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Friday, September 15, 2006

Know Your Foe - Notre Dame

In case you haven't heard, Michigan will travel to South Bend on Saturday to play Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish have been flying under the radar for several years now, but they have a pretty good football program and the game should be a great one. The MZone, as an act of public service, is providing this week's version of KOW YOUR FOE about Notre Dame since you might not know that much about them, considering they don't get much publicity. After each category, we'll assess a running score based on how ND fares in that category against Michigan.

History - Founded in 1842 by a 28 year old priest. It was originally known as "University of Notre Dame du Lac," which in French means "Our Lady of the Lake." As anyone who's been there knows, there are actually two lakes on campus. Legend has it that when the school was founded in November of 1842, everything was frozen and so they only thought there was one lake.

Location - Technically, the school is located in Notre Dame, Indiana, though most people just consider it in South Bend (yeah, we were surprised, too). While it's only about four miles from the Michigan border, it's still in Indiana. If you've ever driven through the northwest, near Notre Dame, you might be familiar with Gary, Indiana -- the smelliest, grossest city around. You literally have to drive 80 mph simply to prevent the carcinogens from entering your car and body as you pass. Further south is farmland peppered with such burgs as West Lafayette and French Lick. Frankly, about the only good thing to come out of Indiana is Larry Bird. Sure, the Notre Dame campus is beautiful, but it's still in Indiana.

Nickname - Fighting Irish. Although there are a number of theories on how Notre Dame became the Fighting Irish, most people believe its genesis was during the 1920s when the press referred to the football team as such, due to the roster being populated with Kellys, Duffys, Ryans and Gallaghers. Even though diversity has come to ND - at least on the field - the nickname remains despite the presence of Samardzija, Ndukwe, Zbikowski, and Abiamiri. The NCAA has yet to challenge the ethnic nickname, or even the violent imagery associated with it. But give them time. Oh, yes, just give them time.

Colors/Logo/Cheers - Blue and Gold. That's right, no green. They use the green when they feel like they need it, such as last year against USC. When they first broke out the green jerseys in the '70s it was a fun gimmick. But now that just about every college and pro team has an "alternate" jersey (and Oregon has 384), this tactic seems very played. The blue and gold fit great. And though they are picture of utter blandness, the golden helmets are iconic and a perfect symbol for the university. Also, the fact that they match the golden dome on the campus makes them brilliant.

The Leprechaun logo is also classic. And that they have a living student version makes this one of the best logos in all of college athletics. So many times during my youth, when they'd show that leprechaun cheering and mugging for the camera, I just wanted to punch my TV screen. When the mascot is getting under your skin, you know it's good.

We all know there's no better fight song than The Victors. The only one that could even come close is the Notre Dame fight song. The beginning part with the flutes, where the leprechaun dances around, the way the band plays it quietly during the extra point and then pumps up the volume right after and the fact that so many non-football fans know the song make it a classic. I hate it and love it at the same time.

Academics - There's no doubt Notre Dame is a strong academic institution. But how strong all depends on who you ask. Ask a Domer and he's going to say it's at least in the top ten, up there with Stanford, Harvard, Princeton and Yale. Most non-Domers would put it somewhere outside the top 25. Michigan grads would put it anywhere below U of M. Domers love their school and that's one of the main reasons it ranks highly on college rankings like the U.S. News and World Reports' list, where it ranks 20th (Michigan is tied for 24th). Alumni giving for ND is always among the highest, even if its academic reputation isn't as strong. And the university is sitting on an endowment of $3.7 billion (Michigan's is just under $5 billion as of last year). I've always felt that among Big Ten schools, Michigan alums love their school the most. But that love of alma mater is right up there with the love Notre Dame grads have for their school.

Conference - None. Well, kind of. None for football, though Notre Dame participates in the Big East in most other sports. The university was reportedly offered a spot in the Big Ten in 1999, which was rejected due to a lack of alumni support. Though being an independent has served the Irish well, particularly in the wallet, they are a natural for the Big Ten and would bring an East/West balance that would allow the conference to align smoothly into somewhat even divisions. This wouldn't be the case if the conference added an eastern team such as Syracuse or Pittsburgh. But no, Notre Dame remains staunchly independent in football, allowing them to schedule as hard or as easy as they choose. And, oh, that NBC lucre.

Athletics - Surprisingly, for a school full of competitive achievers, Notre Dame hasn't produced huge numbers of national championships in sports other than football. The men's basketball team has only been to one Final Four (in 1978), though the women's team won it all in 2001. They've won titles in women's soccer as well as men's and women's fencing, but who really cares about that? Notre Dame is a football school. Always has been, always will be.


Famous alums - Notre Dame covers the gamut here, with alumna in just about every field of endeavor. Obnoxious talk show hosts Phil Donohue and Regis Philbin, punk rock's Ted Leo, comedy's George Wendt, and Secretary of State Condaleezza Rice all have ND diplomas hanging on their wall. As do current or former CEOs of Texaco, Liz Claiborne, DTE Energy, Office Depot and Red Hat. And don't forget about that character Martin Sheen played on The West Wing.

