The 1977 game versus the University of Southern California is one of the most legendary games in the history of Notre Dame football all because of the color green. After warming up in the tradition blue jerseys, the team went back into the locker room to find green jerseys hanging in every locker. “Suddenly, the locker room looked like we had just won the National Title and the game hadn’t even started,” cornerback Ted Burgmeier wrote in the 1978 Dome yearbook.
The players’ excitement at the change in jerseys was magnified by the crowd’s reaction once the players came out of the tunnel and on to the field. The return to green jerseys recalled some of the programs best years under coach Frank Leahy and heralded the promise of the 1977 season.
Irish coach Dan Devine had thought about using green jerseys since he arrived at Notre Dame for the 1975 season, but hadn’t yet seized the opportunity. The importance of facing fifth-ranked USC at home in 1977 led him to make the switch. While a few coaches and others knew about the green jerseys for this game, the secret was well kept. However, the players and fans were given many hints during the week leading up to the game.
At the Friday practice before the game tennis coach Tom Fallon sang several Irish ballads to the players, including “The Wearin’ of the Green.” Coach Devine followed with stories about the plight of Irish immigrants and their struggles in America. Later that night at the pep rally, Irish basketball coach “Digger” Phelps introduced a new cheer — “We are . . . the Green Machine.” The players were none the wiser despite all of the hints.
Pregame activities included rolling a student-constructed Trojan horse into the tunnel and out on to the field. The horse was fifteen feet high and had room for a small number of students who were dressed as football players. The student-inspired Trojan horse recalled earlier days when pregame activities came up from the students, including parades, snake dances, bonfires, floats, and dorm decorations. Some were planned, such as the Trojan horse, while others were more spontaneous.
Over the years, the 1977 USC game has become known as much for the Trojan horse as for the green jerseys. The game is often referred to as the “Green Jersey Game,” however, in celebration of the 40th anniversary of the game in 2017, the Notre Dame Bookstore is selling a commemorative tee-shirt with the words “Trojan Horse Game.”
Coach Devine had correctly predicted the excitement in the locker room before the game against a long-time rival. In his post-game comments he said, “I didn’t even go in the there. I had nothing to say. Everything had been said.” As the players exited the locker room, the Trojan sideline was confused, wondering if the green jerseys were being worn by students leading the team out of the tunnel. The Irish had not beaten the Trojans since 1973, and the eleventh-ranked Notre Dame team had already lost a game to Mississippi early in the season. USC, ranked fifth going into the Notre Dame game, also had one loss. The Trojans were favored by seven points.
The pregame excitement carried over into the game with the Irish dominating on both sides of the ball. Burgmeier noted, “in order to win, we needed the help of the student body, and that we got.” Quarterback Joe Montana ran for two touchdowns and threw for two more. Linebacker Bob Golic blocked a punt and defensive end Jay Case ran it back for a touchdown. A bobbled extra point try ended up as a two point conversion for the Irish. The Notre Dame defense pressured the USC quarterback into three interceptions. The final score was 49 to 19.
After the game Coach Devine commented, “It was a team victory in every sense of the word.” The Irish went on the win the remainder of their games, including a 38 to 10 victory over the Texas Longhorns in the Cotton Bowl. The Cotton Bowl win gave the Irish the national championship.
Legendary coach Ara Parseghian died on August 2, 2017, at the age of 94. He came to Notre Dame in late 1963 from Northwestern University having previously coaching at Miami University in Ohio, where he served first as assistant coach under Woody Hayes and then as head coach. As Notre Dame’s first non-alumnus head coach since Jesse Harper’s last season in 1917, Parseghian inherited a struggling Notre Dame football program that finished the 1963 season with a 2 and 7 record. Parseghian quickly turned the program around, going 9 and 1 in 1964. He missed the national championship title by 1:34 in a squeaker defeat against USC, the last game of the season. However, Parseghian and the team won other accolades that year: Parseghian was named Coach of the Year by multiple organizations and quarterback John Huarte won the coveted Heisman Trophy.
