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Alumni clubs welcome Irish fans for games

Amanda Michaels | Friday, October 10, 2003

When the Irish clash with the Panthers this Saturday, they will see an island of green Domers hyped for a win amid Pitt’s sea of gold – the Notre Dame Club of Pittsburgh has plans to make sure of it.

In the tradition of the ever-loyal Notre Dame family, the Club has been pushing The Shirt as well as its own kelly green creation for the last few weeks, in addition to planning game weekend events that will make the Irish feel right at home.

As is the custom in Pittsburgh, the Club will hold a pep rally Friday night, featuring Notre Dame cheerleaders and alumni, Irish dancing and music and classic game highlights on the big screen.

“[This is] the very first pep rally in the brand new [David L. Lawrence Convention Center] – a very cool ‘green’ building,” said Club president Lauren Trocano.

The emcee of the event will be local newscaster Stacy Smith, father of a recent Notre Dame grad.

Unlike the pep rally, which is open to the public, the pre-game tailgate on the Riverwalk outside of PNC Park is available by presale tickets only. Those in attendance will prepare for the 6 p.m. game with a lunch buffet and entertainment by the local Mt. Lebanon High School Percussion, the Notre Dame Bagpipe Band and current and former members of the Notre Dame Glee Club. A parade will lead fans down a short road to Heinz Field for kickoff.

The Club expects at least 500 fans at the pep rally and over 200 at the tailgate. To add to the group, the Club scheduled a chartered bus that Pittsburgh-area students could buy tickets for to bring them home for the weekend and back to school in time for midterms.

All of this will cost the Club over $10,000, with no real expectations of breaking even. “The primary reason for doing all this is to support the Irish and give local club members and fans a place to be together. Generating revenue for the Club is nice, but secondary,” said Trocano.

Pitt will counter these revels with events their own, as they set up PNC Panther Alumni Headquarters in a tent outside of Heinz Field. The Pitt band and cheerleaders will pump up fans as they greet the players and coaches whose buses unload directly outside the venue. There will also be a pre-game scouting report and a fan question and answer session with the “Voice of the Panthers,” local sportscaster Bill Hillgrove.

The celebrations in Pittsburgh are certainly not isolated events. They are common practice, especially by the alumni associations in cities where Notre Dame often plays.

In Boston, the Notre Dame Club plans to hold their annual “Legends Luncheon”, with a keynote address by Kenneth MacAffee, 1978 alum and MVP of the 1977 National Championship team. Other weekend activities will include the Endangered Eagle Pre-Game Party at the Irish pub Clery’s, a gamewatch for those who cannot obtain tickets and a post-game Mass at Saint Mary’s Chapel on Boston College’s campus.

The Notre Dame Club of Los Angeles celebrates each away game in the City of Angels with its biennial “The Game Is On” Luncheon. Held together with USC, the event features former coaches and players from both schools, and epitomizes the good nature of the “great rivalry between the Irish and the Trojans,” said Maryadele Clougherty, Club administrator. As in Pittsburgh, the Notre Dame Club of Orange County holds a Pep Rally the night before the game, followed the next day by an Irish Fest celebrated right outside the Coliseum.

With a budget of over $25,000, the Notre Dame Club of Syracuse is packing the weekend of Notre Dame’s first ever away game in Syracuse (and their first game against the Orangemen since 1961), with “40 years of party,” said Club secretary and treasurer Jim Bonaventura. To honor University President Emeritus Father Theodore Hesburgh, a Syracuse native, the Club will present one part of the Hesburgh Lecture Series on Dec. 4, followed by a Father Hesburgh Tribute Dinner on Dec. 5. In the grand tradition of the South Bend campus itself, there will be a Kegs-N-Eggs Pre-game Tailgater on game day, as well as a post-game Mass. Club leaders project that upwards of 1,500 people will attend the festivities, and have been working on the event for over two years.

The outpouring of support for Notre Dame in cities across the country, whether it be in the form of pep rallies or pub gatherings, tailgaters or t-shirts, is a testament to the spirit of the Irish. In the words of the Notre Dame Club of Pittsburgh’s weekly mantra, “Wear green! Wave green! Be green!”