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Throwback Thursday: The “Notre Dame Cold”

You’ve never experienced cold until you’ve experienced South Bend cold ...

notre dame football cold
Mike Miller/One Foot Down

I know, it’s the middle of June and we’re headed toward the dog days of summer, but I was sitting here thinking ... what’s the coldest Notre Dame Fighting Irish football game I’ve ever attended? Last year’s Florida State game is definitely on my top ten list of freezing cold games I’ve experienced, but the more I thought about it, the longer (and longer) my list of cold Notre Dame games I’ve attended got. Yes, everyone knows about the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field, but attending a Notre Dame football game in November (and sometimes October) is no walk in the park either.

ND-FSU 2018: Lisa Kelly and former ND running back Lee Becton

Let’s start with the Notre Dame vs. SMU game during my freshman year (1989), when the highs were in the 30’s. I’m not sure if we stayed the entire game because we were giddy freshmen, or because we were crushing them 56-6, but a good time was had by all (the Notre Dame fans at least).

Then there was the Notre Dame vs. Navy game my junior year (1991), in which the winds were gusting at more than 30 miles per hour, and at game time there was light snow and a wind chill index of minus-4 degrees. Notre Dame kept Navy from scoring that game (final score: 38-0) but not even that kept me there for the whole game. My friends and I left at halftime, went back to the dorm, ordered pizza and made hot chocolate. Needless to say my mother was less than happy with me as my father made her stay for the entire game. Oops.

During my senior year (1992), we had two epically cold games. The first of which was the Notre Dame vs. Penn State game, the last home game of the football season. They didn’t call it the “Snow Bowl” for nothing. And the second was the Cotton Bowl, in which Notre Dame faced Texas A&M. While I remember pretty much ever single moment of the Snow Bowl game with vivid accuracy, it was so cold at the Cotton Bowl, that game is pretty much a blur to me.

Flash forward to a more recent game. I took two of my friends to their first Notre Dame game to see ND play Stanford on October 4, 2014.

Tailgating before Notre Dame vs. Stanford 2014, with Devon McDonald and Tony Rice.

I thought, it’s October, we should be fine. Wrong! It was raining/sleeting throughout the whole first half and I looked at them at halftime and said, “If you want to stay for the entire game, I totally will. And if you would like to leave, I’m good with that, too.” Well, we left.

Their first trip to ND, October 2014, Notre Dame vs. Stanford

We went back to the hotel, changed into dry clothes, and headed to the bar just in time to see Everett Golson throw a 23-yard pass to Bey Koyack in the corner of the end zone (with 61 seconds left in the game) to beat Stanford 17-14. (Yeah, I was pretty upset with myself for leaving that game early. Lesson learned.)

So we know how cold we are sitting in the stands watching the games. How cold are the players? And do they actually notice the cold? Or are they too focused on the game to even notice? Former Notre Dame football player Jeremy Sample spoke with me about that “Notre Dame cold.”

“On November 2nd (1991) of my freshman year, we played Navy at home. I think it was in the neighborhood of minus twenty degrees that day. It was the coldest weather I had ever played football in, and I remember telling my mom, ‘Oh wow, it’s so cold here mom.’ My parents came to every home game because they were close enough that they could. I always felt that, while I was away at school, I was still close enough that if I got homesick, my parents could be there for me. It was the perfect combination for me. But back to the cold… people don’t understand, there is a different kind of cold when you are at Notre Dame. Coming from Illinois, you have an idea of what cold is, and that brutal winters are not uncommon. But in Notre Dame Stadium, there is no place to hide from the elements. That Navy game was my rude awakening to the South Bend cold. Just brutal. There was no sun, it was all wind, and the temperature just kept falling. There were a bunch of guys from the incoming freshmen class who visited Notre Dame that weekend, and they commented, ‘Man you looked so cold out there.’ And we were! But as Coach Holtz always told us, ‘Remember son, it is cold on both sides of the ball.’” (Excerpt from Triumphs From Notre Dame: Echoes of Her Loyal Sons and Daughters)

A few of my twitter friends have weighed in on the coldest game they’ve ever been to ... what’s the coldest Notre Dame game you’ve ever attended?

Cheers & GO IRISH!