Notre Dame Stadium
Year Opened: 1930 | Field Surface: Natural Grass
Notre Dame represents the very essence of college football, with more national championships (11) and Heisman Trophy winners (seven) than any program in the country. And, fittingly, the College Football Hall of Fame (111 S. Saint Joseph St., South Bend, IN 46601) is housed south of the campus.
The stadium, with its characteristic leather-colored brick, opened in 1930 and was completed in roughly seven months. The stadium replaced Cartier Field (still used as one of the team’s practice fields). Coach Knute Rockne was instrumental in getting the stadium built, and he wanted fans close to the action so the space between the field and stands is minimal. Notre Dame Stadium was modeled after Michigan Stadium. It was Michigan that introduced football to Notre Dame.
Some 21,000 seats were added to the facility at a cost of $50 million in 1997. Notre Dame Stadium now lists capacity at more than 80,000 -- students make up roughly 11,000 tickets. Every game since 1974 has been a sellout.
Notre Dame players enter the field down a flight of stairs as they touch the "Play Like a Champion Today" sign, one of the most famous entrances in all of college football.
The stadium is known for its view of "Touchdown Jesus," a nickname for the large mural installed on adjacent Hesburgh Library in 1964. The mosaic wall depicts Jesus with arms extended signifying the referee’s signal for a touchdown. The mural, entitled the "Word of Life," was a gift from Mr. and Mrs. Howard V. Phalin of Winnetka, Ill.
The greatest coaches in Notre Dame’s storied history are honored with statues at Notre Dame Stadium. The bronzes are in front of selected gates: North Tunnel, Knute Rockne (1918-1930); Gate B, Ara Parseghian (1964-74); Gate C, Frank Leahy (1941-53); Gate D, Lou Holtz (1986-1996).
Additionally, Gate A hosts a wall of gold helmets representing Notre Dame’s consensus All-Americans. Gate B honors Notre Dame’s seven Heisman Trophy recipients with statues and portraits. Gate E honors the school’s 11 national championship teams. And on the upper level of the joint are banners for every one of Notre Dame’s All-Americans.
No school playing college football has a tradition like that of Notre Dame -- from the championships to the spirited leprechaun to the gold helmets to George Gipp.
Notre Dame’s "Victory March" is considered the most famous fight song in the country and has been used in several movies. Written by brothers Michael and John Shea, the song was copyrighted by the school in 1928. It has been voted the most famous chorus by several publications: "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."
The Four Horsemen became immortalized in Notre Dame lore thanks to a famous newspaper reference and the moxie of a Notre Dame publicist.
Quarterback Harry Stuhldreher, halfbacks Jim Crowley and Don Miller and fullback Elmer Layden were small by today’s standards -- none was taller than 6 feet or weighed more than 162 pounds -- but they had been a force to be reckoned with starting in 1922. But it was not until after the Irish’s victory over Army on Oct. 18, 1924, at the Polo Grounds in New York that the four would become forever famous. Sportswriter Grantland Rice penned the passage, “Outlined against a blue, gray October sky the Four Horsemen rode again. In dramatic lore they are known as famine, pestilence, destruction and death. These are only aliases. Their real names are: Stuhldreher, Miller, Crowley and Layden.”
Student publicist George Strickler posed the four on horses at South Bend the next day, wire services picked up the photo and the rest is history.
Notre Dame’s Fighting Irish nickname is one of the most famous in sports; but it was not always this way for the school. Notre Dame was known as the Catholic in the 1880s and 1890s and Ramblers during the Four Horsemen era. While many Notre Dame teams were unofficially known as the Irish or Fighting Irish, the nickname did not become official until 1927.
The bearded leprechaunlike mascot is famous on the sidelines at Notre Dame games for his shillelagh club and antics used to stir up the crowd. The leprechaun became the official mascot in 1965. For many years, the Irish used Irish terriers as mascots, usually under the name Clashmore Mike.
Gold helmets, spray painted with real gold dust before games, have been the standard for Notre Dame football since the beginning of the program in 1887 and emblematic of the school’s famed Golden Dome. The only exceptions were a green shamrock on each side of the helmet from 1959-62 and white numerals on the gold helmets in 1963.
Rockne, famous for his forward-thinking strategy, also was a bit of a psychologist with the Notre Dame teams. His most famous tale is relating the story of Notre Dame’s first All-American, George Gipp, who is still considered one of the school’s most versatile players.
Gipp, who had contracted pneumonia and died in 1920, on his death bed reportedly told Rockne, "Some time, Rock, when the team is up against it, when things are wrong and the breaks are beating the boys, ask them to go in there with all they've got and win just one for the Gipper."
Rockne used the story to rally his team to a victory over undefeated Army in 1928 at Yankee Stadium.
Green uniforms also have been used at Notre Dame, saved for special occasions. Rockne started using the green jerseys only to differentiate his teams from those opponents’ uniforms that closely resembled his teams' jerseys. The green unis took on an aura that psyched out some teams, so they were worn more often. Coach Dan Devine pulled off one of the most surprising uses of the green uniforms when he broke them out just before kickoff for the 1977 game against USC. The Irish won going away, 49-19, and claimed the national title that season.
Source: University of Notre Dame.
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