One word that is synonymous with Notre Dame is “Tradition.” From the minute you step on campus, you can feel that Notre Dame is a very special place and that is evident with the many traditions surrounding the sporting events and campus life.
Each of the Fighting Irish players and female coaches wear green nail polish throughout the NCAA Championship. This tradition started during the 1997 tourney, when the Fighting Irish added the green polish to their fingers prior to their second-round St. Patrick’s Day game at Texas, which Notre Dame won 86-83. The Fighting Irish ended up going to their first NCAA Final Four that season and the green nail polish was here to stay. As a show of solidarity, the male members of the travel party usually paint their left pinky green, and some (including associate head coach Jonathan Tsipis) have even gone so far as to shave their heads for the tournament.
Though not limited exclusively to NCAA tournament play, Notre Dame’s distinctive kelly green road uniforms have become a staple of the postseason in keeping with the St. Patrick’s Day holiday, which often falls during the early rounds of the tournament. The Fighting Irish most recently wore the alternate green road threads in the 2011 NCAA Championship Semifinal win over Connecticut (72-63) and the National Championship Final against Texas A&M.
This unique pre-game ritual has become one of the widely-recognized traditions of Notre Dame women’s basketball. Just prior to the introduction of the starting lineups, the Fighting Irish players will circle up in the lane with a basketball at their feet. As the Notre Dame pep band plays, the team will perform the Irish Jig (a popular step with Notre Dame fans, especially the student body) with the ball bouncing around in the midst of their dance. This tradition is believed to have started during the 1999-2000 season, but picked up steam during Notre Dame’s 2000-01 national championship run and has been part of the Fighting Irish pre-game ritual ever since.
Lime Green Shirts
Many ask why Notre Dame Women’s Basketball fans wear lime green instead of the traditional blue and gold or even kelly green. The ever-present lime green t-shirts you might see many Notre Dame fans wearing are given out annually to Fighting Irish women’s basketball season ticket holders, a group affectionately known as the “Spirit Patrol.” Created by former coordinator of basketball operations Stephanie Menio, the shirts are based on one of head coach Muffet McGraw’s favorite colors, which she sported on the sidelines during the 2001 national championship game win over Purdue. Irish fans have adopted the color and even go so far as to wear lime green socks, hats, scarves or even full body suits.
It’s year five of Notre Dame’s wildly-successful “Big Mac” promotion, offering fans a coupon for a free Big Mac from South Bend-area McDonald’s restaurants if the Fighting Irish score at least 88 points in a home game. When the score hits 85 points, the crowd begins to chant “Big” “Mac” until the Irish reach that 88-point mark.
In the five-year history of the promotion, Notre Dame has hit the 88-point mark 26 times. It should come as no surprise that in the short history of the promotion, the Notre Dame player with the most “Big Mac” baskets shares the same initials with the tasty burger – senior guard Brittany Mallory, who has sent the crowd home happy (and presumably with full bellies) five times, including four during the promotion’s inaugural run in 2007-08.
And for those tracking such things, 15 different players have converted the “burger ball," including eight current members of the Fighting Irish roster. What’s more, of the 26 Big Mac games to date, 13 have been reached on two-point baskets, nine on free throws, and four on three-pointers.
One of the most recognizable landmarks on campus is the Word of Life Mural, more popularly known to the football world as “Touchdown Jesus.” But, we are living in a women’s basketball world, so the Notre Dame Women’s Basketball program has changed “Touchdown Jesus” to “Three-Point Jesus” because of Jesus’ symbolic raising of his hands to signal a three-pointer.
The mural covers the southern face of the 14-story Hesburgh Library. At nearly 10 stories high and composed of over 6,700 individual pieces of granite, the mural is unmistakable.
On a sunny day, you can see the reflection of the mural into a large reflecting pool that sits south of the library. It is not uncommon to find excited students running through the reflecting pool after an upset victory or big win over a traditional opponent.
Here Come the Irish
In 2003, former Notre Dame All-American center John Scully set out to create a song that captured the Notre Dame spirit, and he did just that. Teamed with producer Jim Tullio, Scully managed to add to the illustrious history of great Notre Dame songs like The Victory March, Hike Notre Dame and The Rakes of Mallow to create Here Come the Irish. The voice of this beautiful song is singer, songwriter Cathy Richardson, who has made many appearances at Notre Dame Women's Basketball games. Here Come the Irish has traditionally been the song that is used for starting lineups and it is known to give the fans goosebumps because of the magical sound. The players line up and begin to sign along with "And there's a magic in the sound of their name. Here come the Irish of Notre Dame."
Here Come The Irish
lyrics written by Jim Tullio and John Scully
Well I remember the leaves a fallin'
And far off music like pipes a callin'
And I remember the golden morning
I saw the long ranks as they were forming
And there's a magic in the sound of their name
Here come the Irish of Notre Dame
The pilgrims follow by the sacred waters
And arm in arm go the sons and daughters
The drums are rolling and forward bound
They're calling spirits up from the ground
And there's a magic in the sound of their name
Here come the Irish of Notre Dame
Notre Dame Victory March
Without a doubt the most recognizable collegiate fight song in the nation, the "Notre Dame Victory March" was written just past the turn of the century by two brothers who were University of Notre Dame graduates.