It looks like another heartbreaker for the Wolverines in South Bend. I guess having a fictional President is more important than having a real one.


Crabapple Buck said...

Please beat ND and create some You Tube clips for years to come. If UM doesn't turn it over and can play special teams and not let Zibby return one, I think they win in a higher scoring game. UM 34 - ND 31.

Anonymous said...

It looks like ya'll forgot that Harrison Ford's president in Air Force One was a Michigan grad...

Richard Cranium said...

You forgot to talk about the walking cholesterol which goes by the name Charlie Weis.

Anonymous said...

Not sure where you get the endowment information. The UM endowment is significantly bigger than ND's. Latest endowment estimitate for UM is greater than 5 billion dollars.

CrimeNotes said...

While I'm certainly not one to beat my chest about Michigan at all costs, your score on famous alums is frankly retarded. I mean, you're taking Regis Philbin over Arthur Miller and Clarence Darrow? Condaleezza over Gerald Ford (or, for that matter, Arthur Vandenberg?)? Ted Leo over William Shawn and Iggy Pop? If you believe Wikipedia, there are 11 living billionaires who are Michigan alums, not to mention (as if we haven't heard this shit so many times it's drilled into the DNA) the founder of Google, the guy who wrote Raiders, half the political reporters in Washington, plus motherfucking Jack Kevorkian and the Unabomber.

And we lose this contest to ND because of Regis, George Wendt, Ted Leo, and about a third as many CEOs as Michigan has produced? Jesus Christ we are an underconfident school.

blue2004 said...

Nobody mentioned Madonna, though she didn't graduate

Anonymous said...

My friend Matt is a UM alum and he is great. He wasn't in the band but he should have been. He can really high-step. I bet he could kick Regis' ass.

LetsGoBlue said...

I put the blame for this loss, and so many other losses, on Lloyd's clock management.

Anonymous said...

I know this matt too! Even though he has red hair he really knows that entry cadence really well and could def kick Regis' ass!

Yost said...

Yeah, Benny did tend to overlook a lot of Michigan in this one although I must say, as a prediction of the game tomorrow, I can't say I think he's wrong about Michigan being on the short end of a close one.

Anonymous said...

Crimenotes, for the record, Gerald Ford sucked

CrimeNotes said...

I agree on the predicted result (and the rest of the post) just not the alumni breakdown. Someday I will learn to temper my rhetoric.

Benny Friedman said...

Anon 7:09, You might be right regarding the endowment at Michigan. However, according to the U.S. News site - which I used as a source - U of M's endowment is $493,133,800.

harry hasselhoff said...

Anon 4:51 mentioned this but not only was Harrison Ford's president a Michigan grad but it was also mentioned to the President by an advisor early in the movie that Michigan had beaten Notre Dame.

Hells yeah!

Anonymous said...

West Wing had half an episode devoted to flying over South Bend...

I also don't think that Norm actually graduated from ND, so while, technically speaking, he is an alum, he wouldn't have a diploma hanging on the wall.

As far as pure numbers of alums in positions, please remember that ND only has about 8,500 undergrads (and another 2,500 graduate students) compared to 25,000 and 14,000 at Michigan. And ND didn't get up to that size of a campus until about twenty years ago or so. I believe there are about four times as many living alumni of Michigan than ND.

Go Blue, Eh! said...

I wish famous alumni did actually count on the scoreboard. If so, my alma mater McMaster would go undefeated every year.

We had the man voted the Greatest Canadian (also known as Keifer Sutherland's grandfather) Tommy Douglas, SCTV members Eugene Levy, Martin Short, Dave Thomas and John Candy (although he didn't graduate), director Ivan Reitman (Animal House, Ghostbusters), magician Doug Henning, astronaut Robeta Bondar, current Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty, former Lieutenant Governor Lincoln Alexander, hockey hall of famer Syl Apps.

Sadly only onfield talent counts so we have never a national championship. Our greatest player ever, Jesse Lumsden, just cut by the Redskins.

Besides if alumni did count the Regis factor would give ND so many negative points they'd never win a game.

UM 31- ND 27

Go Blue!
Maroon and Grey all the Way!

Anonymous said...

Benny - the Michigan endowment is a public record. Search the net or just call the U - the endowment is over 5 billion, one of the largest in the country. Maybe USNews forgot a zero?

Brad said...


Shouldn't that be the MSU preview??

Anonymous said...

Hey, don't go beating up on Gary, Indiana! It's no worse than Cleveland, Ohio.

Anonymous said...

Gerald Ford is a real President? He wasn't even elected to anything.

According to the University of Michigan, UoM's endowment is 4.
9 Billion. I'm not sure where the vehement denial of sub-5 billion-osity came from.

Yost said...


Benny initially had only $500M in there, that's why. We updated the post.

Some folks are reacting to the previous figure.

Anonymous said...

you gave ND the edge on Athletics? huh, am i missing something?