Garth Brooks sees football program as traditional as he returns to play Notre Dame Stadium

SOUTH BEND — Garth Brooks is a country music legend. He's also a college football aficionado.

On Saturday those two qualities collided once again as Brooks and his band will performed a concert at Notre Dame Stadium scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.

"I will tell any artists out there your career — if you're still performing — is not complete without playing at Notre Dame Stadium," Brooks said during a pre-concert press conference Friday. "This is the place to play."

Back in October 2018 Brooks put out a show in the rain and snow that ended up being a nationally-televised special on CBS. Afterward he promised to return to Notre Dame.

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Brooks, who turned 60 in February, was a college athlete at Oklahoma State where he was a member of the track team and threw javelin. 

Garth Brooks answers questions during a press conference Friday, May 6, 2022 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend.

He said Friday that while he bleeds Cowboy orange, he didn't have a strong rooting interest when OSU battled Notre Dame Jan. 1 in the Fiesta Bowl. The Irish jumped to a 28-7 lead, but the Cowboys came back for a 37-35 win.

"There's Notre Dame and a few other schools, and then there seems to be everybody else," Brooks said. "For that moment, to get to play on the same field with these guys, you need to perform. I really didn't care who won or lost long as you do your best. But to play that well and to represent their school that way made me feel very lucky."

It was the first time the two programs have met in football, and after seeing nine touchdowns in the contest, Brooks hopes its not the last.

"It's a matchup," Brooks said, "I would like to see again because I thought the game was fantastic."

Being a college football fan, Brooks knows what it means to play for Notre Dame and even got a few pointers from a former Notre Dame coaching legend.

"(I) had lunch with Coach (Lou) Holtz down in Orlando about a month ago," Brooks explained. "And just the way he speaks of the school was such reverence is how we all feel about it."

Holtz coached the Irish from 1986-96 and captured the program's most recent of 11 national championships in 1988. 

Speaking with Holtz, Brooks said that he learned more about the direction the Notre Dame football program is headed under the guidance of first-year coach Marcus Freeman.

"Their tradition and their worth to the rest of the world is not dependent on what last season was. Very rare, right?" Brooks said. "It's always a classy organization. Always the best. And they are always in the hunt. Again, how many people got to go to a school like that? They hired great people."

Garth Brooks talks with South Bend Tribune reporters Fernando Ramirez, Mike Berardino and Justin Frommer Friday, May 6, 2022 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend.

Brooks hopes to have Notre Dame stadium rocking like the football team does on Saturdays. If last week's show down in Baton Rouge, La. is any indication, it's quite possible.

While playing at Tiger Stadium on the campus of Louisiana State University there was seismographic activity registered when Brooks launched into a staple of his catalog, "Callin' Baton Rouge."

A literal small earthquake.

And even though reference to Baton Rouge would draw a much different reaction from Irish fans after former coach Brian Kelly left for LSU, Brooks is ready for a raucous reaction.

"I'm expecting," he said, "this to be just as loud."