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To the ND family from Irish Guard alumni

| Friday, September 5, 2014

The Notre Dame Irish Guard is no more. Last spring, for one reason or another — inclusiveness, political correctness, or the rare occasions of poor judgment not uncommon amongst college students — the Administration dismantled this unique and treasured 65-year-old tradition. It was killed quietly behind the closed doors of the Main Building and pronounced dead in The Observer’s final issue before the summer vacation.

Tradition: difficult to define or summarize, yet its mention invariably elicits strong emotions. It’s a concept less sacred these days everywhere in contemporary society, as progress triumphs over history. Progress, of course, is often the stated motive for changing traditions, but change ought only be termed “progress” when a tangible net benefit results. Change for its own sake lacks vision and understanding. This has been the fate of the Irish Guard.

Don’t know what the Guard is? Don’t care that it’s gone? Here is why you should:

The Irish Guard is unique to Notre Dame. For generations of Guardsmen, families, visitors and fans, the Guard was the thing cherished and remembered most from time spent on campus. For decades, a cadre of imposing, stern-faced students clad in Notre Dame Tartan have marched alongside the band. No other university has anything quite like it. Unfortunately, the Irish Guard is not what it once was.

“But wait, didn’t I see the Irish Guard do the Victory Clog on Saturday?” Indeed, there were eight students wearing the uniform. But the eight band members in uniform last week came into their positions after all returning Guardsmen — and the decades-old traditions of which they were stewards — were shown the door.

Today, virtually everything that distinguished the Irish Guard from a color guard has been eliminated. Gone is the famed Inspection, where old Guards and new Guards came together in a unique and public display of stoicism and camaraderie. Gone are the open tryouts where any Notre Dame student — not just members of the marching band — could earn their spot. Gone is the imposing height requirement, which inspired admiration among fans and dismay among opposing football teams. Gone is the shared lineage that links 2014 to the experiences of 1978 and the stories of 1949.

Gone is the tradition. Nothing has been kept, save for the uniforms.

Gutting a tradition such as the Irish Guard for the sake of arbitrary ideals like “citizenship” is not something that can be swept under a rug. It is unfair and unjust to describe the surreptitious disposal of a great tradition as merely a “revision.”

Moreover, the new protocol of selecting Guardsmen only from the ranks of the band, on the pretense that doing so will provide “a stronger pool of applicants” that “exemplify the best qualities of a Notre Dame student,” (“Band restructures Irish Guard,” May 2) alienates all former and formerly aspiring Guardsmen. Such claims also suggest that our service to Our Lady’s University was somehow tainted while simultaneously questioning the character of all Guardsmen.

The Notre Dame Administration and Band leaders suggest that “model Notre Dame students” can be found only in the marching band and that only with these changes will this new Guard include “the kind of person you want for a manager or a CEO of a company.” This is not so. Our ranks include veterans of our nation’s Armed Forces, doctors, corporate executives, entrepreneurs, teachers and community leaders. We owe much of the success in our lives beyond Notre Dame to our education and the habits of discipline, leadership and teamwork that the Guard helped to form. We regret that the Administration and Director of Bands have precluded the vast majority of the student body from sharing in this experience.

It is with sadness that we write this letter. We felt it necessary after an online petition, signed by nearly 3,000 students, alumni and fans of the traditional Irish Guard, was sent to and subsequently ignored by the University, the Department of Student Affairs and the Director of Bands. We hope that, if nothing else, other traditions will be given more thorough consideration before being discarded, as the Irish Guard we knew and loved has been.

In Notre Dame,

Tomas Abrate

Class of 2014

Thomas Altmeyer

Class of 1969

Alex Andreichuk

Class of 1997

Joseph P. H. Babington, Esq.

