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Groups continue time-honored traditions

Beth Erickson | Friday, November 14, 2003

The signature marches of the Irish Guard lend football Saturdays ceremony and tradition, but little is known about the hard work and dedication required of its 10 kilted men.

The members of the Guard practice every night from Monday to Thursday with the marching band. Each week, they must coordinate with the band to learn the new halftime routine, in which they often play a large role.

“Practices are actually pretty serious for us,” senior Guardsman Matt Coleman said. “We sometimes only have a week to learn the new routine for every game.”

The Guard continues to perfect its traditional marches during every practice, for it must maintain the strictest standards of performance.

On the Fridays before home games, the Guard ‘marches off’ from the Dome, leading the band through campus to the practice field. They then preside over the pep rally.

The Guard does not have a Friday curfew, but because the Guardsmen take their roles as overseers of game day tradition very seriously, they tend to have “pretty tame Friday nights,” Coleman said.

Game day responsibilities normally take up 12 hours, Coleman said.

While this is a huge commitment, the experience makes it worthwhile.

“The Guard is part of the whole Saturday game day experience,” Coleman said. “It’s so exciting to be there in front of 80,000 fans.”

The 12-hour game day begins with a ‘march out’ through campus and practice at Loftus.

The Guard then dons its traditional Scottish garb, which normally takes an hour to put on. The group’s adherence to traditional Scottish dress has been its trademark since the Guard’s inception in 1949.

After dressing, it performs with the marching band on the steps of Bond Hall. The Guard ‘slow marches’ in front of the Band and performs its time-honored ‘victory clog.’ After marching from Bond to the quad in front of the Dome, members are ‘inspected’ in order of oldest to youngest by the captain and by alumni Guardsmen.

The Guard then leads the marching band through campus to the stadium and out onto the field to perform its pre-game routines, halftime show and post-game rituals, including the signature victory clog after a Notre Dame victory.

The Guard represents dignity and eminence to campus visitors, who delight in meeting the Guard and posing for pictures with its 10 kilted members.

“I’ve had people take pictures of me with their baby and then tell me the picture is going to be the family Christmas card,” Coleman said.

“It makes you feel appreciated after all your hard work to get to go out and meet people and perform,” he said.

Coleman said his most memorable experience with the Guard was the group’s trip to Florida for the FSU game in 2002. The group, which is “very tight-knit,” vacationed in Panama City that week.

“I’m going to miss it,” Coleman said. “I’ve enjoyed my time on the guard.”

“When I come back next year I will be really jealous of the guys who are out there,” he said.