The Fighting Irish
Exactly where and how Notre Dame's athletic nickname, "Fighting Irish,"
came to origination never has been perfectly explained.
One story suggests the moniker was born in 1899 with Notre Dame leading
Northwestern 5-0 at halftime of a game in Evanston, Ill. The Wildcat
fans supposedly began to chant, "Kill the Fighting Irish, kill the
Fighting Irish," as the second half opened.
Another tale has the nickname originating at halftime of the Notre
Dame-Michigan game in 1909. With his team trailing, one Notre Dame
player yelled to his teammates - who happened to have names like Dolan,
Kelly, Glynn, Duffy and Ryan - "What's the matter with you guys? You're
all Irish and you're not fighting worth a lick."
Notre Dame came back to win the game and press, after overhearing the
remark, reported the game as a victory for the "Fighting Irish."
The most generally accepted explanation is that the press coined the
nickname as a characterization of Notre Dame athletic teams, their
never-say-die fighting spirit and the Irish qualities of grit,
determination and tenacity. The term likely began as an abusive
expression tauntingly directed toward the athletes from the small,
private, Catholic institution. Notre Dame alumnus Francis Wallace
popularized it in his New York Daily News columns in the 1920s.
The Notre Dame Scholastic, in a 1929 edition, printed its own version of
"The term 'Fighting Irish' has been applied to Notre Dame teams for
years. It first attached itself years ago when the school, comparatively
unknown, sent its athletic teams away to play in another city ...At that
time the title 'Fighting Irish' held no glory or prestige ...
"The years passed swiftly and the school began to take a place in the
sports world ...'Fighting Irish' took on a new meaning. The unknown of a
few years past has boldly taken a place among the leaders. The unkind
appellation became symbolic of the struggle for supremacy of the field.
...The team, while given in irony, has become our heritage. ...So truly
does it represent us that we unwilling to part with it ..."
Notre Dame competed under the nickname "Catholics" during the 1800s and
became more widely known as the "Ramblers" during the early 1920s in the
days of the Four Horsemen.
University president Rev. Matthew Walsh, C.S.C., officially adopted
"Fighting irish" as the Notre Dame nickname in 1927.
Gold And Blue
Although Notre Dame’s official colors for athletics long have been
listed as gold and blue, the color of the Irish home football jersey has
switched back and forth between blue and green for more than 50 years.
The origin of school colors can be traced back to the founding of the
University. At the time of its founding in 1842, Notre Dame’s original
school colors were yellow and blue; yellow symbolized the light and blue
the truth. However, sometime after the Dome and Statue of Mary atop the
Main Building was gilded, gold and blue became the official colors of
The 1984 season marked the last change in game uniform as the Irish
returned to the standard navy blue worn throughout the Ara Parseghian
years and early portion of the Dan Devine era. The gold Irish helmets
and pants remained unchanged.
When Gerry Faust took over in 1981, Notre Dame went to royal blue
jerseys with three one-inch stripes on the sleeves, two gold surrounding
one white. But the stripes were eliminated on the ’84 tops, which didn’t
feature any trim or feathering other than the white numbers on the navy
blue shirts. Lou Holtz’s only change beginning in ’86 involved adding
the interlocked Notre Dame logo to the shoulder of the jerseys and to
the left front side of the pants.
That logo on the pants switched from blue to green beginning in ’95. The
change from green to royal blue in ’81 marked the first switch since
Notre Dame made the move to green beginning with the 49-19 victory over
USC October 22, 1977. The Irish had worn navy blue all during
Parseghian’s 11 seasons and through the first two-and-a-half years of
the Devine era — but they had stayed with the green ever since the
victory over the Trojans. However, even Faust made use of the green
jerseys on two occasions. He outfitted his Irish in green in a 27-6 win
over USC in ’83 — six years to the day after Devine first went to the
green in a win over those same Trojans. The Irish also wore green during
the second half of the 37-3 win over USC in ’85.
For the first time during Holtz's tenure as head coach, the Irish used
green as part of their uniform in the 1992 Sugar Bowl as they donned
white jerseys with green numbers and green socks. The last time the
Irish had worn their road white jerseys with green numbers was in the
Superdome in Notre Dame's loss to Georgia in the Sugar Bowl 17-10
exactly 11 years earlier.
Notre Dame again wore green jersey in a 41-24 loss to Colorado in the
’95 Fiesta Bowl and donned the green against Georgia Tech in the ’99
Gator Bowl — a 35-28 loss.
Back in the 1920s during the Knute Rockne days, the Notre Dame varsity
generally wore blue while the freshman squad wore green. But, on several
occasions the varsity team did wear green — simply for purposes of
distinction when the Irish opponent also came out in blue. Games against
Navy, for example, in the late 1920s featured green-clad Notre Dame
teams, to avoid confusion with the Navy’s blue uniforms.