Over the course of his 11 years at Notre Dame, Parseghian compiled a record of 95-17-4, winning national championships in 1966 and 1973. As a coach he was known for his intensity and attention to detail. After leaving Notre Dame he worked as a television commentator covering college football, but he kept close to Notre Dame offering advice, when asked, to later generations of coaches. Among his former players, Parseghian was known for his loyalty and lifelong friendship.
In 1994, tragedy struck the Parseghian family when three of Ara’s grandchildren were diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder that causes early death in children – Niemann-Pick Type C (NPC). The family quickly established the Ara Parseghian Medical Research Foundation to bring attention to the devastating disease and to try to find a cure. After his coaching career, Parseghian stayed connected with Notre Dame and the South Bend community. In part because of this relationship, Notre Dame added NPC to the other rare and neglected diseases it was researching. A formal partnership between Notre Dame and the Parseghian foundation was established in 2010 and much progress toward a cure has been made since the foundation’s beginnings in 1994. More information about these efforts can be found at http://parseghianfund.nd.edu/
Ara Parseghian, his spirit, his leadership, and his generosity will be greatly missed at Notre Dame. In a fundraising letter written after his resignation from Notre Dame, Parseghian noted, “Wherever I am, I will never leave Notre Dame, not really” [March 1975, PATH/Parseghian].
In October of 1932, dog breeder Charles Otis and his partner Thomas Bolton announced that they were going to donate an Irish Terrier to Notre Dame to serve as mascot for the football team. According to an advertisement in a 1934 football program, Otis had also presented Irish Terriers to celebrities such as Amelia Earhart and Will Rogers. This was at a time when Notre Dame didn’t have a consistent mascot. The Alumni Club of Toledo had presented two Irish Terriers both named Tipperary Terrence in 1924, but it doesn’t seem to be something Notre Dame pursued on its own.
Otis presented Brick Top Shaun Rhue to Football Coach Heartley “Hunk” Anderson during the Navy game, which was played in Otis’s hometown of Cleveland on November 19, 1932. Shaun Rhue (“Old Red”) traveled with the team for the last two remaining games of the season – to New York for the Army game and to Los Angeles for USC.
Shaun Rhue was born on January 14, 1932, so he was still a bit of a pup when given the task of Notre Dame mascot. He stayed briefly with Hunk Anderson and then Athletic Trainer Eugene “Scrapiron” Young before moving to campus at the request of University President Rev. Charles O’Donnell: “I should like to have the dog on the campus and get acquainted with him. He quite won my heart in the few glimpses I have had of him thus far. As a mascot he made the Army mule look pretty sick last Saturday” [O’Donnell to Otis, 12/01/1932, UPCO 6/121]. O’Donnell continued in his next letter, “When the season is over, he will be installed on the campus as a regular member of the family, and have the freedom of the city, so to speak. The only danger that will ever threaten him is that he may be spoiled by kindness. Everybody loves him” [O’Donnell to Otis, 12/09/1932]. Otis was glad to hear Shaun Rhue was doing well, but warned O’Donnell not to overfeed the dog.
Otis sent Fr. O’Donnell Shaun Rhue’s papers, which are preserved in the University Archives. His Certificate of Pedigree lists his lineage back to his great, great grandparents. The Certificate of Entry into the American Kennel Club also transfers ownership to Notre Dame. Otis told O’Donnell that Shaun Rhue was a fine specimen of his breed and would likely win in dog shows. It is unknown, and probably unlikely, if Notre Dame showed Brick Top Shaun Rhue.
Other than these few documents announcing the arrival of Brick Top Shaun Rhue to Notre Dame, there is unfortunately not much mention of him later in Scholastic or elsewhere. It is thought that he simply ran away from campus in the spring of 1933. If so, Shaun Rhue may have never graced the sidelines of Notre Dame Stadium, but the idea of Irish Terriers as Notre Dame’s mascot would persist. In the fall of 1935, William Butler presented Notre Dame with another Irish Terrier – Clashmore Mike, who would remain at Notre Dame for ten years and garner much publicity.
