Sunday, January 8, 2012

Golden Traditions

There are traditions that everyone knows about ... and then there are the other traditions that really bring a population, such as a student body, together.

We have been given our fifth challenge in Volvo's "Biggest Fan of the Big East" contest, and what we've been asked to do this time around is to delve into "What are the best traditions for your Alma Mater and why?"

There are some major traditions that most fans of Notre Dame are aware of (and I will share a few), but what I'd really like to dig into are the student body traditions that most average fans may not be familiar with.

Some of the most popular Notre Dame traditions, that everyone knows and loves are ...

Trumpets Under the Dome: The trumpet section of the University of Notre Dame Marching Band gathers inside the Administration Building and plays the Fight Song and the Alma Mater under the Dome. It is definitely something not to be missed! Here is a video so that you can check it out!

Irish Guard Inspection: The Notre Dame Band performs a concert on the steps of Bond Hall 90 minutes prior to home football games, followed by a rigorous Irish Guard inspection. Following the inspection, the band then steps off from the Dome, led by the leprechaun and cheerleaders, and marches to the stadium. During the Irish Guard inspection, the "inspectors" do their best to get the guard to crack a smile or laugh. It really is a not-to-be-missed event on home football weekends!

Midnight Drummers Circle: At midnight, the night before home football games, the Notre Dame Drumline congregates at the bottom of the steps of the Main Building for the Midnight Drummer’s Circle. The drumline prepares the student body and fans for football on Saturday. This is an event sure to get your blood pumping and ready to cheer on the Irish to victory!

University of Notre Dame Drumline's Midnight Drummer Circle for the USF game (9/2/2011). This is the first midnight drum circle for the 2011 Football Season. This event marks the official start to game day at Notre Dame.

And finally, the painting of the helmets: One of the weekly responsibilities of the football team student managers is to apply a new layer of golden paint to the football helmets. The helmets are coated with a fresh coat of paint the week before each game, and the paint contains actual 23.9-karat gold flakes from the Golden Dome that sits atop the University's Main Building.

Now, here are some of the Notre Dame traditions that you may not know about.

First off ... the name the "Fighting Irish." Notre Dame was not always known as the Fighting Irish. Notre Dame competed under the nickname the "Catholics" during the 1800s and became more widely known as the "Ramblers" during the early 1920s during the days of the Four Horsemen. University president Rev. Matthew Walsh, C.S.C., officially adopted "Fighting Irish" as the Notre Dame nickname in 1927.

The "Fighting Irish" began as a slur -- a term of opprobrium. But we took it up and made it a badge of honor -- a symbol of fidelity and courage to everyone who suffers from discrimination; to everyone who has an uphill fight for the elemental decencies, and the basic Christian principles woven into the texture of our nation. Preserving this tradition, and this meaning of Irish at Notre Dame does honor to every one of us. -- Why the "Fighting Irish"? Rev. Charles Carey, C.S.C.

The Notre Dame-Navy Tradition: Why do Notre Dame and Navy have such a strong tradition. The below picture gives some insight into the answer.

Naval Training Units, University of Notre Dame, April 29, 1944

The picture was taken in April of 1944. The first group of six rows is the Midshipman School (approx 1200). The second group of one row on the sidewalk is the Naval ROTC unit (approx. 120). The third group of two rows (on the grass between the sidewalks) is the Marine V-12 unit (approx. 200). The fourth group (on the grass in the rear) is the Navy V-12 unit (approx. 700). In the background is the Knute Rockne Memorial building (built about 1938). These approximately 2200 men in the picture constituted about 80% of the "students" on campus. When there were no "students" to keep Notre Dame afloat during World War II, the Navy came in and used Notre Dame as a training facility. This is part of the reason why many of the wood floors in the older dorms are "warped" ... a bi-product of the sailors "swabbing the deck!"

No Greek Life at Notre Dame: Yep, you heard me right. There are no Sororities or Fraternities at Notre Dame. Where the heart is ... With some 80 percent of students living on-campus, many of Notre Dame’s longest standing and most popular traditions center around life in the University’s residence halls.

“It’s a fact that Notre Dame is a place where students go not just to learn how to think, but to learn how to live,” says Patrick McCormick, student body president. “And I think this starts through building community in the residence halls.”

