In keeping with the nickname the Fighting Irish and the Irish folklore, a 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 mascot is a student, chosen annually at tryouts, dressed in a cutaway green suit and Irish country hat. The leprechaun brandishes a shillelagh and aggressively leads cheers and interacts with the crowd, bringing 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, most of them named “Clashmore Mike.” The leprechaun became the mascot in 1965.
The leprechaun is a member of the varsity cheer squad. The cheerleaders lead the fans at every home game, and travel to every away football game and, if invited, to a bowl game. They lead the team out of the tunnel at the beginning of every home game, and celebrate an Irish touchdown by running flags that spell “Irish” around the field.
The Band of the Fighting Irish
The earliest reference to the Notre Dame Band is in 1846 when it played at the first graduation ceremony. The band was there for the very first football game against Michigan in 1887 and has been present at every home game since.
The band keeps the crowd’s spirits high before, during, and after all Notre Dame home football games. It bursts into the stadium to perform a pre-game show, ending with a formation spelling out the word “Irish.” The band leads cheers and cadences throughout the game, and plays the “Victory Clog” and the “Victory March” after every touchdown. Traditional songs include “Hike Notre Dame,” “Celtic Chant,” “Down the Line,” and the “Rakes of Mallow.”
At halftime, the band performs a lively show culminating in the formation of the monogram ND. At the end of the third quarter, the band plays the “1812 Overture” while the crowd cheers for the team. After the game, the band plays the alma mater, “Notre Dame Our Mother,” and the “Victory March” for the team and students.
The band is led by the Irish Guard, a group of precision marchers formed in 1949 when then director H. Lee Hope conceived the idea of adding color to the band while maintaining the dignity befitting the nation’s oldest university band. The Guard was meant to be impressive and, as such, each member was required to be a minimum of six feet, two inches tall, a regulation still in effect today. Unique to the tradition of the Irish Guard is the uniform, which was patterned after the traditional Irish kilt.
The “Notre Dame Victory March” was written by brothers Michael and John Shea, both graduates of the University. The fight song was first performed at Notre Dame on Easter Sunday, 1909. 2008 marks the 100th anniversary of the “Victory March.”
Football Weekend Traditions
Every Friday before a home game, a pep rally is held in Notre Dame’s Joyce Center, led by the leprechaun and featuring the football team and coaches, as well as the cheerleaders and band.
At midnight the night before home football games, the Notre Dame Drumline congregates at the step of Main Building for Midnight Drummer’s Circle. The drumline leads students and fans in cheers, cadences, and songs to kick off game day.
The football team attends a pre-game Mass in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on Saturdays before the game, then walks across campus to the stadium.
The Notre Dame Band performs a concert on the steps of Bond Hall 90 minutes prior to the game, followed by a rigorous Irish Guard inspection. The band steps off from the Dome an hour before kickoff and, led by the leprechaun and cheerleaders, marches to the stadium.
At each kickoff of the game, the stadium resounds with the"Go Irish!" cheer. Students traditionally raise each other in the air for push-ups after every Notre Dame touchdown, and stand for the entire game. They dance an Irish jig when the band plays “Rakes of Mallow,” cheer throughout the game, and as the clock counts down the final seconds of the game, the student section begins the “we are ND” cheer.
Mass is held in the Basilica and Stepan Center 30 minutes after the game. Both North and South Dining Halls offer special “Candlelight Dinners” for hungry fans. Big wins are celebrated by running though Clark Memorial Fountain on the Fieldhouse Mall.
Power To Inspire
Notre Dame Stadium is a structure whose power to inspire comes from many different qualities, reaches many different kinds of people, and conveys many different messages.
“This is not merely a football field,” says Notre Dame’s Official Campus Guide. “It is an experience, a uniquely Notre Dame synthesis of sport, tradition, pride, loyalty, and belief. It is haunted by a thousand ghosts of glorious seasons past: the Four Horsemen riding into immortality on the words of Grantland Rice; the multi-talented George Gipp and “Jumpin’ Joe” Savoldi; Joe Montana, a field general in a green jersey; Raghib “The Rocket” Ismail flying toward the end zone; and, of course, Knute Rockne, pioneer of the forward pass, master of the locker room speech, brilliant motivator, relentless innovator, and though gone from the gridiron since 1930, still the most victorious coach (winning an amazing .881 of his games) in college football history.”
To a steelworker in the classic film Rudy, this stadium (experienced personally without the static of his living room TV) was an instrument of joy. Rudy Ruettiger’s dad said simply: “This is the most beautiful sight these eyes have ever seen.”
To one of the 20th century’s greatest Catholic writers, this stadium, situated far from his native England but comfortingly close to a golden statue of Our Lady, was a symbol of enduring faith. G.K. Chesterton, visiting Notre Dame in 1930, saw a deeper meaning in American football as played in “The Arena”:
“I have seen, where a strange country Opened its secret plains about me, One great golden dome stand lonely with its golden image, one Seen afar, in strange fulfillment, Through the sunlit Indian summer That Apocalyptic portent that has clothed her with the Sun. She too looks on the Arena Sees the gladiators grapple, She whose names are Seven Sorrows and the Cause of All Our Joy…”
Notre Dame Stadium is a building that helps to fulfill this University’s mission. It engages the culture … with a culture of its own. It doesn’t just deserve respectful preservation … it embodies it. It is a building where people and ideas and traditions come together. It will be best suited to speak boldly about tomorrow’s hopes if we preserve its ability to speak proudly about yesterday’s—and today’s—dreams coming true.
“Notre Dame Stadium is a building that helps to fulfill this University's mission. It engages the culture ... with a culture of its own. It doesn't just deserve respectful preservation ... it embodies it. It is a building where people and ideas and traditions come together. It will be best suited to speak boldly about tomorrow's hopes if we preserve its ability to speak proudly about yesterday's–and today's–dreams coming true.”