 and 10. The thing about ND that the high school doesn't have is deeper pockets. ND can replace its artificial turf on a 4 or 5 year schedule, meaning it will look cleaner and more like grass and ND can more efficiently take advantage of new advances in the technology. Having seen field turf in action for 12 years now, I'm in favor of it being used at ND because it will make the field a better surface in October and November. As a manager, I'll miss the thought of coming down the tunnel and smelling the grass and my memories of Lou sitting and picking at the grass will be just that -- memories. But I certainly see the advantages of the fake stuff from a playability perspective.


I agree with your second paragraph.

by Tim, Chicago, IL, Thursday, December 19, 2013, 15:48 @ irishvol

I just didn't think the field got to that point last year. Sure it was browned out and clumpy in some spots, but I never felt like it reached anything close to Stanford 2011. Maybe I'm wrong.


Why should it be browned out or clumpy at all?

by KGB, Friday, December 20, 2013, 05:32 @ Tim
edited by KGB, Friday, December 20, 2013, 06:02

It seems sort of silly to justify its continued use by saying, "Sure, it was lousy, but it wasn't the most terrible field we've played on in the past 10 years". The field should be playable and presentable at all times, whether it's early September or the middle of November or it just rained for 4 straight days or the Barnum & Bailey Circus stomped all over it last weekend. The technological advances in artificial surfaces are such that we would be ignorant not to seriously consider the option, particularly given the amount of time and money that have been frittered away "fixing the field" over the past 10 or 15 years. It's been a tremendous waste of resources.

I'm sure Kelly supports a change, and, frankly, why wouldn't he? What coach would want his players slipping all over the field? It's much more relevant to him than it is someone like me, who just happened to attend school when the field was grass.


I'm not saying it *should* be brown and clumpy.

by Tim, Chicago, IL, Friday, December 20, 2013, 08:21 @ KGB

I would hope that's obvious.

I'm just saying that I don't think that the 2013 field was such that it affected games all that much, the notable exception being the weekend after the huge rainstorm. And to the extent that the field does affect the game, well, I just consider that part of playing football outdoors. Others don't accept that it needs to be that way, but I prefer it to be that way.

Look, I said I didn't want to argue about it because I think it's fair for people to disagree on this. Obviously our head coach disagrees with me and I understand that my opinion in and of itself is completely meaningless. My posts reflect my opinion. I'm not protesting in front of the stadium this morning.

And I disagree with another post in this subthread that the aesthetic difference is nil. But I'm not going to try to convince you guys of that because you don't see it that way, which is fine.

(God, I'm horribly repetitive. Apologies.)


I'm of the same ilk

by Jack @, Thursday, December 19, 2013, 14:29 @ Tim

But I'm not going to go down with the ship about it.

I would be more concerned about the slipping and sliding if both teams didn't have to play on the same surface, but they do.


My argument against that

by Bill, Southern California, Thursday, December 19, 2013, 13:54 @ Tim

Is that I don't want weather conditions to impact the outcome of a game more than is necessary by the whims of Mother Nature. We'd have plenty of snow on a turf field if a storm plowed through South Bend on gameday.

But to the extent that we can avoid having field conditions impact the outcome, we should do what is possible to make sure that doesn't happen.


Is that not an argument for a dome?

by Tim, Chicago, IL, Thursday, December 19, 2013, 14:46 @ Bill

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It's not a slippery slope

by CK08, Thursday, December 19, 2013, 21:01 @ Tim

We can get field turf that looks exactly like our grass does when it's at its best in September. Except the field turf will look like that all the time.

People who are OK with field turf aren't necessarily compromising on aesthetics.


Some people think silicone boobs are as nice as natural.

by Tim, Chicago, IL, Friday, December 20, 2013, 08:44 @ CK08

Others disagree.


My argument against that

by Rob (Rakes of Mallow), Chicago, Thursday, December 19, 2013, 14:00 @ Bill

is that both teams have to play on the playing surface.

I understand if you have concerns about player health (and am open to that conversation), but I don't buy the competitive disadvantage argument.


That was awesome as a fan of neither team

by Greg, sittin on the dock of the bay, Thursday, December 19, 2013, 13:53 @ Tim

If ND were favored and playing for a 12-0 record and a shot at the College Football Playoff(tm), I'm not sure it would have been as fun to watch. And in any event, there is a difference between the weather playing havoc with a football game and a crap-ass surface playing havoc with it.

See, e.g., ND at Stanford 2011 when our players' legs kept slipping out from under them, including on a play that but for the slip would have resulted in a first down at a point where we were still technically in the game (though I think we all can realize that game was never close).


There are no "grass only" folk out there

by Greg, sittin on the dock of the bay, Thursday, December 19, 2013, 13:49 @ DCT

Nancy Reagan made it very clear that grass is a gateway drug.

Just say no, DCT.


I'm not sure about here, but folks on other sites

by Bill, Southern California, Thursday, December 19, 2013, 13:37 @ DCT

(and not isolated to any single site) have expressed a very strong desire to keep a grass field. I can understand their point and passion, but not at the expenses of having a crappy playing surface. I just want the problem to be fixed. Natural grass should be the preference, but I can understand the University not wanting to make the investment required for the Desso Grassmaster system. I think it would be a risky implementation.

My guess is that leaves us with FieldTurf at the end of the day. I'm okay with that, but it would be great if we could make a grass field work at a reasonable cost as the first choice.


I've been on Wake's field about 1/2 dozen times

by Chris @, Raleigh, NC, Thursday, December 19, 2013, 13:41 @ Bill
edited by Chris, Thursday, December 19, 2013, 14:04

in the last few years.
I'm perfectly fine with that type of surface moving forward.

Edit: I'd prefer grass but I'm not going Scanners if the switch is made.

"F--- everyone who isn't us."


FieldTurf has really improved over the years.

by Bill, Southern California, Thursday, December 19, 2013, 13:44 @ Chris

There have been times where I've been watching a game and have had to look up whether a field is natural grass or artificial. The New England Patriots come immediately to mind.

I think Michigan's field looks like shit, but I've seen plenty of implementations that look pretty natural to me.


The Michigan Experience

by James, Thursday, December 19, 2013, 15:01 @ Bill

They had grass from 1877 until the late 60s. It sucked.

So they went to the old-school astroturf in the 70s and 80s. It sucked.

They tried to go back to grass in the 90s. It sucked (because the field level us below the water table, which I have also seen mentioned as a reason why ND's field sucks too).

Then they went to FieldTurf in the early 2000's. Their FieldTurf implementation may or may not suck, but we can assume that it does.

The moral of the story is twofold: 1) that field surfacing is not a permanent choice and it does not preclude going back to grass in the future, and 2) Michigan sucks.


Excellent morals!

by oviedoirish @, Oviedo, Florida, Thursday, December 19, 2013, 18:49 @ James

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