Each of the 29 residence halls offers it's student population not only a tight-knit community and social circle, but also the opportunity to participate in numerous long-standing traditions. The residence halls are designed to make up for what the Greek system offers at other schools, but without the pressure of having to "join." Every hall has a mascot and a nickname, a color scheme, a favorite charity and a signature event, which range from concerts to game shows, casino nights and auctions.

The Keenan Revue: "It started as a dorm event in the basement here in Keenan," said Chase Riddle, a junior in Keenan Hall (2011). The first Revue was a talent show thrown together because the men in the dorm were bored with campus life, he said.

But that first performance didn't show many signs of greatness.

"Turns out Keenan wasn't as talented as they thought they were," said Grayson Duren, a junior in Keenan Hall (2011). The talent show angle soon morphed into a scripted sketch comedy show, similar to "Saturday Night Live," which premiered on NBC the fall before the first "real" Keenan Revue in 1976.

The show has become one of the biggest campus events of the spring semester. After outgrowing Washington Hall by the 1980s, it took up residence in Saint Mary's O'Loughlin Auditorium until last year, when the College's administration did not renew the Revue's contract. It has now been moved to Stepan Center on Notre Dame's campus. Though the Revue comes off as "so college" in its often-obscene humor and bare-bones set design, the Revue staff starts work in October by choosing a theme and sifting through different skit ideas. One of the reasons the Revue is still so popular is because a lot of things at Notre Dame just never change — especially the drudgery of the early spring semester.

The Fisher Regatta: One of Fisher Hall's most notable events is the Fisher Regatta, hosted annually at the end of the Spring semester. Various dorms compete by submitting homemade boat entries in races on Saint Mary's Lake. The Fisher Regatta was recognized by ESPN as one of the "Top 100" college student activities in the United States in 2004.

Pigtostal: Seeing as Notre Dame has no Fraternities or Sororities ... they try their best to feel a little "Greek" with their annual event entitled Pigtostal. Pigtostal is the biggest party of the year at Notre Dame, and is held the same day as the Blue & Gold Game. It's the closest thing to Greek Life a Notre Dame student will ever see. Complete with 80 kegs, two pigs and one ... oh, never mind ... Pigtostal is a spring tailgating tradition that is sure to please.

Bookstore Basketball: The Bookstore Basketball Tournament is the largest outdoor 5-on-5 tournament in the world. Nearly 700 teams comprised of students, faculty, and staff from Notre Dame, Saint Mary's College, and Holy Cross College participate in one of the most exciting sporting events at Notre Dame! However, the best part of this tournament is not really the games themselves, but the team names. Each team tries to out-do the next with the most creative names. It is also fun to see players from the football team on the basketball court as well!

(Matt Cashore image)

Here are the Top 10 Team Names from 2003!

10. You’ll Thank Us When It’s Over
9. Non-Nutritive Cereal Varnish
8. Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys
7. The Shroud of Torin
6. 5 Guys Who Know a Guy Who Pooped His Pants
5. Mounds Don’t
4. One Hawaiian & 4 Girls Who Like to Give Leis
3. We Arrgh Pirates
2. Jamaica Me Crazy
1. Stop that dog! It has my gum!

Bengal Bouts: This is definitely one of my most favorite Notre Dame traditions. Legendary football coach Knute Rockne first organized boxing at Notre Dame in 1920. Yet it is the purpose of raising funds for the Holy Cross Missions in Bangladesh that truly gave the Bengal Bouts its identity in 1931. Coach Dominic “Nappy” Napolitano ’32 ’33 solidified this identity of service combined with sportsmanship and safety as Director and Coach of the Bengal Bouts for over 50 years. His words, “Strong bodies fight, that weak bodies may be nourished” became the motto of the Bouts. The tradition of sportsmanship, safety and competitive spirit in amateur sport lives on in today’s Bengal Bouts.

SYR: The first away game of the football season marks the opening of another kind of season on the Notre Dame campus: SYR Dance Season. An SYR dance, which stands for "Screw Your Roommate," is a dance in which your roommate gets to chose your date for you --- a situation which was fantastic if you had a good roommate, but had the potential to get ugly real fast, and in more ways than one.

