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Friday, September 14, 2007

Know Your Foe - Notre Dame 2007

Two of college football’s bottom dwellers get together this Saturday in Ann Arbor as 0-2 Michigan hosts 0-2 Notre Dame. Though you couldn’t tell by the play on the field this year, these are college football’s winningest programs. The amazing thing is that one of them will actually get a win on Saturday. Michigan holds a 19-14-1 advantage in the all-time series and won last year in Notre Dame for the first time since 1994. Despite the fact that these teams have each lost four in a row, The MZone, as an act of public service (and because working on this keeps us from rocking and crying in the corner) presents this loser’s version of KNOW YOUR FOE.

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." But 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 (why didn’t they just check on Google Maps?). The land on which ND sits had been purchased by Rev. Stephen Badin, the first Catholic priest ordained in the United States, and left in trust for anyone who would found a school on the site. A fire in 1879 practically wiped out the campus, but within ten years the campus was once again thriving.

The influence of Catholicism is obvious throughout the campus, where 82% of the students identify as Roman Catholic. The Basilica of the Sacred Heart is in the center of campus, a statue of the Virgin Mary stands on the dome of the Main Building (“The Golden Dome”), and there are crucifixes in most classrooms on campus. Know Your Foe was unable to confirm if confessionals were being installed at Notre Dame Stadium to allow fans to be forgiven for what they were thinking about Charlie Weis.

Dorm life is huge at Notre Dame. About 80% of the student body live in the dorms, including roughly half of the senior class. Can you imagine being a senior and still eating those shitty dorm meals? There are 27 dorms on campus, all single-sex, and all with chapels. Since there are no fraternities or sororities on campus there is tremendous dorm loyalty, with many students living in the same dorm their entire collegiate career. In the tremendously competitive environment that ND is, there are fierce rivalries between dorms, and the residence hall intramural competition, which includes full pads and full contact football, is almost as legendary as the competition on Saturday at the stadium.

Location – Notre Dame, IN. Yes, technically, the school is located in Notre Dame, Indiana, though most people just consider it in South Bend (yeah, we were surprised, too). And though fans of both Michigan and Michigan State would never acknowledge this, Notre Dame is only about four miles from the Michigan border. But it's still in Indiana. And though the small ND campus is renowned for its beauty, South Bend is in the armpit of Indiana, which is pretty much the armpit of the United States. A stone’s throw away from ND is beautiful Gary, IN, the smelliest, grossest city around. Drivers literally have to speed by at at least 80 mph simply to prevent the carcinogens from entering their car and body as they pass. Further south is farmland peppered with such burgs as West Lafayette and French Lick

South Bend is about the same size as Ann Arbor, and derived its name because it lies at the south bend of the St. Joseph River. The city began as South Hold in 1829, named by, of all entities, the post office. The USPS renamed the town to South Bend in 1830 because so many other places were called South Hold. Really? What in the world was going on in this country in 1830 that so many places were called South Hold? It was officially incorporated as a city in 1865. Heavy industry has always dominated South Bend’s economy, most famously by the Studebaker Manufacturing Company. Studebaker cars were built there until the company’s demise in 1963. The Studebaker National Museum is in South Bend, as is the College Football Hall of Fame.

Nickname - Fighting Irish. It’s one of the most unique and well-known nicknames in all of sports. As a matter of fact, there are no other colleges that use “Irish” as their nickname.

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 Vernaglia, Zbikowski, Kamara, and Jabbie. Despite the presence of only a few Irish surnames on this year’s ND roster, the NCAA has yet to challenge the ethnic nickname, or even the violent imagery associated with it. But give them time.

Before the ‘20s, Notre Dame had several nicknames, including the Rovers and the Ramblers, due to their willingness to travel to play football during the Knute Rockne era. At one point they were also known as the Terriers, at which time an Irish Terrier would appear on the sideline during football games. There’s no doubt that if they’d kept that name, the history of Notre Dame football would be very different.

Mascot – The Leprechaun. A true classic, and the fact that they have a living student version makes this one of the best mascots 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.

The live mascot is always a student that wins an annual tryout. The green knickers and gold vest that he wears is topped by an Irish country hat. The leprechaun carries around a shillelagh during the game leading cheers in the student section, and is hoisted by the cheerleaders after every ND score to perform a pushup for every Irish point. Surprisingly, the leprechaun was named the official school mascot only in 1965, replacing the Irish Terrier, Clashmore Mike.

Colors - Blue and Gold. That's right, no green. They use the green when they feel like they need it, such as in 2005 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 are a great combination, though not necessarily unique (Navy and Brigham Young use the same colors). Plus, Notre Dame actually gets it right when they invoke gold, staying off Know Your Foe’s shitlist. And though they are the picture of utter blandness, the golden helmets are iconic and a perfect symbol for the university.

The colors of the university at its founding in 1842 were yellow and blue. The yellow symbolized light (which I get) and the blue symbolized truth (which I don’t understand). But even back then, evidently, schools didn’t like to admit using yellow. However, sometime after the statue of Mary and the dome of the Main Building was gilded, yellow was replaced by gold as the official color.

