"The sod that carpets the floor of this stadium is rich in traditions. For a quarter of a century, athletes who have added to the fame of Notre Dame have raced over its emerald surface carrying our colors to victory ..."
These words, uttered by Notre Dame team captain of 1896 Frank Hering, are just as applicable 116 years later -- granted, we'd have to add a few years to his "quarter of a century." The football traditions at the University of Notre Dame are a rich legacy contributing to the enduring tapestry of an already storied academic institution.
As we fast-approach another frenzied football fall, here are my top 10 Notre Dame football traditions (in more-or-less no particular order):
10. The Golden Helmet - Though modern technology has resulted in a painting process that no longer sees ND student managers painting the iconic helmets each week (as seen in the film "Rudy") -- the same process has resulted in a helmet that is much more true to the color of the Notre Dame Administration Building, better known as the "Golden Dome." The more professional, hands-off process nonetheless still incorporates 23.9-karat gold flakes from the aforementioned Golden Dome in the painting process. More about the history and development of the renowned ND helmet can be read here.
9. The Cheerleaders & Leprechaun - The duties of the Irish cheerleaders and Leprechaun go far beyond the Saturday sidelines. Beginning with their 4 p.m. Friday appearance at the Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore, their weekend is pretty well-spoken for. Following the bookstore, they are -- of course -- an integral part of the evening pep rally. In the morning, about four hours before kickoff, they will criss-cross the ND community, getting folks ready for another football Saturday. Finally, they will lead the band procession to Notre Dame Stadium -- where the real work begins. One must be careful; that Leprechaun can be a little testy.
8. Friday Tunnel Tour - Each football Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., fans are invited to walk through the very same North Tunnel at Notre Dame Stadium players have for the past 81 years. Don't plan on stealing stratagems, however. The Tunnel Tour does not operate during team drills and walkthroughs.
7. The Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes - A place of quiet on an otherwise bustling football weekend can be found just east of the Golden Dome. The Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes is a scaled-down replica of the famed French shrine. Each and every day, the rosary is said at 6.45 p.m. at the Grotto. A more in-depth look at the history and spiritual side of the Grotto can be found here.
6. "We ARE ND" - One of the most unassuming yet memorable cheers has got to be this one.
5. The Imperial March/Darth Vader's Theme & the 1812 Overture - Of the impressive body of work performed by the UND marching band, and second and third only to "the greatest of all fight songs," have to be these chestnuts. Students and fans alike chop at the air during both the Imperial March and the 1812 Overture -- the latter of which is designed to honor the head coach.
4. The March to the Stadium - The procession of the Leprechaun, cheerleaders, Irish Guard, and marching band to Notre Dame Stadium is truly a sight to be seen.
3. The Irish Guard/"Hike, Notre Dame" - An essential part of the pre-game ritual is the Irish Guard --10 tall kilt-clad soldiers lead the marching band on to the field by high-stepping to "Hike, Notre Dame." In addition, the Guard raises the American flag to the "Star-Spangled Banner" and "America, the Beautiful." The Guard also tends to victory clog dance in the wake of Irish scores.
2. The Student Section/"Alma Mater" - One of the most stunning traditions at ND occurs after the outcome of any game has long been decided -- when players and the student section alike participate in the singing of the "Alma Mater." Win or lose, a game is not finished until the players approach the student section, link arms, and sing "Notre Dame, Our Mother."
1. The Tunnel Entrance - As a youth, nothing was more exciting or announced than, "Here come the Irish!" Since 1931, the Fighting Irish have entered the field from the North Tunnel to the adulation of fans and ready for victory. Evidently, even Samwise Gamgee has been in on the action.
Many traditions -- several of which did not make this list -- can be seen in this Sports Talk 4 Kids campus report.
All schedule and "fact-checking" info courtesy of http://gameday.nd.edu. All video courtesy of youtube.com.
The author is a lifelong Notre Dame Fighting Irish fan -- of both athletics and academics.
- Sports & Recreation
- Irish Guard