In the fall of 1936, Scholastic attempted to trace the history of Irish Terriers mascots at Notre Dame. Within the span of a short twelve years, Tipperary Terrence I and II were lost from the institutional memory altogether and there was only a vague recollection of Brick Top Shaun Rhue:
“Shaun was a likable dog in many ways, but also had a few bad traits. He, like many students, enjoyed nothing better than a little vacation in the form of a week-end. His week-ends, however, were without official permission and extended not only for the week-end, but for weeks, his latest ‘week-end’ extending from the spring of 1933 until now. His mental alertness was also of the questionable quality as he was often known to stand nonchalantly in the path of oncoming cars, only escaping injury and death because of the driver’s quick action with the brakes.
Official mascots prior to Shaun Rhue’s time were unknown, at least in the opinion of ‘old timers’ connected with the University. Many, on being questioned concerning the existence of mascots at the University, merely shrugged their shoulders in a dubious manner.” [Scholastic, October 23, 1936, page 19].
Since the beginning of collegiate football when Princeton played Rutgers in 1869, the game has been constantly evolving. One aspect of the game that was in flux for many years was passing. While lateral and backward passes or pitches were legal, anything that crossed the line of scrimmage was against the rules. In March 1888, over a month before the second-ever Notre Dame varsity game was played, Scholastic reprinted an abridged list of American football rules from Century, which described the techniques of sequential lateral passes, reminiscent of the 1982 Stanford vs. California game (minus the marching band in the end zone):
“Passing” the ball, or throwing it from one to another, is another feature of the game. Hardly any combination of team-playing and individual skill is more noteworthy than the sight of a first-rate team carrying the ball down the field, each player taking his turn in running with the ball, and, when hard pressed, passing it over the head of an opponent to one of his own side, more fortunately situated, who carries it farther. Considering that the egg-shape of the ball makes it the concentrated essence of irregularity, that only the most skilful player can even hazard a guess at the direction which it will take after a bound, and that an error of but an inch in the direction of a throw may carry the ball a dozen feet away from the place at which it was aimed, one may be pardoned for admiring the certainty with which individuals and teams make each point of play and combine them all into an organized system. A “pass forward” is not allowed, and is a foul; the ball must be thrown straight across the field, parallel to the goal-line, or in any direction back of that line [Scholastic, 03/10/1888, page 391].
Sadly, the rough style of play and lack of much protective equipment led to serious injuries on the gridiron – from cuts to broken bones and even death. Many colleges began banning the football programs. The public, however, loved the game and flocked to newly built stadiums to see the contests. In December 1905 as part of an effort to try to save football, President Theodore Roosevelt called upon college administrations to unite and come up with standards that would make the game safer. One of the recommendations that eventually came out of the committee was to open up the game with the forward pass.
Once it became a legitimate strategy, the forward pass slowly made its way into the playbooks across the country for the 1906 season. Saint Louis University is credited with being the first to legally and successfully use the forward pass. In recapping Notre Dame’s first game of the season against Franklin, Scholastic was disappointed not to see the forward pass immediately used on Cartier Field:
The new rules were much in evidence, especially in the way of penalties, as the Varsity was penalized at least 100 yards during the game. The rooters did not get a chance to see the new game tested, as straight football was used by the Varsity; the much-talked of forward pass and short kicks did not show up as it was hoped. During the first half, and in fact most of the time, Notre Dame resorted to the old style of play [Scholastic, 10/13/1906, page 75].
Notre Dame and Army had both sporadically used the forward pass to success well before 1913. However, there were still a lot of disadvantages to the forward pass such as penalties for in completions and much higher risks of turnovers than running the ball. While many football programs were aware of the pass and occasionally used it, it was still a rarity in the game. Proponents of the traditional style of football tried to revoke the forward pass from the rule book. However, by 1913, many of the penalties and restrictions were removed and it came time for coaches and players to develop their athletic skills and try their hand at using the open game to their advantage.
