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Volume 20 No. 46
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With no ads, video board offers Irish stew of content

Mike Bonner runs a commercial-free enterprise at Notre Dame Stadium. As executive producer of live events for Notre Dame Athletics and Fighting Irish Media, Bonner is in charge of programming the new video board in the stadium’s south end zone.

Unlike other schools, Notre Dame has a no-advertising policy as part of its video productions at campus sports facilities, which includes the center-hungs at Joyce Center’s Purcell Pavilion and Compton Family Ice Arena. Add Notre Dame Stadium to the mix starting this football season.

No worries, Bonner says. Given Notre Dame’s storied history in college football, there’s plenty of content to fill the gaps from the time the stadium gates open to the final whistle.

More than football: One segment offers friendly reminders from priests at Notre Dame.
“My job is to put on a great show,” said Bonner, who has worked for the Denver Broncos and New York Yankees and was involved in six Olympic Games. “When you have zero sponsors to take care of, it’s definitely a switch. It’s a very classic, historical approach, similar to what we had with the Yankees and, somewhat, for the Broncos. Our messages are about football and the university, a celebration of Notre Dame, told in an appropriate way.”

The show starts before kickoff and includes a 30-minute piece called “The House That Rockne Built,” detailing the history of Notre Dame Stadium right up to this year’s $400 million renovation. The production is part of Notre Dame’s “Onward” series that’s broadcast on NBC.

Fighting Irish Media produced the program and all other content shown on the video board, Bonner said.

After the game starts, Bonner’s crew runs branded content such as “Irishography,” a series of short vignettes on individual players such as offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey, the subject of the initial feature at Notre Dame’s home opener against Temple.

Instead of McGlinchey answering questions about what he ate for breakfast and the most embarrassing song on his playlist, the NFL prospect talks about why he chose Notre Dame, what he enjoys most about the school and his favorite on-campus spots.

“Heisman Heroes” — highlighting Notre Dame’s seven Heisman Trophy winners — as well as segments honoring past and present students with military ties and featuring professors discussing the stadium’s green elements also appear on the video board.

At Notre Dame, a Catholic university, one segment sticks out compared with other college football stadiums. Notre Dame has seven Congregation of Holy Cross priests, and each one offers a friendly reminder in the messages they deliver on the video board.

Bonner said, “One of our priests catches a football on camera and says, ‘Wow, that was pretty cool, I just caught a football in front of 78,000 fans. … You know what else is pretty cool? Going to Mass.’”

Showing replays, including officials’ calls under review, has become a big part of the fan experience, and that piece of the production will be no different at Notre Dame, Bonner said. It was part of the discussion he had with coach Brian Kelly about video board operations.

Replays are shown twice, Bonner said. “The point gets across at that point. We’re not going to shy away from it. It’s at my discretion … but obviously I don’t go at that without asking questions to those that I’m serving.”

Bonner is also responsible for the music played on game days. During pregame, those decisions include making contemporary selections geared to the players to get them pumped up for the game. After kickoff, there could be other tunes that fans of all ages might enjoy.

“There are going to be times during the game where we’ll play Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones, that older folks like myself might enjoy,” Bonner said. “Of course, the band is still a very large part of what we do.”

But content is king, and for Notre Dame officials, the video board is the crowning touch for modernizing the 87-year-old stadium.

“I hope people don’t ever get tired of the Knute Rockne speech because they’re going to see it an awful lot on this board,” Bonner said.