Class of 1981

Michael Baer

Class of 2011 

Paul Balthrop, MD

Class of 2000

Mark A. Baumgartner

Class of 1978

S. Louis Bridges, Jr., MD, PhD

Class of 1980

Thomas Brisken

Class of 1998

Louis C. Blaum, III, MD, Lt. Col., USAFR

Class of 1993

Matt Clary

Class of 2013

Pat Conklin

Class of 1981

Mike Decker

Class of 1995

Chris Digan

Class of 1981

David A. Ellett

Class of 2013

Justin Funk

Class of 2005

Tim Goldsmith

Class of 2008

Brian T. Hardy, MD, MBA

Class of 1998

Kevin Hardy, DDS, MBA, JD

Class of 2002

Dr. Larry Hartung, USN (Ret)

Class of 1971

Joseph Harris, CPA

Class of 2006

Patrick M. Hess

Class of 2013 

Jerry Hogan

Class of 1972

Kip Horvath

Class of 1969 

Douglas Hummon

Class of 2010

Jack Keeley

Class of 1963

Nick Lambrecht, Esq.

Class of 2002

Edward Linczer

Class of 2014

David B. Leeney

Class of 2000

Joseph V Lillis, MD

Class of 2001

Brent Locey

Class of 2009

Kyle Looft, CPA

Class of 2011

Brian McDonald

Class of 1989

Thomas McGinty

Class of 2003 

Paul Madden, RA

Class of 1978

Brian Martin

Class of 2006

Connor Martin

Class of 2008

Steven McMullen

Class of 1998

John Megall

Class of 1970

Stoney Mitchell, Capt., USNR

Class of 1985

Nathan W. Mogren, DMD

Class of 2002

Patrick Newcomer

Class of 2012

Jim Osborne

Class of 2007 

Andrew Peiffer, J.D.

Class of 2011

Jack Prendergast, Rear Admiral, USN (Ret)

Class of 1979

Paul T. Raih, CFA

Class of 2001

Thomas W. Reagan, 1st Lieutenant, USAF 

Class of 2011

Timothy J. Regan, MD

Class of 1996

Paul Reuvers, Esq.

Class of 1988

Colin Rich

Class of 2011

Bruno M. Rizzo

Class of 1967

Brian T. Rush, CPA

Class of 2002

Richard Saxen, MD

Class of 2000

 R. Christopher Salata, Esq.

Class of 1998 

Andrew Steves

Class of 2010

Colin Sullivan

Class of 2012

Doug Wilson

Class of 2002

Andy Wolf

Class of 1985

Chris Wolf, CPA   

Class of 1970

Ben Wright

Class of 1999

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About Letter to the Editor

Letters to the Editor can be submitted by all members of the Notre Dame community. To submit a letter to the Viewpoint Editor, email viewpoint@ndsmcobserver.com

Contact Letter
  • IG2013

    If you would like to read and/or sign the petition to restore the Irish Guard to its former state, visit https://www.change.org/p/petition-to-restore-the-real-irish-guard-at-notre-dame

  • John Adams- class of 1986

    Dr. Dye has trampled a tradition that he had no right to unilaterally trash. As a Southern Cal grad, perhaps he just does not truly care about Notre Dame traditions but he should. This is not progress; it was fundamental to the ND football experience and included fine upstanding students decade after decade. Please sign the online petition link below- keep the movement going. Go Irish.

  • sheesh

    Pretty impressive list of former Guardsmen. I can’t imagine how the University could simply not respond to this petition.

  • Dismayed

    “[D]ismay among opposing football teams”? The only people more self-important than the band director might be the signatories of this letter.

  • Get real

    The guard was not restructured for reasons of “inclusiveness” or “political correctness.” It was restructured so that it could be preserved, for it could no longer exist as a group of arrogant, inebriated, underwear-less goons who hand-pick their predecessors based on social status, drinking ability, and the willingness to urinate on an opponent’s field. It’s not 1975 anymore. Get over it.

    • Guard

      If you’re standard for a “goon” is a tall Notre Dame student with a 33-36 on his ACT who might drink more than your average bandie, you really gotta get out and see the world chief. It disappoints me that you didn’t seem to think before you decided to generalize about such a large group of people, let alone fellow domers. I hope you’re able to get past whatever experience led you to this perception and see all the sides of this issue. Love thee ND.