The Eastern teams tended to stick with the old-style of play while the Western schools were more comfortable with the open passing game. Since there had been little interconference play, Harvard, Yale, and Army were apples and oranges to Michigan, Wisconsin, and Notre Dame. No one was really sure how to compare them to one another. The Western schools also had the disadvantage in that many East Coast sports reporters were biased toward the Eastern schools and their style of play.
Since 1887, Notre Dame had worked her way up to the top of the Western Conference, even nabbing the title in 1909. Louis “Red” Salmon (1902) and Harry Miller (1909) garnered third team All-America nods before Gus Dorais became the first Notre Dame player to earn first team recognition in 1913. In 1912, the Notre Dame football team chalked up its first undefeated, untied season, under the helm of Coach Jack Marks, a Dartmouth man who taught the Notre Dame squad Eastern tactics. While Marks never lost a game in his two years, the record was against light schedules that brought in little revenue. The administration, students, and alumni knew Notre Dame athletics could do better.
In this vein, Notre Dame hired the talented and much sought-after Jesse Harper of Wabash College in December 1912. Harper, who played under Coach Amos Alonzo Stagg at the University of Chicago, would assume his post of Athletic Director and coach of all varsity sports at Notre Dame in September 1913. In those nine months, he worked hard on behalf of the Blue and Gold to schedule the most competitive opponents possible and to fill the bleachers, and thus the coffers. Due to conflicts within the Western Conference, Harper sought to schedule teams outside of the Midwest, which proved fortuitous in the long-run for Notre Dame. The 1913 schedule was one of the most difficult Notre Dame had seen to that point with six of seven opponents Notre Dame had never faced before.
The 1913 Notre Dame squad was chock-full of veterans and the students were all hopeful for another successful season; however, Scholastic complained “we know Mid-West critics too well to hope for the Western Championship this year” [Scholastic, 10/25/1913, page 80]. The Montgomery [Alabama] Adviser noted that Notre Dame’s “[p]resent prospects point to one of the strongest elevens the university [Notre Dame] had ever had” [“Twenty-Two Candidates Out at Notre Dame,” The Montgomery Adviser, 09/20/1913].
Notre Dame had an easy time with the home opener against Ohio Northern, the only previously-played team on the schedule, winning 87-0 while Knute Rockne sustained an early rib injury. South Dakota was next and proved a bit more of a struggle, even though the scored ended up 20-7 with some late Notre Dame scores. Alma rounded out the end of the home stretch with Notre Dame defeating them soundly 62-0.
[photoshelter-img i_id=”I0000RxoaICemHGw” buy=”1″ caption=”Football Game Scene – Notre Dame vs. Ohio Northern, 1913/1004. Captain Knute Rockne leading the team onto Cartier Field before the first game of the season.” width=”576″ height=”469″]
The last four games were on the road, taking the Notre Dame squad to far-flung corners of the country for the first time. The road trip started with the famous game versus Army at West Point on November 1, 1913. Army was a big dog in the Eastern Conference, so it was a big deal to get on their schedule. Fortunately, Army had a few dates open on their schedule and they were accommodating to Notre Dame. When Jesse Harper was making the schedule for the 1913 season, he actually wrote to Yale a few days before Army. Unfortunately, there is no reply in the files, so we don’t know if there was a scheduling conflict or a lack of interest as to why Notre Dame didn’t play them in 1913 but did in 1914.
Part of the legend is true – the forward pass was crucial to Notre Dame’s victory, as the Army team outweighed many of the Notre Dame players. Notre Dame didn’t invent the forward pass, but they brought a balanced offense of running and passing played with such precision and speed as had never before been seen in a major collegiate game. The mix of offensive plays weakened and confused the Army defense. The plays weren’t formulated overnight and it wasn’t a secret, as Notre Dame had used such game strategy previously throughout the season. The Dallas Morning News even predicted that Notre Dame could edge out Army with use of the forward pass balanced with Ray Eichenlaub’s running game, which was thoroughly tested out in the Alma game [Dallas Morning News, 10/30/1913].
