ND officials: Renovation, COVID protocols keep Purdue drum out of Notre Dame Stadium

Tyler James
ND Insider

SOUTH BEND — Purdue’s famously large drum won’t fit through the visitors' tunnel of Notre Dame Stadium. 

As a result, the self-proclaimed “World’s Largest Drum” won’t be joining Purdue’s marching band for its halftime performance at Saturday’s ND-Purdue football game in South Bend. 

According to a Notre Dame athletic department official familiar with stadium operations, access to what's now considered the home tunnel has been limited since the 2017 stadium renovations. In addition, tunnel access has been more restricted due to COVID-19 protocols in the stadium.  

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A select number of people are allowed in the home tunnel during game days including Notre Dame’s football team, band and visiting recruits. Tunnel access has even been eliminated from stadium tours on Fridays before games.

News of Purdue's drum omission became a public dispute Thursday when Indy Star columnist Gregg Doyel tweeted that Notre Dame won’t let Purdue’s band use the stadium’s main tunnel, which would be the only way to wheel onto the field a drum that stands about 10 foot tall on its carriage and weighs 565 pounds. 

Aaron Yoder, a spokesperson for the Purdue band, confirmed this would be the marching band’s first football game performance without the 100-year-old drum since 1979. The band still plans to take the drum to South Bend, he said. 

The latest Notre Dame Stadium renovations included the creation of a small visitors' tunnel at the northeast end of the playing field. Visiting teams and visiting bands have used the tunnel since the start of the 2017 season. 

The existing game-day protocols, which are typically communicated by Notre Dame’s marching band to the visiting bands, dictate that the visiting band will enter the stadium at Gate B to make their way to their assigned seats. Then the visiting band will be allowed to enter the field for its halftime performance using the field gates and stairs on the south end of the stadium bowl.

The protocols also include what kind of equipment is allowed on the field. Such equipment can be taken to the field through the visitors' tunnel if needed.

Purdue band members roll out a large drum to perform on the field before the game between Notre Dame and Purdue on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013, at Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette.

The tunnel is a tight enough squeeze that no more than two offensive linemen can comfortably walk through it side-by-side. There’s no chance equipment the size of Purdue’s drum could make it through that tunnel.

Yoder said this issue was discovered earlier this week when the two bands discussed the plan for game day. 

Purdue’s last visit to Notre Dame Stadium in 2012 did not include the full marching band and drum, Yoder believed. Instead, Purdue may have brought a pep band to South Bend. When the teams played in Notre Dame Stadium in 2010, the marching band and drum did make the trip and used the primary tunnel utilized by both teams at the time.

If Purdue needed to use the home tunnel for its halftime performance, Notre Dame’s personnel would also need to have access during that window. Media members, all of whom have been vaccinated, aren’t allowed in the home tunnel at the same time as the team this season. 

Perhaps the two sides can come up with a drum-inclusive plan when Purdue returns to Notre Dame Stadium in 2025. 

This drum debate isn’t the first time Notre Dame Stadium policies have impacted the traditions of visiting teams. Notre Dame doesn’t allow live animals on the field, which prevented Texas mascot Bevo, a longhorn steer, and Georgia mascot Uga, a pure white English bulldog, from accompanying their teams in 2015 and 2017, respectively. 

And then there's the Stanford marching band, which simply isn't allowed in Notre Dame Stadium. It was banned in 1997 after a performance that many say employed stereotypes to mock Irish Catholics and even included a joke about the Potato Famine.

Follow ND Insider Tyler James on Twitter: @TJamesNDI.