Michael J. Shea, a 1905 graduate, wrote the music and his brother, John F. Shea, who earned degrees in 1906 and 1908, wrote the words. The song was copyrighted in 1908 and a piano version, complete with lyrics, was published that year.
Michael, who became a priest in Ossining, N.Y., collaborated on the project with John, who lived in Holyoke, Mass. The song's public debut came in the winter of 1908 when Michael played it on the organ of the Second Congregational Church in Holyoke.
The "Notre Dame Victory March" later was presented by the Shea brothers to the University and it first appeared under the copyright of the University of Notre Dame in 1928. The copyright was assigned to the publishing company of Edwin H. Morris and the copyright for the beginning of the song is still in effect.
The words and music which begin with the words "Cheer, cheer for Old Notre Dame" are in the public domain in the United States, but are protected in all territories outside of the country.
Notre Dame's fight song was first performed at Notre Dame on Easter Sunday, 1909, in the rotunda of the Administration Building. The University of Notre Dame band, under the direction of Prof. Clarence Peterson, played it as part of its athletic event 10 years later. In 1969, as college football celebrated its centennial, the "Notre Dame Victory March" was honored as the "greatest of all fight songs."
Michael Shea was the pastor of St. Augustine's Church in Ossining until his death in 1938. John Shea, a baseball monogram winner at Notre Dame, became a Massachusetts state senator and lived in Holyoke until his death in 1965.
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 and daughters are marching
Onward to victory.
The Fighting Irish
Exactly where and how Notre Dame's athletic nickname, "Fighting Irish," came to origination never has been perfectly explained.
One story suggests the moniker was born in 1899 with Notre Dame leading Northwestern 5-0 at halftime of a game in Evanston, Ill. The Wildcat fans supposedly began to chant, "Kill the Fighting Irish, kill the Fighting Irish," as 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 happened to have names like Dolan, Kelly, 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 and 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 athletic teams, their never-say-die fighting spirit and the Irish qualities of grit, determination and tenacity. The term likely began as an abusive expression tauntingly directed toward the athletes from the small, private, Catholic institution. Notre Dame alumnus Francis Wallace popularized it in his New York Daily News columns in the 1920s.
The Notre Dame Scholastic, in a 1929 edition, printed its own version of the story:
"The term 'Fighting Irish' has been applied to Notre Dame teams for years. It first attached itself years ago when the school, comparatively unknown, sent its athletic teams away to play in another city ...At that time the title 'Fighting Irish' held no glory or prestige ...
"The years passed swiftly and the school began to take a place in the sports world ...'Fighting Irish' took on a new meaning. The unknown of a few years past has boldly taken a place among the leaders. The unkind appellation became symbolic of the struggle for supremacy of the field. ...The team, while given in irony, has become our heritage. ...So truly does it represent us that we are unwilling to part with it ..."
Notre Dame competed under the nickname "Catholics" during the 1800s and became more widely known as the "Ramblers" during the early 1920s in 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.
In keeping with the nickname Fighting Irish and the Irish folklore, the Leprechaun serves as the Notre Dame mascot. The Notre Dame logo features a side view of the figure with his dukes up, ready to battle anyone who comes his way. The live version is a student, chosen annually at tryouts, dressed in a cutaway green suit and Irish country hat.
The Leprechaun brandishes a shillelagh and aggressively cheers and interacts with the crowd, supposedly bringing magical powers and good luck to the Notre Dame team.
The Leprechaun wasn't always the official mascot of Notre Dame – for years the team was represented by a series of Irish terrier dogs. The first, named Brick Top Shuan-Rhu, was donated by one Charles Otis of Cleveland and presented to Irish head coach Knute Rockne the weekend of the Notre Dame-Pennsylvania game on Nov. 8, 1930.
The Leprechaun was named the official mascot in 1965.
Gold And Blue
Although Notre Dame's official colors for athletics long have been listed as gold and blue, the color of the Irish home football jersey has switched back and forth between blue and green for more than 50 years.
The origin of school colors can be traced back to the founding of the University. At the time of its founding in 1842, Notre Dame's original school colors were yellow and blue; yellow symbolized the light and blue the truth. However, sometime after the Dome and Statue of Mary atop the Main Building was gilded, gold and blue became the official colors of the University.
Notre Dame Marching Band
The marching band of the University of Notre Dame, appropriately called "The Band of the Fighting Irish," is the oldest university band in continual existence and has been on hand for every home game since football started at Notre Dame in 1887.
Notre Dame's band, born in 1845, celebrated its 150th season in 1995 and was among the first in the nation to include pageantry, precision drill and the now-famous picture formations during performances.
The kickoff of a football weekend is the traditional Friday evening pep rally. The band historically mustered the students with its march through the campus and arrived as the head of a parade of Irish faithful at the University's Stepan Center.
The band first accepted women from neighboring Saint Mary's college in 1970 before Notre Dame became co-educational in 1972. The band was declared a "landmark of American Music" in 1976 by the National Music Council.
Ken Dye currently serves as band director. He holds degrees from the University of Houston, Long Beach State and USC. He has directed bands at Rice University and Houston and arranged music performed at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney Australia.