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Friday, September 09, 2011

Know Your Foe: Notre Dame 2011

Michigan hosts Notre Dame for the first-ever night game at The Big House this Saturday in a match up of the two winningest (though not recently) programs in college football history (much of which they created). Michigan is coming off a three-quarter victory over WMU in a game shortened due to extreme conditions that were more biblical than football-able. Notre Dame is coming off a shocking loss to South Florida in a game we're pretty sure just ended on Wednesday due to extreme conditions along with Brian "Old Yeller" Kelly taking a 72 hour "scream at my @#$%! team timeout."

Notre Dame and Michigan first played in 1887 when the Wolverines brought football to South Bend and played a bunch of students (not unlike USF did last week). The Wolverines also introduced Fighting Irish to losing, winning the first 8 contests. Michigan leads the overall series 22-15-1. But this isn't about the stuff you know about our opponent, it's about the stuff you don't. It's the 2011 edition of the MZone favorite, Know Your Foe.

I thought this was a clue from LOST
but it's the Notre Dame seal
History - The name of the university, "Notre Dame", is French meaning "Our Lady", a Catholic salutation in reference to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the patron saint of the university (as opposed to the unprintable string of obscenities Brian Kelly was seen using on the sidelines last weekend which is Pardon My French meaning "My starting quarterback sucked.")

The school was founded in 1842 by a 28 year old priest and was originally known as "University of Notre Dame du Lac," which - in keeping with our French theme - means "Our Lady of the Lake." But there are actually two lakes on campus. Legend has it that when the school was founded, everything was frozen and so they only thought there was one lake. 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 (which, in retrospect, is shorter than it has taken to revive the football that, long after Lou Holtz left, is still not 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 shouted out last weekend after three ND turnovers inside the USF 10 yard line.

According to Wikipedia, more than 80% of the university's 8,000 undergraduates live on campus in one of 29 single-sex residence halls, each of which fields teams for more than a dozen intramural sports (not to be confused with the team which has struggled on fall Saturdays for the last 15 years or so). Notre Dame's approximately 120,000 alumni are located around the world, any of which will be sure to find you and make your life a living hell if their team beats Michigan this weekend or starts winning in general.

- Technically, the school is located in unincorporated Notre Dame, Indiana, though most people just consider it in South Bend which is right next door. In addition, you may not know (or care) that Notre Dame is only about four miles from the Michigan border. But it's still in Indiana. Thankfully.

The population of South Bend has declined since a peak of 132,445 in 1960 to 101,168 according to the 2010 census. Experts say this is due to the demise of heavy industry like Studebaker and Oliver Chilled Plow Company and not because the football team has started to suck. Today, the largest industries in South Bend are health care, education, small business and tourism.

Nickname - Notre Dame athletic teams are known as the Fighting Irish (though students are called "Domers," or those "@#$% annoying fans" by others). The Irish have 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.

According to the University's website, there are several legends of how Notre Dame came to be the "Fighting Irish." One story is that the name was born in 1899 with Notre Dame leading Northwestern 5-0 at halftime in Evanston. Allegedly, Wildcat fans began to chant, "Kill the Fighting Irish! Kill the Fighting Irish," as if they were drunken Ohio State fans the second half opened. Another tale has the nickname originating at halftime of the Notre Dame-Michigan game in 1909. With his team trailing, one Notre Dame player yelled to his teammates - who had names like Dolan, Kelly, Donnelly, Glynn, Duffy and Ryan - "What's the matter with you guys? You're all Irish and you're not fighting worth a lick!" Notre Dame came back to win the game (probably while this song played) and the press, after overhearing the remark, reported the game as a victory for the "Fighting Irish."

The most generally accepted explanation is that the press coined the nickname as a characterization of Notre Dame teams in the 1920s as a result of preexisting Irish stereotypes.

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 (although they may be forced to re-adopt that name if they keep losing to teams like USF).

