Notre Dame Football: Ranking the Greatest Traditions in Fighting Irish History

James ToljCorrespondent IIOctober 26, 2011

Notre Dame Football: Ranking the Greatest Traditions in Fighting Irish History

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    It is tradition that makes every school unique, and at the University of Notre Dame, tradition runs deep.

    While the Notre Dame Fighting Irish haven't been atop the college football world for some time, there is no arguing with the fact that uttering the school's name brings out thoughts of football glory.

    Simply put, Notre Dame is synonymous with football.

    The football program at Notre Dame began in the late 1800s—1887 to be exact—and since then, the Irish have been host to numerous football customs and conventions. 

    Ahead, you will see a few of the most renown football traditions at Notre Dame. A university that has some of the most time-honored football celebrations of any school. 

Pep Rally and the Smokers

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    You would be hard-pressed to find a football team that doesn't have a pep rally the day before a game, but the Irish's pep rallies are something special.

    After the students and alumni are stuffed from the Kickoff Luncheon, they head to the Irish Green to enjoy the festivities.

    Notre Dame's cheerleaders, band, football team and coaching staff all head down to the pep rally for its electric atmosphere and to hear a guest speaker.

    Although the location of the pep rallies have moved around quite a bit, the Irish Green is a perfect setting. But regardless of where the rallies are held, the emotion exhibited by students and fans at the event will never change.

    A lesser-known treat of the football weekend in South Bend is the Notre Dame Smokers. Originally held to promote the football team, the Smokers are sponsored by the Knights of Columbus, Santa Maria Council No. 553, and have been going on for 68 years.

    Located in the Sacred Heart Parish Center, the Smokers provide food, memorabilia and entertainment for Irish fans and alumni, and there is often a special guest. 

    Proceeds from the Smokers go to the Ara Parseghian Medical Foundation and other local charities. 

The Leprechaun

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    Would Saturdays be the same without Notre Dame's mascot patrolling the sidelines?

    Since 1965, the leprechaun has been at Notre Dame football games leading the team out of the tunnel with the other cheerleaders.

    Every so often, you can see the leprechaun running down Notre Dame's sideline with an Irish flag in celebration of a touchdown, and if you look hard enough, you might even find his pot of gold.

No More Painting

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    Out with the old, and in with the new.

    One Notre Dame tradition is no more. Student managers will no longer use Mondays to spray paint the gold on the Irish's football helmets.

    Why the change? Notre Dame debuted its new helmets against the University of Southern California Saturday. The helmets more closely resemble the color of the Golden Dome.

    While the student managers won't be a part of the helmet painting process anymore, the tradition will always be remembered fondly on the campus of Notre Dame.

The Team Mass

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    There is no forgetting that Notre Dame is a Catholic university. Notre Dame certainly has room for all faiths among the student population, but throughout the campus there are reminders of the school's Catholic tradition.

    Everything from the mural dubbed "Touchdown Jesus" on the wall of the Hesburgh Library to the sanctuary of prayer for students and faculty at the Grotto are reminders of Notre Dame's religious affiliation. 

    And before each game, the football team has its own religious tradition. A few hours before game time, the team gathers in the Basilica for the private team mass.

    There are multiple opportunities to attend a public mass before or after games, but the team mass gives the Irish a chance at serenity before moving on to the hectic environment at Notre Dame Stadium. 

Walk to the Stadium

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    The helmets aren't the only things that have changed in 2011. The team walk has as well.

    Now, after mass at the Basilica, the team doesn't walk straight to the stadium. Instead, the Irish board buses and head to a team meeting at the Guglielmino Athletics Complex. Then, the Irish walk from the complex to the Hesburgh Library before arriving at Notre Dame Stadium.

    The team walk is one of Notre Dame's great traditions. The team is surrounded by thousands of students and fans who want a chance to see the Irish before the team takes the field.

The Student Section

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    The loudest cheers in Notre Dame Stadium without a doubt come from the student section.

    The loyal student population stand throughout the game, and if you happen to look into the student section after a Notre Dame touchdown, then you will see the students celebrating the score with airborne push-ups—one for each point the team has scored.

    The students also react to the "1812 Overture" with arms swaying, they dance when the band plays "Rakes of Mallow," chop to the theme of Darth Vader and dangle their keys in the air on important plays.

    The football team undoubtedly makes Saturdays in South Bend special, but the student section does as well (which is why they are honored with the greatest tradition at Notre Dame).

Notre Dame Band

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    The band at Notre Dame is nothing short of spectacular, and it plays an integral role in many of the traditions that exist in South Bend.

    According to Notre Dame, the band was at the football team's first game in 1887 against Michigan. It is the nation's oldest band in continued existence and has been at every home game since 1887. 

    The band plays throughout the week, at the pep rallies, in the Golden Dome of the administration building (trumpets), Saturday on the steps of Bond Hall and of course, at the football game.

    During the game the band can be heard playing the fight song, "1812 Overture," at the end of the third quarter and the alma mater at the end of the game. 

    Whether it is the Irish Guard performing the Victory Clog to "Damsha Bua" after a win, the Drummers Circle or just the band's performances during the week, the band contributes greatly to the liveliness of the football traditions at Notre Dame.

Play Like a Champion

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    Doesn't the photograph say it all?

    As Notre Dame walks down its home steps, the team is greeted by two signs. One is a list of Notre Dame's championship teams. The other is a sign that reads "PLAY LIKE A CHAMPION TODAY."

    Each member of the team walks by the sign and gives it a slap—some harder than others.

    The sign gives the team a sense of pride, and it reminds the players to give it their all on each and every play.

"Notre Dame Victory March"

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    The fight song, also know as the "Notre Dame Victory March," is maybe the most well-known fight song of any university in the world. 

    The music and lyrics were written by John and Michael Shea in 1908, and it was first used on Easter Sunday,1909. The lyrics were later revised in 1920.

    Played throughout the weekend, the fight song is used to induce excitement in students and fans for the game. 

    Some traditions at Notre Dame will die out, but the "Notre Dame Victory March" will always be part of the history of Notre Dame.

"Notre Dame, Our Mother"

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    The Notre Dame alma mater was composed in 1930 by Notre Dame graduate and director of bands, Joseph Casasanta, and the lyrics were written by then Notre Dame president, Rev. Charles O'Donnell. 

    After football games at Notre Dame Stadium, the team stands in front of the student section, locked arm to arm, and the band performs Notre Dame's alma mater, "Notre Dame, Our Mother."

    If you can listen to the magnificent composition without showing emotion, then you might need to check your pulse.


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