(SYR circa 1991)

Students were as creative as they liked — picking out gems at the dining hall, from the "Dog Book" or through friends of friends. Some people ended up with the dates of their dream and new significant others, while others endured a painful evening with a purposely awkward date as a joke. (Just imagine opening your door to see who your date was, and being greeted by someone who looked like Cousin It. Oh yes, it happened!)

Also, before an SYR could begin, the boy or girl of the host dorm had to present their date (blind or chosen) with a gift. Serious options included books, flowers or candy, but most people opted for gag gifts.

Each dorm hosted one semi-formal SYR and one more formal dance each semester. The host dorm held the SYR in any large space available within the dorm — decorated hallways, 24-hour lounges, entire floors or whatever was available. Formals were held at various on- or off-campus locations. Most of the time your date walked to your dorm to pick you up. I think I would have fallen over if my date would have picked me up in a shiny new Volvo S60!

Dillon Hall Pep Rally: The Dillon Hall pep rally began approximately 40 years ago. It is traditionally held the Thursday before the first home game (although in 2010 the pep rally was moved from it's traditional Thursday night, to the Friday night of the first home football game weekend). In the early years of the Dillon Hall pep rally, it was held in the Dillon courtyard that faces South Dining Hall. But as it's popularity grew, the stage was moved to accommodate a bigger audience. Now it is held in front of Dillon Hall on South Quad.

The Dillon Hall pep rally featured humorous sketches and skits, some of which (over the years) drew complaints for being offensive. It was held on Thursday nights because it was designed to be a student only pep rally, and not something that the alumni and fans were invited to. It typically had a storyline, including little skits about Notre Dame, and skits about the world at large, that were acted out to entertain the entire campus. Integrated into this basic design, special guest speakers were also invited to speak at the pep rally. These special guests would typically include the football coach, the safety-enthusiast Officer Tim McCarthy, and the football players who resided in Dillon Hall ... including two of my all-time favorites: Tony Rice and Brady Quinn. Typically, there were also appearances made by the drum line, cheerleaders, pom squad and the leprechaun.

Interhall Football: Rudy dreamed of one day playing football in Notre Dame’s storied stadium, but today’s students know that they don’t have to join the varsity team to win playing time in the House that Rockne Built.

Thanks to the intramural tackle football program, Notre Dame students can continue playing a sport they loved in high school and perhaps even make it to the interhall championship game in Notre Dame Stadium.

Only one other university in the country – West Point – offers tackle football as an intramural sport. Notre Dame’s program exists because of Knute Rockne, who encouraged all Notre Dame students to play football, and even installed a program for the residence hall teams to inherit his varsity players’ old jerseys.

And yes, even the girl's dorms have interhall football ... though we played flag, and not tackle, football. When I was a senior, my dorm went to the Interhall Football Championship game, IN Notre Dame Stadium, and yes ... we won. In recognition of our win, we all got letterman jackets JUST like the varsity football players had. How bout that ... I have a letter jacket for playing football AT NOTRE DAME!

Pre-game fierce:


The Steam Tunnels: So the heating system at Notre Dame is run via Steam Tunnels underground ... BUT, when the steam tunnels are not in use, it was common practice for students to sneak into them and explore underground. I for one, did not explore the steam tunnels, but one of my friends who did headed into the tunnels with the express purpose of finding her Dad's signature on the wall of said tunnels. And according to my Dad, the steam tunnels were how they got back and forth to see the girls at St. Mary's. (Oh my!)

In my steam tunnel research, I found this letter from someone who did extensive research on the steam tunnels at Notre Dame!

I'm glad to see a page on this addicting acivity. My father was a visiting prof for a year at MIT, and I loved to explore the tunnels every chance I could...MIT, by the way, probably has one of the largest tunnel systems of any College or University in the country, with some of the weirdest and most secretive items either stored or created in the rooms they connect. (One of the ways I knew was by the numerous "radiation hazard", "biohazard" as well as numerous 10 digit keycard locks on all the doors).

Anyway, now that I am up at Notre Dame, I have taken a very strong interest in the steam tunnels. I haven't had a chance to take my first expedition, but I have heard several rumors you might like:

1. Carroll Hall, one of our outlying dorms, has a one lane bowling alley in its side building basement, which, though the building has been remodled, traces can be seen.