Quarterback Charles (Gus) Dorais had perfected the timing of routes with his open receivers Knute Rockne, Joe Pliska, and Charles (Sam) Finegan so that the plays ran like a well-oiled machine. Dorais was never under pressure and he constantly switched things up, never throwing to the same receiver twice in a row. Dorais completed 13 of 17 passes for 243 yards and three of the five touchdowns in the air to defeat Army 35-13.
Notre Dame proved that the forward pass could be an effective weapon in an offensive arsenal and that it wasn’t just a trick play or a last-ditch option, as it had mostly been seen in the past. The defeat of Army in 1913 gave more legitimacy to the open Western-style of playing versus the traditional, smashmouth football of the East. If done right, the passing game allowed for more scoring in a quicker amount of time and it was safer for the players. In regards to the Army game, the New York Times noted that “[f]ootball men marveled at this startling display of open football. Bill Roper, former head coach at Princeton, who was one of the officials of the game, said that he had always believed that such playing was possible under the new rules, but that he had never seen the forward pass developed to such a state of perfection” [reprinted in Scholastic, 11/08/1913, page 107].
Notre Dame then traveled to Penn State and handed them their first defeat on home soil 14-7. A few weeks later, Notre Dame defeated Christian Brothers College in Saint Louis 20-7, and then headed to Texas for a Thanksgiving Day game. Notre Dame was the first school north of the Mason-Dixon line to play Texas. Notre Dame took advantage of their time in Austin to practice at Saint Edward’s University, an institution also founded by Rev. Edward Sorin and run by the Congregation of the Holy Cross. The extra practice paid off as Notre Dame secured a 30-7 victory.
After Notre Dame’s second undefeated, untied season in as many years, many schools tried to plan a post-season game with Notre Dame, including Louisiana State University, Michigan State, Oklahoma, and Seattle A.C. Timing, extra training, and extraneous travel were obstacles to scheduling more games in 1913, so nothing materialized at the time, but it probably did give Jesse Harper leverage when it came to negotiating future schedules.
While already on the college football map before 1913, Notre Dame athletics was becoming better known as a household name outside of the Midwest. Notre Dame’s student population, and thus alumni, have always been geographically diverse, so rooters met them along the way. Notre Dame had an entire bleacher section filled with fans and alumni at West Point. The extensive road trips starting in 1913 coupled with the pervasive anti-Catholicism in America helped Notre Dame to begin building her “subway alumni.” Jesse Harper saw that he could build a fan base, and thus revenue, by having competitive athletic schedules. His vision of excellence was the foundation upon which Knute Rockne continued to build when he became Coach and Athletic Director, securing Notre Dame’s place at the top of collegiate football history.
PATH 1913 Football Season Shake Down the Thunder: The Creation of Notre Dame Football by Murray Superber Forward Pass by Philip Brooks
Notre Dame Scrapbook c1910-1913 [GSBC]
Notre Dame Football Scrapbook 1913 [GSBH] GCLE 1/03
The Archives of the University of Notre Dame recently received a donation of interesting memorabilia from the Notre Dame vs. Southern California (USC) football game on 11/28/1953.
An eight year old Felix Quesada Jr. attended the game at the Coliseum with his father. After the 49-14 Notre Dame victory, Felix Sr. and Felix Jr. made their way down to the field. As Felix Jr. recalls,
“My dad told me to stand near the ND bench as the players left the field. My dad was able to catch up with the ND players as a large crowd gathered on the field. My dad reached out and grabbed a hold of one of the player’s jersey – #9 Don Schaefer. The team wore green tear away jerseys then. The jersey did as intended, tore away, and my dad ended up with the #9 from the jersey in his hand. Don looked back, smiled, and ran into the tunnel toward the locker room.
“My dad and I went to the locker room exit and waited for the players to come out. They exited and we got to meet Don and eight other players and get their autographs – it was a thrill to meet Don and Ralph Guglielmi, etc.
“This is one of my fondest memories of time spent with my dad. He saved these mementos during his life and passed them to me.”
The Notre Dame Archives gratefully thanks Felix Quesada for this generous donation that helps to document Notre Dame’s history.
