Friday, September 12, 2008

Know Your Foe - Notre Dame

In week 2, we saw Rich Rodriguez's first victory as Michigan coach. It was an ugly, close victory against a MAC team, but it's still a win. This week's opponent is a familiar one - The University of Notre Dame. The Irish looked pretty unimpressive themselves in pulling out a close victory at home over a San Diego State team that lost in week one to Cal Poly. The game this weekend is between the two winningest programs in college football history. However, this year's matchup does not have the luster of years past. It's got all the excitement of a MAC school taking on a Sun Belt school. So, bring on Troy vs. Eastern Michigan. With that, I give you this week's installment of "Know Your Foe."

The University of Notre Dame is a private school that was founded by a Catholic Priest (who may or may not have been a pedophile) as an all-male institution in 1842. Currently, it's organized into five colleges and one professional school. It became co-ed in 1972. Undergrad enrollment is only 8,352. There are no fraternities or sororities on campus, and 80% of the undergrads live on campus in single-sex dorms. Also part of its history, I attended an all-sports camp there for two weeks during one summer in the late 1970s, where I excelled in nothing and was recruited by no one. I did, however, learn some interesting new ways to use swear words to my advantage, and I ran into Notre Dame basketball stars Orlando Woolridge and Bill Laimbeer.

Notre Dame, Indiana. That's right. I bet you thought it was in South Bend. Notre Dame is actually an unincorporated community just north of South Bend. It's in northeastern Indiana, just four miles from the Michigan border.

Iconic campus buildings
Notre Dame has two - the golden dome that sits atop the "Main Building" (wow, that's some inventive nomenclature), and of course the library, on which is painted the famous "Touchdown Jesus."


The Fighting Irish nickname was originated in the early 20s. I must admit, it's a pretty good nickname. Any nickname that includes the word "fighting" is okay by me. Before the official adoption of the Fighting Irish nickname, Notre Dame had several other unofficial nicknames, including Rovers, Ramblers, and Terriers. Other nicknames for students and alumni include Domers, Assholes, and Insufferable Pricks.

Colors/Logo/Fight Song
The official colors of Notre Dame are "Madonna blue" and "Papal gold." In modern culture, when the words "Madonna" and "blue" are used in the same sentence, the "blue" is usually a verb, as in "That Madonna concert really blew," or "When she blew me, I was thinking of Madonna circa 1990." The teams also occasionally wear green because of the whole Irish thing.

The Irish have several different logos. The interlocking ND is a classic, but the fighting leprechaun (show above) is good too.

The Notre Dame fight song ("Notre Dame Victory March"), along with Michigan's and a few others, is probably one of the most recognizable collegiate fight songs in the country. The lyrics are inspiring, and the tune is memorable. The lyrics include lots of battle and war imagery - glory, fight, heart, loyal, thunder, victory, and of course a "rah rah" thrown in for good measure. A good school fight song should be able to be used in football or in battle. This one could definitely inspire an army infantryman or a defensive lineman. It's a classic.

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 every 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 are marching
Onward to victory!

Change "Notre Dame" to "USA," and "Gold and Blue" to "Red, White, and Blue" and you'd have yourself a nice little song to rally the troops prior to battle.

According to US News and World Reports, Notre Dame ranks an impressive 18th, on par with the likes of Vanderbilt, Rice, Emory, and Cal-Berkeley (Michigan ranks 26th). They've got a good law school, a good business school, and a good architecture school. It appears that the Notre Dame educational experience is very well rounded, much like head football coach Charlie Weis.

Notre Dame competes in the Big East Conference in all major sports (unless you consider hockey a major sport - the hockey team competes in the CCHA) except football, where they have maintained their independence, mainly due to money: they have their own TV deal; they don't have to share the money they make from bowl games; and they can schedule service academies every year. In football the Irish have won 11 national championships (the last one being in 1988) and have had seven Heisman Trophy winners. Recently, the football team has fallen on (relatively) hard times. They have not won a bowl game since 1994, and during their 9-game bowl losing streak, they have lost those bowl games by an average of about 17 points. The Irish have been invited to join the Big Ten numerous times - most recently in 1999 - but each time they declined.

Notre Dame is also competitive in women's soccer (national title in 1995 and 2004, runner up in 2006), men's hockey, women's basketball, and men's basketball. But make no mistake about it - Notre Dame is a football school.

Famous Alums
While the list of prominent Notre Dame alumni is long, it's mostly populated by educators, researchers, businessmen, and anonymous politicians. Among the more significant alums: rocker Ted Leo (of Ted Leo and The Pharmacists), the four founding members of the band Umphrey's McGee, actor George Wendt, former Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, talk show hosts Phil Donahue and Regis Philbin, famous Chicago scapegoat Steve Bartman, and Hubert Schlafly, the inventor of the teleprompter.

The Game
This could be ugly. Michigan has struggled to score points in their first two games under Rich Rodriguez. The QB play has been unsurprisingly abysmal. The running game showed signs of life against Miami but let's be honest - it was only Miami. Notre Dame, as referenced in the intro, has played just one game so far this year, and it was an uninspiring victory at home against one of the worst teams in the country. There have been some ugly games in the recent history of this rivalry, but those were ugly because they were lopsided in favor of Michigan (two 38-0 games and a 47-21 game in the last six years). This one's gonna be ugly because both teams are struggling. This is a pivotal game for both teams, since the winner of this game is going to come through it with much needed momentum to carry into the rest of the season. Michigan gets a week off before hosting Wisconsin and Illinois, and the Irish have to travel to East Lansing to face a tough MSU team. If Michigan loses, the fans will have an extra week to panic about the state of the team and the wisdom of hiring RichRod. If the Irish lose, their already panicky fanbase may start to turn on Jabba the Weis. I think this will be a low scoring game, with Michigan managing to limit their mistakes a tiny bit more than the Irish. The Wolverine ground game will gain more momentum against the questionable Irish defense. Jimmy Clausen will get sacked at least four times. Michigan 16, Notre Dame 12. Confidence level - approaching zero. So now, thanks to Hurricane Ike, it's off to the storm cellar, where I will subsist on water and spam for the next week or so. I hope our double-wide house makes it through. Enjoy the games this weekend, and of course...

Go Blue!


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