Logo – An interlocking ND. This has been the Notre Dame logo since at least the 1960s, though other logos have cropped up at times. The interlocking ND has had, at times, a green or blue shamrock behind it. The interlocking letters have appeared on both the jersey and pants of the football players since Lou Holtz added them in 1986 – the most recent changes to the uniform. A cartoon leprechaun is also sometimes used as the ND logo. This guy really brings the “Figthin’” out in “Fightin’ Irish.” Throughout the various incarnations of this cartoon logo, the little leprechaun has his fists up, ready to fight.

Typically in Know Your Foe, we discuss the helmets in the logo section. And we’ll do it here, even though Notre Dame, obviously, has no logo on their helmets. In a way, the helmets themselves are logos of the university, representing the golden dome atop the Main Building. Though iconic in college football, they are almost the same, albeit with no stripe and a gray facemask, as two of their fellow independents, Army and Navy.

As with so many things at Notre Dame, tradition plays a huge part with the helmets. The team’s student managers spray paint the helmets prior to each game, refreshing the shine each week.The paint contains actual gold. Although ND has had the same helmet design since 1964, which is the longest-running unchanged helmet design among the NCAA Division I-A colleges, they haven’t always been so plain. From 1959 to 1962, head coach Joe Kuharich added a green shamrock to the helmet. In 1963, plain white numbers replaced the shamrock for one season.

As always, all images of the helmets are from the incredible Helmet Project site, and the logos are from the equally wonderful SportsLogos.net.

Fight SongNotre Dame Victory March. One of the most famous college football fight songs was written by brothers and Notre Dame grads, Michael and John Shea in the early 1900s. Though it ranked only fifth in a Sports Illustrated poll of the best college fight songs, it’s second as far as the MZone is concerned (The Victors is number one in both rankings). 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. Know Your Foe hates it and loves it at the same time.

The original lyrics, which were written in 1908, were revised in the late 1920s to the following:

Rally sons of Notre Dame:
Sing her glory and sound her fame,
Raise her Gold and Blue
And cheer with voices true:
Rah, rah, for Notre Dame
We will fight in ev-ry game,
Strong of heart and true to her name
We will ne'er forget her
And will cheer her ever
Loyal to Notre Dame

Cheer, cheer for old Notre Dame,
Wake up the echoes cheering her name,
Send a volley cheer on high,
Shake down the thunder from the sky.
What though the odds be great or small
Old Notre Dame will win over all,
While her loyal sons are marching
Onward to victory.

Those are some damn good lyrics for a college fight song. They invoke the name of the university, the colors, mention cheering, fighting, and loyalty, and has ultimate confidence in victory. No wonder they’ve won so many football games.

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, maybe even number 1, 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 19th (Michigan is tied for 25th). 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 almost $4.5 billion, which is huge for such a small school (Michigan’s endowment is about $5.6 billion). Perhaps this helps explain why the university reserves almost a quarter of its admissions spots for legacies of Notre Dame. Know Your Foe has always felt that among Big Ten schools, Michigan alums love their school the most. But that love of alma mater is no more than the love Notre Dame grads (and families of grads) have for their school.

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, no matter their record. While almost all of the ND athletic teams play in the Big East Conference, the football team remains one of only four independents. And that’s really too bad. 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, more importantly, it allows them to have their own network football contract, and even have their own BCS qualification rules, both of which add up to huge dollars that they don’t have to share with fellow teams in their conference. So when anyone asks you why Notre Dame is still not in a conference, tell them the reason is the same anything happens in college football: Money, and lots of it.

Famous alums - Notre Dame covers the gamut here, with alumna in just about every field of endeavor. It’s an extremely lengthy, if not overly impressive list. From the media, 2nd-rate sportscasters Don Criqui, Ted Robinson, and Tim Ryan are all ND grads. CBS Morning Show talking head Hannah Storm is an Irish grad as is ESPN Radio morning talking head Mike Golic. Obnoxious talk show hosts Phil Donohue and Regis Philbin, both went to ND as did punk rock's Ted Leo, and comedy's George Wendt. Current Secretary of State Condaleezza Rice as well as Chicago Cub fan turned villain Steve Bartman 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. But they’ve only had a fictional president from Notre Dame, not a real one.

The Game – Even though Know Your Foe spends a ridiculous amount of time on each of these reports every week, this section of this week’s KYF has been the most difficult to write. Who knows what’s going to happen with these two teams? They’ve both looked awful, with Notre Dame not getting an offensive touchdown and Michigan’s defense only able to stop their opponent during garbage time. And it’s not as if the ND defense or the Michigan offense has been all that great either. To top things off, both teams will start a true freshman at QB. This is going to be one ugly game. Michigan is at home, but that might not be an advantage for the Wolverines right now. The coaching staff is in turmoil, the players are mad at the fans, the fans are mad at life. It can’t get any worse for Michigan can it? Sadly, it can: NOTRE DAME 12, MICHIGAN 9.


Rusher said...

What about God?
He might not be a true alumni but a pretty good fan.

gitchegumee said...