Rockne didn’t mind using the color change as a psychological ploy. When
Notre Dame faced Navy in Baltimore in 1927, the Irish head coach started
his second-string reserves. Navy retaliated by scoring a touchdown in
the first five minutes of the game. But, just as the Midshipmen scored,
reported George Trevor in the New York Sun, Rockne made his move:
‘‘Instantaneously the Notre Dame regulars yanked off their blue outer
sweaters and like a horde of green Gila monsters darted onto the field.
From that moment on Notre Dame held the initiative, imposed its
collective will upon the Navy.’’
The Irish came from behind to win that one 19-6 — then did the same
thing the following year in Chicago’s Soldier Field, this time beating
Navy 7-0. The 1928 edition of the Scholastic Football Review included
‘‘Mr. K. K. Rockne may, or may not, be a psychologist. But, he did array
his Fighting Irish in bright green jerseys for their battle with the
United States Naval Academy. Mr. Rockne evidently surmised that garbing
a band of native and adopted Irish in their native color is somewhat
akin to showing a bull the Russian flag.’’
The green jerseys remained prominent throughout the Frank Leahy years —
particularly so in September of 1947 when Heisman Trophy winner Johnny
Lujack graced the cover of Life magazine clad in green. Several of Joe Kuharich’s squads wore green with UCLA-style shoulder stripes and
shamrocks on the helmets. Even Hugh Devore’s 1963 team — after wearing
navy blue all season — switched to green in the finale against Syracuse.
Faust’s return to blue came after the new Irish coach suggested some
research into the University archives to determine the history of Notre
Dame’s gold and blue colors.
Those findings indicated the blue color was actually Madonna blue,a
light blue shade, as opposed to the navy blue shade that has been most
common in recent Notre Dame uniforms.
In keeping with the nickname Fighting Irish and the Irish folklore, the
Leprechaun serves as the Notre Dame mascot.
The Notre Dame logo features a side view of the figure with his dukes
up, ready to battle anyone that comes his way. The live version is a
student, chosen annually at tryouts, dressed in a cutaway green suit and
Irish country hat.
The Leprechaun brandishes a shillelagh and agressively leads cheers and
interacts with the crowd, supposedly bringing magical powers and good
luck to the Notre Dame team.
The Leprechaun wasn't always the official mascot of Notre Dame - for
years the team was represented by a series of Irish terrier dogs. The
first, named Brick Top Shuan-Rhu, was donated by one Charles Otis of
Cleveland and presented to Irish head coach Knute Rockne the weekend of
the Notre Dame-Pennsylvania game Nov. 8, 1930.
A number of terriers later took the role of the school mascot, which
usually took the name Clashmore Mike. The Clashmore Mike mascot last
made an appearance on the cover of the 1963 Notre Dame Football Dope
Book with coach Hugh Devore and captain Bob Lehmann.
The Leprechaun was named the official mascot in 1965.
Notre Dame Victory March
Without a doubt the most recognizable collegiate fight song in the
nation, the "Notre Dame Victory March" was written just past the turn of
the century by two brothers who were University of Notre Dame graduates.
Michael J. Shea, a 1905 graduate, wrote the music and his brother, John
F. Shea, who earned degrees in 1906 and 1908, wrote the words. The song
was copyrighted in 1908 and a piano verson, complete with lyrics, was
published that year.
Michael, who became a priest in Ossining, N.Y., collaborated on the
project with John, who lived in Holyoke, Mass. The song's public debut
came in the winter of 1908 when Michael played it on the organ of the
Second Congregational Church in Holyoke.
The "Notre Dame Victory March" later was presented by the Shea brothers
to the University and it first appeared under the copyright of the
University of Notre dame in 1928. The copyright was assigned to the
publishing company of Edwin H. Morris and the copyright for the
beginning of the song is still in effect.
The words and music which begin with the words "Cheer, cheer for Old
Notre Dame" are in the public domain in the United States, but are
protected in all territories outside of the country.
Notre Dame's fight song was first performed at Notre Dame on Easter
Sunday, 1909, in the rotunda of the Administration Building. The
University of Notre Dame band, under the direction of Prof. Clarence
Peterson, played it as part of its athletic event 10 years later. In
1969, as college football celebrated its centennial, the "Notre Dame
Victory March" was honored as the "greatest of all fight songs."
Michael Shea was the pastor of St. Augustine's Church in Ossining until
his death in 1938. John Shea, a baseball monogram winner at Notre Dame,
became a Massachusetts state senator and live in Holyoke until his death
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 ev-ry 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 echos 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.