Before the 2012 Championship Game held on January 7, 2013, the Notre Dame and Alabama football teams have met six times: 1973 Sugar Bowl, 1974 Orange Bowl, 1976 at Notre Dame, 1980 and 1986 at Birmingham, and 1987 at Notre Dame. Of the six meetings, Notre Dame dominates the series 5-1, dropping only the 1986 game.
For the 1976 and 1987 home games, the Notre Dame students kept up the long tradition of banners showing their support for the Irish.
In first meeting of these two football titans, Notre Dame, ranked #3, faced a #1 Alabama team in the 1973 Sugar Bowl with the title on the line, a scenario echoed in the 2013 Championship Game. In 1973, the two teams were well matched and the game was hard fought, coming down to the final minutes. In the middle of the fourth quarter, Alabama scored a touchdown to take the lead, but missed the point-after attempt, which would come back to haunt them. Notre Dame responded with a field goal to go ahead by one point. With a few minutes left on the clock, an Alabama punt pinned the Irish back to the one-yard line, a defensive dream position to potentially set up a final opportunity for the Tide to retake the lead. On third and eight and backed up against the end zone, Notre Dame quarterback Tom Clements found backup tight end Robin Weber wide open. Weber caught his only pass of the season from Clements for a gain of 35 yards. With a fresh set of downs, the Irish was able to run out the clock out, securing the 24-23 win and the National Championship Title.
Notre Dame football has sometimes been controversial, and the 1961 game against Syracuse was no exception. When the defense commits a penalty, the offense is usually compensated with a replay of downs and/or gained yardage. However, before this game, the rules were murky regarding how to handle a defensive penalty when time had expired. In the case of the 1961 Syracuse game, this meant the difference between a win and a loss that wouldn’t be resolved for months afterward.
Trailing 14-15 with only a few seconds left on the clock, Notre Dame sent in kicker Joe Perkowski to attempt a 56-yard field goal. He missed soundly as time expired, but there were flags on the field. Syracuse player Walt Sweeney was called for roughing the kicker, a penalty that carried a charge of fifteen yards. The gained yardage would put Perkowski in better position, although it would not be easy. Since time had expired on the previous play, it wasn’t obvious Perkowski would even get a second attempt. The Syracuse fans had already started to rush the field to celebrate their victory.
The officials had to make an on-the-spot decision about how to handle the foul, and they decided to enforce the standard penalty for roughing the kicker. Even though time had expired, Notre Dame kicker Joe Perkowski was given fifteen yards and a second attempt, and he kicked the game-winning, 41-yard field goal.
As can be imagined, not everyone was happy with this impromptu decision. The legality of the extra play was shortly afterwards contested by the Big 10 and Eastern College Athletic Conferences, who supplied the officials for the game, and the NCAA rules chairman General Bob Neyland. Review of the game film and the rules books led many to question the referees’ decisions. Did Walt Sweeney really rough the kicker and place holder? Since the initial kick was far from its target, which team actually had possession when the foul occur? In the end, neither the conferences nor the NCAA had the power to overturn the Irish win, leaving the game officials with the final say and the Irish with a win for the record books. The rules were changed in 1962 to prevent any future confusion should a similar circumstance arise.
Scholastic Football Review, 1961
Joe Ceryak Scrapbook, 1961
“Irish Reject Illegal Victory Ruling: Ask Again for Judgment by Full NCAA Committee,” Chicago Daily Tribune, 1961/1129
“Irish-Syracuse Debate May Cause Rule Change for 1962 Grid Season,” Chicago Daily Defender, 1961/1220
“NCAA Rejects Irish Proposal on Officiating,” The Washington Post, Times Herald, 1962/0114 GPHR 45/8420
Notre Dame welcomes the Southern California football team this Saturday, continuing the 85-year storied rivalry. When the teams are both doing well, as they are this year, the excitement is palpable as fans flock to campus days before the game. With the anticipation of another great match-up, tickets are often hard to come by.
