Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A Golden Tradition

In continuation of Michigan Sucks Week ... I'd like to share one of my favorite traditions of a home football weekend at Notre Dame: the painting of the golden helmets!

I first became exposed to this tradition when my roommate Sophomore year was a Student Manager for the Football team. Now if that isn't the best work-study job, I'm not sure what is!

One of their responsibilities the Friday night before a football game (well, when I was a student it was done on Friday nights for home games, and Thursday nights for away games. Now it is done on Monday nights so that the helmets are completely dry on game day, and to ease away game transportation) was the painting of the Notre Dame football helmets.

The helmets are coated with a fresh coat of paint the week before each game, and the paint carries actual 23.9-karat gold flakes from the Golden Dome that sits atop the University's Main Building.

Ten times in the last 131 years (one of which was when I was a student at Notre Dame), the University has removed and replaced the gold leaf on the Dome -- a process called "regilding." One of the things that they include in this regilding process is to capture some of the gold removed from the Dome to later mix in with the paint used on the helmets.

Every once in a while they do paint the helmets on a Friday night (last year for the Michigan game, they painted the helmets on Friday night and opened it up to public viewing) but mostly it is done on Monday nights. I do prefer it when they paint the helmets on a Friday night ... it's a great kickoff to the football weekend in addition to the Friday night Pep Rally ... but I do understand that Monday nights make football weekends a little less crazy!

Here's a little video that I found that shows the actual gold flakes from the Dome that they use in the second coat of paint. Enjoy!

One more thing of note, if you happen to see photos of Notre Dame football practice and you think that the helmets don't shine quite as much as they do on game day, you'd be correct! They only use the real gold paint on the "game day" helmets, and they have a separate set of helmets that are used during practice.


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