Dude, put your hand down.  You can hear Brian Kelly
swearing from the parking lot.
Mascot - The Leprechaun was named the official mascot in 1965. Truth be told, ND's mascot really is 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 (no, Dave Brandon, that doesn't mean I want some dude in a furry suit running around The Big House).

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.

Colors - Blue and Gold. That's right, no green. They use the green when they feel like they need it (which means they should permanently switch to green). 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).  And though they are the picture of utter blandness, the golden helmets are iconic and a perfect symbol for the university.

Helmets - ND's helmets represent the Golden Dome atop the Main Building on campus.  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 (INSERT 487TH USF JOKE ABOUT NOT NEEDING TO DO THAT AFTER LAST WEEKEND HERE). 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.

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-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 29th). Alumni giving for ND is always among the highest. 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.

Football Program - 13 Fighting Irish teams have won consensus national championships (although the university only claims 11, unlike Alabama which claims one if somebody says "Hey, your team was good this year" anywhere near the Tide campus), along with another nine teams being named national champion by at least one source.

The Irish play in Notre Dame Stadium, an 80,795-seat stadium on campus that was modeled after The Big House. The football team generates enough revenue to operate independently while $22.1 million is retained from the team's profits for academic use. Forbes named the team as the most valuable in college football, worth a total of $101 million in 2007.

Would you rather see them or Regis?
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. Former 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 - Tough call.  Really tough call.  While the Irish looked awful last weekend, there is no way they can be that bad (can they?).  As even Kelly screamed said, a lot of those mistakes can be corrected. And he's probably right.  Plus with the QB change (to the guy who started and won ND's last for games for the team in 2010), who knows.

As for Michigan, even the biggest fan (us included) has to admit the jury is still out.  The defense initially looked like last year's squad, but then made some adjustments...then the game ended.  The offense wasn't bad, Shoelace didn't have to do it all...then the game ended.  But we're all waiting for Denard to break free - just like he did last year vs. ND.  Will this be the day Shoelace again becomes Superman? Under the lights?  In Michigan's first night game?


Michigan - 24
Notre Dame - 14

Sorry, still absolutely hate these.  The two best unis in
college football should be wearing the two best unis in
college football.  Not marketing shit designed to sell crap.

ED. NOTE: As before, thanks to Ron for his help with KYF!


616goblue said...


This will only add fuel to the fire with the banter between myself and the domer whose office is next to mine.

Methinks we will have a battle of the fight songs again today...it will be like last Friday when one of the women from accounting came over and said "will you two just quit it already!"

surrounded in columbus said...

Notre Who?

Mikoyan said...

Notre Lame
The Gomers

The people that spawned that crappy football movie on us....

Yost said...


What kind of hell-hole do you work at? Domer next to you, woman telling you to "quit it" when you play The Victors? Good God, man! It sounds like OFFICE SPACE.

Mikoyan said...

Oh and one more thing. Speaking as a former Huron...how come that stereotype is not okay but a drunken violent Irishman is? Can anyone explain this one?


Rockne never beat Yost!

GoBlueBob said...

Yost and Ron.... The Darhma project was associated with Lost... The Greg project is associated with the gay version "Lost in South Bend".

Mik... Rockne never lost to Yost either...

Mikoyan said...

Rockne never lost to Yost either because he was too much of a chicken to play him....:)

616goblue said...


It will be even more interesting during Big Brother-little brother game week as there is only one domer in my office but there are several little brother fans.

I wonder why the domer left the office early today, and that was before we could start the "battle of the fight songs" like last week. He claimed he "had an appoinment in Holland" and "get his car out of the shop" but it could just be a cover story on his part.

bigGexpress said...

The most annoying "mascot/whatever the the hell you want to call it" is that damn leprechaun guy that is always seen on TV like a wannabe ND cheerleader. I have a running deal with everybody I know that if I ever see that "guy/whatever the hell it is" in person, I have to walk up to it and kick it's ass. Seriously, get a life! That hasn't got anyone laid since the roaring 20's. It's painful and embarrassing to see that. Seriously, in the name of all that is football and man, you should be embarrassed. Joe Montana making fun of Rudy is less embarrassing to ND.