      • Get real

        My standard for “goon” is independent of ACT score. It is based on the way that those entrusted to uphold the “tradition” we all hold so dear embarrass and taint the reputation of their peers and their university by stumbling through practices, misstepping through gamedays, and holding themselves to such a poor level of behavior, civility, and performance that the university is forced to take action.

      • rando

        I don’t care if they drink more than the ‘average bandie’, its the drinking on gameday and marching drunk. That’s what wasn’t okay.

    • NDFan19632014

      All Guard members had to have the approval of Dr. Dye. If he wasn’t doing his job screening applicants, it’s his own fault

      • NDbandAlum

        You really think Ken Dye individually approves every guard member? Does he give the same keen eye to all band members? Fairly certain he goes on what the guard captain tells him. That’s basically going to be someone’s drinking buddy or a guy from down the hall. It’s not a fair process or based on marching ability.

        • ND Student 2015

          you are exactly the type of brainwashed goon that is populating the guard now

          • NDbandAlum

            Yes. My diploma says Bachelor of Arts in Brainwashing with a minor in Goon. It was one of those fancy self-designed majors…

          • rando

            Yeah, “NDbandAlum” is clearly still in the band marching as a guardsman because they aren’t an alum or anything.

        • NDFan19632014

          Well, another point is that Dye himself awarded the Guard Captain from 2012 the Band Member of the Year award. How does that have anything but “good job, keep it up” to say to the Guard?

        • not true

          absurd assertion. I’ve been in the room. Band Directors know every person trying out for the Guard by name and they are put through a marching audition. Band Directors obviously have final say. If the directors didn’t trust the Guard captain, you really think they’d take his word for it? And there have been MANY people trying out through the years who the Band Directors knew going in and made sure that person made the Guard.

  • nylarch

    I do agree that the height restriction and general look of the Guard was always great but those guys definitely never took learning basic marching techniques seriously….maybe that’s what this is about?

    • NDFan19632014

      Yeah, so it was a GREAT idea to kick out everyone who knew anything about the marching style or how to put the uniform on, right? Last weekend the Guard looked off-step, unsure of themselves, and overall pretty unimposing. The uniforms were put on pretty slapdash as well. The continuity of the group is what kept it alive. To have all of them doing it for the first time at once isn’t what you want.

      • a

        Implying the guard was ever on-step… Do you really think the old guard were the only people who knew the marching style or how to dress themselves?

        • NDFan19632014

          Yes. If you’d like, I can provide from one picture about 20 ways the new guard is putting the uniform on incorrectly

          • aerawsd

            Are these from your inspection checklist? I bet some of the items are on the list right between “Admire their junk,” and “Ensure big fuzzy hats are nicely combed so as to be intimidating to opposing middle linebackers.”

          • rando

            Please provide these pictures. I seriously would like to see the errors. They looked fine to me. And I was sitting much closer to them than you were.

          • NDFan19632014

            I would rather not post them on the open internet as they don’t actually belong to me, but if anyone would like me to send them these pictures let me know how to get them to you.

      • no

        ….they used to be imposing?

  • A

    I think this is one big fundraising ploy. Kick out the Irish Guard. Angry alums donate money to the band to buy out Ken Dye’s contract. New band director who has been at ND forever kicks out the “new Irish Guard” in favor of the old Irish Guard and has a new operating budget for the next decade. Pretty sly ND, pretty sly…

    • John Jenkins

      Nailed it.

  • Really, guys?

    I can’t believe I’m actually commenting, but frankly I’m disgusted by how long this has dragged on. There are a thousand conflicts and issues every day that affect people’s lives in profound ways. This is a marching band. Find something more important to be upset about.

    • UpsetAboutYourComment

      We’re allowed to be upset about whatever we please. Falls somewhere between freedom of speech and having free will.

  • Enzo

    I get the anger is from the lack on succession, but for all the outrage, what would be the step forward for returning the Guard to its former ways? Would you remove the new guys marching and bring in the handful of old guys who are still enrolled? That can’t be more than what, 5 or 6 guys? How do you then get to the full 10? Hold tryouts now? What about bringing them back next year when they’ve had a year off and only 2 or 3 remain and have the lead auditions?