Demand for tickets for high-profile games is nothing new at Notre Dame. In his capacity as Football Coach and Athletic Director, Knute Rockne often ended up playing ticket manager. The Athletic Director records contain the occasional ticket request from celebrities. Rockne sold tickets to Babe Ruth [UADR 18/138] and Lou Gehrig [UADR 12/31]. However, former Notre Dame football player Curley Lambeau of the Green Bay Packers was a bit late in his request and Rockne was unable to fulfill his request for a sold-out game in 1927 [UADR 14/116].
Some of the more colorful requests came from two famous cartoonists of the time requesting football tickets to the November 26, 1927, Notre Dame vs. Southern California (USC) game at Soldier Field in Chicago:
Illustrated letter from Cartoonist Harold Gray to Athletic Director Knute Rockne featuring a drawing of Little Orphan Annie, dog Sandy, and Daddy Warbucks
Illustrated letter from Cartoonist Frank H. Willard to Athletic Director Knute Rockne featuring a drawing of Moon Mullins andEmmy (Schmaltz) Plushbottom
As the Irish football team has another road game this week, those not traveling to the game will have to catch it somewhere else. In this day and age, football fans have a variety of media options to follow the score through television, radio, and the internet, making it virtually possible to get updates in every corner of the planet with decent reception.
In the early 20th century, students and fans heard the news from telegraph wires reporting the score. They would gather in downtown South Bend at popular hang-outs such as Jimmie & Goat’s Cigar Store, the Palais Royale, and the Oliver Hotel, to hear the play-by-play action.
By the 1920s, Notre Dame offered game watches to students and the local community inside the Fieldhouse with the full fanfare of the Marching Band. If the Band happened to join the team on the road, a local orchestra might fill-in to provide musical entertainment. In 1924, Notre Dame acquired an electric Gridgraph, which used lights to demonstrate the play-by-play account. Various student organizations ran the Gridgraph and covered its operation cost by charging an admission fee, generally under twenty-five cents. The University Archives of Michigan and Missouri have good examples of what an electronic Gridgraph looked like.
The 1922 homecoming game versus Indiana at Cartier Field was the the first Notre Dame game broadcast by radio and was aired on South Bend’s WGAZ (later WSBT). However, “it is unknown whether anyone even heard this broadcast.” As radio was a brand new medium, few households actually owned radios and there were no ratings reports at the time. In 1923 and 1924, New York stations broadcasted the Notre Dame versus Army and Princeton. The first Notre Dame home game to be broadcast outside of South Bend was the 1924 game versus Nebraska at Cartier Field on Chicago’s WGN [Gullifor, pages 4-6]. This new medium would revolutionize game “watching,” bringing fans closer to the action, and eventually making the Gridgraph obsolete.
Unlike other schools in the 1930s and 1940s, Notre Dame did not give any one radio network exclusive rights to broadcast the football games. Instead, the field was open to many different broadcasters around the country. This in turn helped strengthen Notre Dame’s unique position of having a nationwide fan base, whose groundwork was started even before Knute Rockne. This open broadcasting policy also had some seemingly eternal consequences for Notre Dame: “fan expectations for national championships and … the Irish football coach work[ing] in a fishbowl” [Sperber, page 453].
Former Irish football player Joe Boland established the Irish Football Network on the radio through WSBT in 1947. Boland grew the coverage to include 190 stations, including the American Armed Forces Network, which broadcasted the games worldwide. The Mutual Broadcasting System “outbid the Irish Football network for exclusive rights to the 1956 home season.” Despite Boland’s tireless work to grow the Irish Football Network and dedication to his alma mater, Mutual could offer Notre Dame more revenue and broader coverage on over twice the number of radio stations [Gullifor, page 51].
Also during this time, fans could see game highlights as part of new reels at the movie theater. Fans in select cities could watch the entire game in theaters for weeks after the game took place. For instance, the 1927 Notre Dame versus Southern California football game, held at Soldier Field in Chicago, was filmed and screened days afterwards at the Los Angeles Shrine Auditorium. On a special “USC night,” three days after the game had been played, an audience of 4500 came to watch the game film, complete with the USC band providing musical accompaniment (spoiler alert: ND won the game 7-6) [Los Angeles Times, “Film Show Delayed by Union Row,” 11/30/1927].