But, . . .

If God is a Notre Dame fan, why are they 0-2?

Oh, that's right, I forgot, Nietzsche informed us that God is dead.

Just like Notre Dame football.

BTW, outstanding job with Know Your Foe, as usual. Thank you! Keep up the great work.

surrounded in columbus said...

12-9? are you sniffing glue? there's just no way in H3LL michigan could ever... kick 3 field goals in one game.

beast in 'bama said...

Sic - It's gotta be a fumble recovery for a touchdown, an extra point, and a safety. A safety? With Michigan's defense? Yeah, it's gonna happen on a punt somehow.

Seriously, this has got to be the toughest game in the country to handicap - maybe ever. A lot of people down here have said they are going to watch it just to see what happens. Kind of like whenever they bring out the jaws of life at an accident.

Dezzi said...


An extra point from Michigan? I could see Michigan getting 9 points from a TD, missed extra point, then a FG from 40 yards out... but the 40 yarder would come after having missed a 27 yarder and having a 32 yarder blocked.

Never thought I would want Garrett Rivas back... does anyone know if Remy Hamilton has any eligibility left?

I sense a Mike Hart game where he runs for 300+ yards on 40+ carries because they will be scared to open up the passing for Mallett.

One thing is for sure this weekend... a team with blue as one of their colors will win.

fightinamish said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
fightinamish said...

Did you just call Gerald Ford a "real president"? That's debatable.

whetstonebuck said...

Let's see. Two teams with horrendously bland uniforms as well as records. Yeah, this is a must watch game. If for nothing else, to observe one of the teams change their helmet design following the game. Superstition would be a good reason since good taste isn’t being invoked. Maybe they could influence Penn State to…nah. That’s going to take a death.

Billster said...

1) As much as I love ND, I can't see them winning this one. They won't be able to put points up no matter what Michigan does on defense. Twelve points is generous.

2) I have to disagree re: your assessment of ND academically. I won't argue it's on par with Harvard, Stanford, et. al, but I find it humorous that you give it such little respect when it's ranked higher than Michigan in the report you reference. If that report is your benchmark (and it seems to be, since you cited it), then 'nough said about ND's excellence relative to Michigan.

god of the whoppers said...

and rudy???

Robert said...

knockin' back some of grandpappy's cough medicine a little early this friday aren't we? michigan uniform bland? change the helmet design? yeeeaaa that's it. keep on sippin' that $5 vodka buddy. the michigan uniform was voted best uniform over at your ww leader by something like 6 million sports fans. and as much as i don't like notre dame, they've got some classy uniforms when they stay out of green.

holy hell i can only imagine your own wardrobe. seriously, tie-dyed shirts are no longer cool after the summer camp ages of 10-13.

whetstonebuck said...


There's no accounting for taste. The fashionistas you reference probably think Ms. Spears wardrobe is "to die for."

In other polls the majority ranks vanilla as the number one ice cream. Go figure. Another vote for Penn State's unis.

Dude, shake up that polo shirt and Dockers mentality. What have you got to lose?

Sure the Michigan helmet design is the most recognizable...because it's so freakin' weird. Weird does not necessarily mean attractive. (see Oregon)

Don't know nuthin' 'bout granpaps cough syrup. Feel free to share.

Oh, strictly Aloha shirts for me. Tie-dye is for poli-sci students on your campus.

TitleIX said...

Seriously, this weekend is alllll lined up for some supreme karmic justice....

picture this:
1) Michigan clocks Charlie Weis' Notre Dame and
2) Ty Willingham's Huskies clock tOSU

ooooh the potential for nirvanah


Robert said...


first off, it's our enviro majors that rock the tie-dyed shirts, so you're wrong there.

second, please tell me it's black socks and tennis shoes with the aloha shirts for you? why do i get the feeling you've been on more than 3 cruises in your life?

and seriously though man, mix it up? should we add granite countertops and hardwood floors to the sisteen chapel? paint the whitehouse in earthy tones for the "green" fad these days?

i'm all for mixing it up, but there's a reason the classics stick with you. i think any reasonable person would say the michigan uni's are a good look. you have to admit you're in the minority here. but hey, to each his own.

Killing My Liver said...

Title :
If that scenario plays out, I would be a very happy man.

Rusher said...

Rudy, would be a starter on this years ND team!

whetstonebuck said...


It's ostrich cowboy boots with the aloha shirts. Eat your heart out, preppy-boy.

Thanks for the correction on who's wearing the tie-dye. Are you sure they don't exchange clothing with one another down at the co-op?

No cruises in my past. Oh, how I want to though. I think I have the Mrs. convinced to go on one. She has a phobia about being below the water line.

Yes, of course I know I'm in the minority on this blog. It's just my opinion. I know I'm bucking the classics, but I think '56/'57 Chevys are ugly too. There may be no help for me.

Reed said...

My new favorite ND leprechaun logo.

Harrison Clifford said...

Blue probably symbolizes truth to Notre Dame because it was the color of loyalty (trusting) during the middle ages. If you wore green it meant love and blue meant loyalty etc...