  • WhoRunTheDillonHall

    Who cares? This is why we suck! We need to care about the players making the difference on the field and that’s it. People like you are reason Notre Dame will never win a National Championship, and that’s the real problem.

    • NDFan19632014

      Why do people find an affinity for ND football even when it is not a winning program? Because of the TRADITIONS that surround the program. This is one of them that has been going on for 65 years. Traditions like this are also why good high school players want to come play at ND

      • lzkxj;ldj

        Really? Not only is the guard out there intimidating opposing teams, but they’re also a recruiting draw? Are you sure you’re not confusing guardsmen in kilts with no underwear with SEC hostesses in skirts with no underwear?

      • rando

        Yeah, and I’ll take the 169 year old band tradition over the 65 year old guard tradition any day. And the way the university was going after they saw what happened at OSU, the real tradition here was at major risk.

  • LTND

    Can’t we all just get along and focus on what unites us? (Shared hate of Michigan…)

  • Sammy2180

    Maybe it’s time for Dr.Dye to resign.

  • 2013 grad

    I graduated in 2013. In my four years at Notre Dame, I was acquainted with several members of the guard and I distinctly remember some conversations in which these members bragged about being drunk on the field, not marching correctly, and hazing the new members (it is not in my place to say whether or not it was like this in previous years). From my perspective, the Irish Guard was the sole fraternity on campus – a band of brothers tied together, yes, by a tradition of marching and uniforms, but more so by social traditions and the legacy of those who came before them. It is reasonable to mourn this tradition, especially if you were an intimate part of it. However, after my interactions with the Irish guard, I cannot take seriously any arguments about incorrect uniforms or marching style.

    While the new irish guard may not have the same exact traditions as the old one, it still exists. They are still on the field and still wear the uniform. It may not be the same fraternity that it once was, but I would argue that an average fan who does not know about all of this drama has not noticed the difference. To those besides former guards and band members, the Irish Guard tradition carries on as it always has.

  • goldseater

    I think it is demeaning to the current Guard members to say that the Irish guard “is no more.” In fact, the Guard does exist today. Perhaps not in the drunken, boorish, self-centered manner in which it existed in the past, but it does still exist. They looked and marched plenty well to my eyes last week and last night as well. And I guess the new Guard did their part in “intimidating” Michigan last night!

  • Bandiesfinallysomewhatpopular

    Sounds like the band members were jealous of the old guard and their ability to drink if you ask me.. Sorry they got laid bandies.

  • Bandiesfinallysomewhatpopular

    Saw the guard laughing and giving high fives… It’s not arts and crafts you morons. You guys act like it’s a game of candyland. ITS FOOTBALL BRING BACK THE INTIMIDATION you band softies.

  • Bandiesfinallysomewhatpopular

    Just because the old guard were taller and more popular than your 06 Toyota Prius doesn’t mean they aren’t qualified

  • Satisfied

    Congrats to the new guard and shame on the old guard for not accepting them. The guard this year is every bit as big as the inebriated version. They have marched beautifully, sharp, in step with precision and represent the University very well. The arguments from the Old guard do not hold water. If the oldies have a problem maybe they should look in the mirror and ask what they did to contribute to why the process changed.

    • Someone logical

      You obviously know nothing about The Guard’s marching technique. They are visibly off beat at all times and their overall technique is horrid. I understand the University/band’s stance on the issue as having the old Guard definitely made things more difficult for the directors, but saying that these kids have done a good job is frankly inaccurate. There’s a reason they didn’t make it under the old guidelines: they’re small and are bad at marching

      • Diamond Dog

        Rumors of their demise have been greatly exaggerated. I saw them last weekend, they looked great! FYI, all of the current Guard members are 6′-2″ and over. The only small person is someone who blames others for their own mistakes.

  • rob11751

    i dont see no brothers names , damn Celtic bigots