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Irish Game Day: A Guide to Events and Traditions

(Updated for the Utah weekend events)

Whether you attend an Irish home game every year or come for your first game as a parent of a new freshman, a lifelong Subway Alum or as a visiting team fan, a Notre Dame football weekend is a special experience.

Coming off I-80/90, the Golden Dome is a magnet, glowing with afternoon sunlight. For a mid-October game, the gold in the maples that overhang Notre Dame Avenue with the Dome in front of you add to the anticipation.

Interactive Campus Map

Must Stops

For most of us, our first stop is the Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore for our fifth ND cap, another Irish jersey, a gift for a young family member, or that special dog dish that says "Irish". My current favorite books are "Bowled Over" by Michael Oriard and "Celebrating Notre Dame" by Kerry Temple with great photos by Matt Cashore. I plan to check out "Resurrection" by Jim Dent and "100 Things Notre Dame Fans Should Know Before They Die" by John Heisler. The bookstore hosts book signings each football weekend - for Utah weekend.

After the post-Pep Rally crowd has left late Friday or early Saturday after opening are the least crowded times. Check out the ND vanity plates on the cars in the parking lot and the new Ryan Hall to the north.

Any football weekend visit will include the Administration Building, the Grotto, the Log Chapel and the Basilica, usually Saturdays. The Notre Dame Game Day site provides excellent information on individual events on campus for each football weekend. Here's their event guide for the Utah weekend. (link)

Friday Afternoons/Evenings

The Tunnel Tour and practice facility are open each Friday from 10 AM to 5 PM. Have someone get a photo of you coming out of the tunnel. Attend the Kickoff Luncheon at noon at the Joyce Center Fieldhouse.

The College Football Hall of Fame in downtown South Bend is a great experience anytime over the weekend. Their featured exhibit is Heritage of the Heisman where you can view the history of the Heisman and have your photo taken with the famous trophy. The Hall moves to Atlanta in the spring of 2013.

"Trumpets Under the Dome" at 4:00 PM provides awesome resonating renditions of the Alma Mater and Victory March prior to the Pep Rally on the Irish Green at 6:00 PM.

Other ideas are attending a Mass at the Basilica, stopping off at Legends for a brew, snack and this year's The Shirt, or hear the Glee Club on Fridays at 5 pm at 327 Coleman-Morse Hall or on the Irish Green two hours before kickoff on Saturday.

Think of attending a non-football sporting event like a soccer, volleyball or hockey game (See "Athletics This Week"). Irish basketball begins play against Georgia Southern at 8:30 pm.

You could attend the Knights of Columbus Smoker (non-smoking) at 8 pm. The Smoker always has some great speakers (list). Or attend a concert at DeBartolo Hall (DPAC) (Events link).

Friday midnight offers you the chance to hear the singular display of Notre Dame's drumline at the Drummer Circle in front of the Dome. Check out the Grotto at night and light a candle (in glass) for those Irish fans who are with you in spirit.

Fiddler's Hearth is a personal favorite for the Irish food, music and drink some time during the weekend. The Linebacker, Rocco's or many other establshments are great choices (see below).

Game Day

Yes, maybe only a few hours have elapsed between toasts and drums, but this is Game Day. Time to visit Rockne's grave in Highland Cemetery to salute college football's greatest coach. Try a power breakfast at the South Dining Hall with lots of coffee.

Tailgating at Notre Dame starts early. Most tailgaters are pleased to welcome other fans and visitors.

Walk the campus and around the lakes. Here's a campus locations link. Check out the halls' signs and fundraising burger stands. Get a steak sandwich at the Knights of Columbus stand. Visit the Sports Hall of Fame in the Joyce Center to see all the National Championship and our Heisman trophies among so many other athletic achievements and photographs. (Video) Feel a sense of the history of Notre Dame athletics.

Enjoy a great view of the campus, Dome and Basilica from the top story of Grace Hall, if you can get in. Enjoy the football or frisbee throws near Notre Dame's Stonehenge (aka Clarke Memorial Peace Memorial) on the site of the old Fieldhouse. Find the plaque commemorating the Fieldhouse.

Attend the Bagpipe Concert at 10:15 AM in front of the Dome and the Band's concert with the Irish Guard at Bond Hall at 1 PM or go to another Trumpets Under the Dome at 1:30 PM, if you missed it on Friday. Inspect the Irish Guard in front of Bond Hall at 1:30 pm.

After the team Mass, the players and coaches walk to the stadium from the Basilica after the team Mass, the "Player Walk", at 12:20 pm. Help form a tunnel from the church to the stadium. Nearing the stadium, you can visit the Snite Art Museum and the Hesburgh Library with Touchdown Jesus and the reflecting pool. First down Moses, Sitting with Moose and the Ned and Ted statues are a must.

Around the stadium, statues of four of college football's Hall of Fame coaches - Rockne, Leahy, Parseghian and Holtz - are now situated near four entrances with dedications for Irish National Championships, Heisman Trophies and All-Americans (link).

Game Traditions

Some game traditions at Notre Dame include college football's oldest band in their Step-Off, entering the stadium and playing the Victory March. Students stand throughout the game in The Shirt and do a pushup after each score for every point Notre Dame has on the scoreboard. If Kelly's offense proves to be as effective as elsewhere, they had better be in pretty good shape, even if they choose to lift a 90 pound redhaired female student named Kelly, Katie or Colleen.

See if your section can outshout the others with the cheerleaders showing "We-R-N-D" signs. Part of the band will emerge from the top areas of the stadium playing the Victory March, especially behind opposing fans. At the end of the third quarter, the students salute the coach as the band plays the 1812 Overture, followed by a driving safety warning from Officer Tim McCarthy.

Regardless of a win or a loss, after the game, the team sings the Alma Mater in front of the student body. As the team leaves by the north tunnel, they toss their gloves to the young fans in the stands under the "Irish" sign you walked through on the Tunnel walk. A photo of the scoreboard with Jesus's upraised arms in the background is special in any win.

After The Game

Hitting the Linebacker or Rocco's, going to another team game, finding a good restaurant or visiting at a family get-together are all great choices and individual. Try the Candlelight Buffet at the North or South Dining Halls as the traffic clears. Then, there is still last minute shopping at the bookstore, which now has an Eddy Street Commons outlet.

For the Tulsa game, look for Fireworks on the Irish Green. Check out Matt Cashore's video with the Glee Club singing in the background in the Fireworks link.

The Notre Dame Folk Choir Annual Concert is at 9:00 PM in the Basilica with alumni joining in to benefit the Holy Cross missions.

Regardless, we sit, rehash the game, and visit with friends and family. Whatever you have missed you can include on your next home game weekend.

Finish up Sunday with Mass, a round of golf or the Breakfast Buffet at Tippecanoe Place (the old Studebaker mansion with tours).

A few restaurants are listed below.

Outside of those mentioned - Legends, The Linebacker, Rocco's, Fiddler's Hearth - check out The Vine, LaSalle Grille, Sorin's at the Morris Inn, Reggie's in Mishawaka (great salads), C.J.'s Pub (burgers), Volcano or Polito's (Italian), and Barnaby's (pizza). Other favorites include: Nick's Patio (Greek/American), Carmela's and Sunny Italy Cafe (Italian), the Thai-Cambodian restaurant and Texas Roadhouse in Elkhart for bar-b-que.

Which are your favs? How do you like to spend your weekend?

Some of Matt Cashore's photos of Notre Dame are here. Enjoy your weekend.

Also see:

101 Things You Should Do on A Football Weekend

Thanks to Chestertonlep for permission to use the photo.