Irish Game Day: A Guide to Events and Traditions at Notre Dame

Michael CollinsAnalyst ISeptember 2, 2010

Whether you attend an Irish home game every year or come for your first game as a parent of a new freshman, a lifelong Subway Alum, or as a visiting team fan; a Notre Dame football weekend is a special experience.   

Coming off I-80/90, the Golden Dome is a magnet, glowing with afternoon sunlight.  For a mid-October game, the gold in the maples that overhang Notre Dame Avenue with the Dome in front of you add to the anticipation.

Interactive Campus Map

Must Stops

For most of us, our first stop is the Hammes Bookstore for our fifth ND cap, another Irish jersey, a gift for a young family member, or that special dog dish that says "Irish".   My current favorite books are "Celebrating Notre Dame" by Kerry Temple with great photos by Matt Cashore and "Bowled Over" by Michael Oriard.  I plan to check out "Resurrection" by Jim Dent and "100 Things Notre Dame Fans Should Know Before They Die" by John Heisler.  

The bookstore also hosts signings each football weekend.  After the post-Pep Rally crowd has left late Friday or early Saturday after opening are the least crowded times.  Check out the ND vanity plates on the cars in the parking lot and the new Ryan Hall to the north.

Any football weekend visit will include the Administration Building, the Grotto, the Log Chapel, and the Basilica, usually Saturdays.  The Notre Dame Game Day site provides excellent information on individual events on campus for each football weekend.


Friday Afternoons

This Friday, bookstore signings include a new book of Sergent Tim McCarthy's "May I Have Your Attention, Please?" plus Fr. Malloy's "A Monk's Tale" (see times under Game Day). 

The Tunnel Tour and practice facility are open each Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.  Have someone get a photo of you coming out of the tunnel.  

Attend the Kickoff Luncheon at noon. 

"Trumpets Under the Dome" at 4 PM provides awesome resonating renditions of the Alma Mater and Victory March prior to the Pep Rally.

Other ideas are attending a Mass at the Basilica, stopping off at Legends for a brew and snack, and this year's The Shirt, or going to a Glee Club rehearsal from 5 to 6 p.m.

The annual first Pep Rally at Dillon Hall returns this year in front of the Hall on the South Quad.  Dillon was built with proceeds from the 1925 Rose Bowl and unabashedly claims to be the biggest and best hall on campus.  Their motto: "It's okay to be jealous".  Notable alumni include Tony Rice, Paul Hornung, Brady Quinn, and me.  Dillon rallies are legendary and informative.  You will learn what to answer to "Alumni...".  Brian Kelly's first rally is bound to be special.

After the Pep Rally, think of attending a non-football sporting game such as hockey, soccer, or volleyball, a concert at DeBartolo Hall or the Knights of Columbus Smoker (non-smoking).  The Smoker always has some great speakers.  This Friday includes Lou Somogyi, editor and renowned writer from Blue and Gold magazine; Rudy Ruettiger ("Rudy"); and Mike DeCiccio, who built Notre Dame's fencing team into a national powerhouse.

Friday at midnight offers you the chance to hear the singular display of Notre Dame's drumline at the Drummer Circle in front of the Dome.  Check out the Grotto at night and light a candle (in glass) for those Irish fans who are with you in spirit.

Game Day

Yes, maybe only a few hours have elapsed between toasts at the Linebacker, Rocco's, Fiddler's Hearth, or attending the Midnight Drummer's Circle, but this is Game Day.  Time to visit Rockne's grave in Highland Cemetery to salute college football's greatest coach.  Try a power breakfast at the South Dining Hall with lots of coffee.  

Tailgating at Notre Dame starts early.  Most tailgaters are pleased to welcome other fans and visitors.  Or visit any of the College Football Hall of Fame events and displays in downtown South Bend.  The hall moves to Atlanta, opening in the fall of 2012.

Walk the campus and around the lakes. Here's a campus locations link.  Check out the halls' signs and fundraising burger stands.  Visit the Sports Hall of Fame in the Joyce Center to see all the National Championship and Heisman trophies among so many other athletic achievements and photographs.  Feel a sense of the history of Notre Dame athletics.

Enjoy a great view of the campus, Dome, and Basilica from the top story of Grace Hall, if you can get in.  Enjoy the football or Frisbee throws near Notre Dame's Stonehenge (aka Clarke Memorial Peace Memorial) on the site of the old Fieldhouse.  Find the plaque commemorating the Fieldhouse.  Watch for the Ultimate Frisbee team's schedule.

Attend the Bagpipe Concert at 11:30 in front of the Dome and the Band's concert with the Irish Guard at Bond Hall at 2 p.m. and another Trumpets Under the Dome at 2:30 p.m., if you missed it on Friday. 

After the team Mass, the players and coaches walk to the stadium from the Basilica - the "Player Walk".  Help form a tunnel from the church to the stadium.   

Nearing the stadium, you can visit the Snite Art Museum and the Hesburgh Library with Touchdown Jesus and the reflecting pool.  Firstdown Moses, Sitting with Moose, and the Ned and Ted statues are a must.  Around the stadium, statues of four of college football's Hall of Fame coaches—Rockne, Leahy, Parseghian, and Holtz—are now situated near four entrances.

Game Traditions

Some game traditions at Notre Dame include college football's oldest band in their step-off onto the field, playing the Victory March.  Students stand throughout the game in The Shirt and do a push-up after each score for every point Notre Dame has on the scoreboard. 

If Kelly's offense proves to be as effective as elsewhere, they had better be in pretty good shape, even if they choose to lift a 90 pound redhaired female student named Kelly, Katie, or Colleen.

See if your section can outshout the others with the cheerleaders showing "We-R-N-D" signs.  Part of the band will emerge from the top areas of the stadium playing the Victory March, especially behind opposing fans.  At the end of the third quarter, the students salute the coach as the band plays the 1812 Overture, followed by a driving safety warning from Officer Tim McCarthy.

Regardless of a win or a loss, after the game, the team sings the Alma Mater in front of the student body.  As the team leaves by the north tunnel, they toss their gloves to the young fans in the stands under the "Irish" sign you walked through on the Tunnel walk.  A photo of the scoreboard with Jesus's upraised arms in the background is special in any win.

After The Game

Hitting the Linebacker or Rocco's, going to another team game, finding a good restaurant, or visiting at a family get-together are all great choices and individual.  Try the Candlelight Buffet at the North or South Dining Halls as the traffic clears.  

Then, there is still last minute shopping at the bookstore....

Regardless, we sit, rehash the game, and visit with friends and family.   Whatever you have missed you can include on your next home game weekend.

Finish up Sunday with Mass, a round of golf, or the Breakfast Buffet at Tippecanoe Place (the old Studebaker mansion with tours).

A few restaurants are listed below.

Outside of those mentioned—Legends, The Linebacker, Rocco's,  Fiddler's Hearth—check out The Vine, LaSalle Grille, Sorin's at the Morris Inn, Reggie's in Mishawaka (great salads), C.J.'s (burgers), Volcano or Polito's (Italian), and Barnaby's (pizza).

Which are your faves? How do you like to spend your weekend?

Some of Matt Cashore's photos of Notre Dame are here.  Enjoy your weekend.

Also see:

101 Things You Should Do on A Football Weekend

A big thanks to Chestertonlep for permission to use the photos. 

From the FanTake Blog:  One Foot Down

Follow on Twitter: @One Foot Down


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