2. The extra memoriabilia room in the joyce center's second floor, which reportedly contains various "junk" such as autographed jerseys/footballs/posters of alumni such as Joe Montana, Cotton Bowl trophies, and other priceless stuff.

3. The legendary first floor Joyce Center Spa, which can only be reached by an anonymous first floor door....

4. The tunnel which connects the Morris Inn to the CC, supposedly containing lots of football memorabilia too.

5. The Cryo lab, which is part of IU medical school as south bend...smells like $^#^&...our dorm is right near the building it's in, this is something you can nearly smell at night just by walking by.

I stress again, most of these are just rumors, so there's a high chance they could be total B.S., just like the time when someone told me that they used steam tunnels to shuffle bigwigs around in secret (hah! with the size of those things).

I'd love more info from anyone about the great potential for finding hidden/secret stuff on this campus.

Okay, one more tradition. The last tradition that I am going to share is more on the personal nature.

The dorm that I spent all four years in when I was at Notre Dame, had just opened the year before, and so it really had no traditions. The first year the dorm was open, it was only half full. The year that I moved in (the second year the dorm was open), my class filled the second half of the dorm. The upper classmen decided that it was their duty to establish some "traditions" in the new dorm. The one that sticks out most in my mind took place the first home football game of my freshman year. The upper classmen dragged us out of bed super early on Saturday morning, in our pajama's, threw us into the War Memorial Fountain (AKA "Stonehenge") and tought us the fight song. Not exactly what we were expecting that Saturday morning, but definitely the beginning of a great new tradition.

It's funny, I wasn't sure that I would have enough to write about when I started writing this challenge post, and in the end, I have so much more that I did not even include here ... tradition abounds for sure! I hope you've enjoyed my post on Notre Dame traditions, and I hope you have a little bit more of an insight as to what makes Notre Dame, Notre Dame ... and that it's more than just sports!

Cheers! ... Notre Dame Our Mother!

Oh and hey, if you haven't stopped by my "Biggest Fan of the Big East" profile yet, please stop by and cast your vote! Thanks!!


  1. There's only one word that can describe your article..AMAZING!! All universities have some nice traditions, I'm sure, but after reading about Notre Dame's it's no wonder why you had such an awesome there.

    It's obvious you put in many hours to research and write this article. For those of us who frequently read your blog, let me be the first to thank you for a GREAT job on this challenge.

    If and when you decide to explore some of those steam tunnels, I'd sure like to join you. I can only imagine what's laying around waiting to be discovered. GO IRISH!!

  2. Great selection Lisa.

    Keenan lead the way, Go Knights! :-)

  3. By the way: Here is an ESPN view on Interhall Football:

  4. Good writeup, Lisa -- a couple others that may/may not be relevant:

    "Assigned" Seating in the Dining Halls:
    Due to the close-knit nature of the residence halls, most dorms have a de facto seating area in a particular dining hall. Students can opt to rendezvous with friends before entering the dining hall, or just find familiar faces from your dorm. Also, allegiance to one particular dining hall is de rigueur.

    1st Snow Snowball Fight:
    Once the snow sticks (*hopefully* not until after Fall Break), a campus-wide snowball fight is in order after dinner. Neighboring dorms band together for solidarity, and the fun usually lasts until the entire campus turns against Zahm.

    Breakfast Club:
    Your gameday tradition reminds me of Morrissey's freshman tradition, the Breakfast Club. 6am before the 1st home game the freshmen are awakened so they can serenade the women's dorms in the undergarments of their choice. Due to lack of sleep and late-night partying, we usually didnt make it all the way out to Mod Quad ;)

  5. I love this article!! Being a huge ND fan, it's nice to see so many different insights about the university that you do not get by taking a campus tour, reading books about ND or just talking to people around campus. Thanks!!!

  6. Great piece Lisa. You truely have a way with words. I look forward to reading more!

  7. Love your blog! So many traditions at Notre Dame and that's what it's all about!


  8. Thank you very much! There was so much more I could have written, but these seem to be the best of the best!


  9. Superb article. Growing up a Navy brat, I love the Navy Tradition reference.

  10. Thanks ... I am a Navy brat as well!!