Football season is almost upon us. For most Fighting Irish fans, that means an annual pilgrimage to Notre Dame. With the most storied tradition in all of college sports, game days on its campus can get a little overwhelming for even the most seasoned of fans. Lucky for you, this insider's guide from a former Fighting Irish Leprechaun covers everything you need to take your game day experience to the next level.
Schedule of Can't Miss Events:
- (10 a.m. to 5 p.m.) Take the Notre Dame Stadium tunnel tour. Enter the North Gate and walk down the famed tunnel just like the players. It's open all day other than during opponents' walk-throughs, which serves as a nice opportunity to tell them in person how much you look forward to watching them lose.
- (4:20 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.) Follow the Band of the Fighting Irish. Watch them form their ranks in front of the Golden Dome, then march along as they head to practice 100 yards south of Notre Dame Stadium.
- (6 p.m. to 7 p.m.) Go to the Pep Rally. Watch the Leprechaun lead Brian Kelly and his team as they build some pregame hype. Arrive early if you want to catch the crowd-surfing wave.
Saturday (Game Day):
- (12 a.m.) Join the Midnight Drum Circle. Celebrate the official start of game day as the Fighting Irish Drum-line shakes down the thunder on the steps of the Golden Dome.
- (1:30 p.m.) Make way for the Player Walk. After they celebrate Mass in the Basilica, Brian Kelly leads his team from the football facilities in the Guglielmino Complex ("The Gug") towards the reflection pool in front of Touchdown Jesus. From there, they walk through the crowds into Notre Dame Stadium. Snap a photo of your favorite players dressed in suits and look for the lapel pins they wear in honor of their respective dorms. Line up along a sidewalk by 1 p.m. if you're looking for some high-fives.
- (2 p.m.) Watch the Band of the Fighting Irish perform. Listen to every traditional game day song on the steps of Bond Hall. Take in the intense Irish Guard inspection across Bond Quad immediately following the concert, or head into the main concourse of the Golden Dome to hear the trumpets blast our fight song from the rotunda. If you don't get chills, head to the infirmary at St. Liam's Hall because you probably don't have a pulse.
- (2:30 p.m.) Join the Step-Off Parade. Line the sidewalks once again as the Leprechaun, cheerleaders, Irish Guard, and the Band of the Fighting Irish march from the Golden Dome into Notre Dame Stadium. Jump right in behind the parade to let them escort you across campus.
- (3:30 p.m.) Contribute to the actual football game. This is what you came for, so take it all in. Don't be afraid to live a little, either. Stand up and scream your lungs out every time the defense takes the field. Pump out some push-ups after every touchdown. Make sure to link arms with your neighbor and sway to the Alma Mater after the Irish win.
- (After the game until 9 p.m.) Enjoy a Candlelight Dinner in South Dining Hall. Purchase a meal ticket for a celebratory all-you-can-eat buffet following every home game. Remember, this isn't your grandpa's dining hall. Get ready for fancy table cloths, chocolate mousse, and peppered flank steak. Mmm...
(Note: Saturday events prior to the night game against USC will take place 4 hours later than times listed)
- (8 a.m., 10 a.m., 11:45 a.m.) Celebrate Mass at the Basilica. It never hurts to ask Our Lady for another victory the following week.
(Note: You can find an updated schedule of official events, including locations, at gameday.nd.edu.)
Things To Do On Your Own: (You might need a campus map to find some of these hidden gems.)
- Find the Leprechaun for a lucky game day photo op. He usually starts off his day behind Dillon Hall at 9 a.m. Then he visits several VIP tailgates before stopping by the Joyce Center Field House around 12 p.m. Next, he heads upstairs to the Joyce Center Concourse and the Monogram Room at 12:30 p.m. After praying a Hail Mary in the Nieuwland Science Center at 2 p.m., he sprints through LaFortune Student Center at 2:15. Finally, he leads the Step-Off Parade into Notre Dame Stadium starting at 2:30.
- Strike a pose with our seven Heisman Trophies. Admire the collection just inside the main entrance of "The Gug."
- Tour the Joyce Center Concourse. You could spend days up there studying the complete history of Fighting Irish Athletics. *Bonus points go out to anyone who can find my name on the list of former Leprechauns.
- Take a hike around Notre Dame Stadium. The brisk half-mile walk includes impressive life-size bronze statues of all five national championship winning coaches: Knute Rockne (North Tunnel), Frank Leahy (Gate C), Ara Parseghian (Gate B), Dan Devine (Gate A), and Lou Holtz (Gate D). Notice the spot outside Gate E reserved for Brian Kelly.
- Raise an Irish toast with Rockne outside Alumni Hall. The greatest football coach of all time appears in bas-relief alongside his beloved dog Clashmore Mike (Notre Dame's original mascot) on the outer wall closest to Main Circle. Residents of "The Dawg House" usually place a frosty beverage in his outstretched hand on game days.
- Feast on a steak sandwich for charity. Join the long line waiting outside the Knights of Columbus building for your turn to take a bite out of a historical delicacy. Once you taste one you'll realize why they've raised over $250,000 the past five years alone.
- Rub Rockne's nose for good luck. Find the game ball from the Irish's first national championship win over Stanford in the hidden museum located within the Rockne Memorial Gym on South Quad. Don't leave without shining Rock's schnoz.
- Walk in Fr. Sorin's footsteps at the Founder's Monument. Enjoy picturesque views of St. Mary's Lake, the Log Chapel and Old College from the original epicenter of campus. Learn how Notre Dame came to be from founder Fr. Sorin himself by reading the plaque located on top of the hill.
- Visit the Grotto. Light a candle, make a small donation and read Dr. Tom Dooley's letter to Fr. Hesburgh located next to the entrance closest to St. Mary's Lake. Bring a box of tissues.
- Find every football-related monument. You've already heard of "Touchdown Jesus," but the true Fighting Irish fan knows where to find "First Down Moses" (next to the Hesburgh Library), "Fair Catch Corby" (in front of Corby Hall between the Basilica and St. Mary's Lake) and "The Holy Hand-off" (between Bond Hall and the Coleman-Morse Center).
Favorite Game Day Tradition
Did I leave anything out? Feel free to make your own additions in the comments section below.