The first televised game was home against Iowa in 1947. University President Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh and Athletic Director Edward “Moose” Krause had dreams of having regular national television coverage of Notre Dame football games. However, they were deterred by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), who banned “individual deals by member schools” [“Prime Time” by Richard Conklin, Notre Dame Magazine, Autumn 1991].
From the 1950s-1980s, Notre Dame worked within the NCAA’s restrictions regarding the number of nationally broadcast games a year. Regional coverage was an option, as was closed-circuit networks. In 1955, Notre Dame offered a live closed-circuit television network, which broadcast three games to select hotel ballrooms across the country. The lucky cities to receive coverage were Baltimore, Cleveland, Chicago, Detroit, New York, Philadelphia, Rochester (NY), St. Louis, and Washington, D.C.
A 1984 US Supreme Court decision overturned the NCAA’s stronghold over national television contracts with individual schools. In 1990, Notre Dame became the first college to sign an exclusive television contract with a national broadcast company (NBC) to televise the home games. More recently, other conferences and schools have brokered similar deals by creating their own presence on cable and the internet, including the Big Ten Network and Texas’ Longhorn Network. Notre Dame also offers exclusive content online, and is expected to grow exponentially in the coming years. As technology advances and as more people demand 24 hour content from their favorite school, it is clear that there is a lot of potential for the fan experience to continue to evolve and expand.
The Fighting Irish on the Air: The History of Notre Dame Football Broadcasting by Paul Gullifor
Shake down the Thunder by Murray Sperber Los Angeles Times, “Film Show Delayed by Union Row,” 11/30/1927 PNDP 3020-B-01 PNDP 3020-G-01 GMIL 1/08
PATH Football Programs
PATH Closed Circuit Television Network GRMD 11/42
John Farley arrived to Notre Dame in the fall of 1897. He came to study for the priesthood, but also had a penchant for athletics. He won nine varsity monogram letters in football, baseball, and track, and was heralded as one of the great Notre Dame athletes for years to come. For over thirty years after his graduation, Farley became a beloved fixture among Notre Dame students as he served as a rector for three dorms.
In August of 1899, Farley wrote to University President Rev. Andrew Morrissey, CSC, with a dilemma — return to Notre Dame and continue his studies toward becoming a priest or attend Seton Hall, which was closer to home so he could better care for his mother and family [UPEL 75/11]. Morrissey’s response does not exist in the University Archives, but Farley decided to return and ended up spending most of the rest of his life at Notre Dame.
Ordained into the Congregation of Holy Cross in 1907, Farley spent around thirty years as a rector of three dorms at Notre Dame: Corby Hall, Walsh Hall, and Sorin Hall, where he reigned as “king.” With his keen athleticism, Farley regularly coached interhall teams to championships. He was gruff, but genial, and in counseling the students, he quickly earned the paternal nickname “Pop.”
In 1937, Pop Farley suffered a stroke, which resulted in the amputation of one of his legs. He spent the rest of his life in the Holy Cross community infirmary and died in 1939. At Farley’s funeral, Rev. Eugene Burke, CSC, said “For over thirty years, wherever Notre Dame students gathered, Father Farley was in the midst of them, always as a cheerful leader or companion. For all those years this kindly prefect, whose work was with and for the students, loved that work as dearly as a scholar ever loved his books, and through it won the respect and admiration of thousands of students.” [PNDP-02-Zz-01; South Bend Tribune, 01/17/1939]
In 1946, Notre Dame honored Pop Farley by naming a new dormitory after him. Farley Hall became a women’s dorm in the second year of co-education (1973). In 1976, the University created the Rev. John “Pop” Farley, CSC, Award, which “is given annually to honor distinguished service [of a faculty member] to student life at the University of Notre Dame.”
[photoshelter-img i_id=”I0000osVERwYpdNU” buy=”1″ caption=”Farley Hall exterior, c1950s.” width=”576″ height=”481″]