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Campus reacts to new Irish Guard

and | Monday, September 1, 2014

The Irish Guard led the Band of the Fighting Irish onto the new turf of Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday for the first time since the band directors replaced the entire group of former guardsmen with band members last April.

“The Irish Guard are an integral part of the Notre Dame Band, and the whole band did a fine job on Saturday with only a short amount of time to get ready since arriving back on campus this fall,” Dr. Kenneth Dye, director of bands, said.

The changes to the structure of the Irish Guard included the elimination of the six-foot-two height requirement and the addition of one mandatory year of service to the band as a musician or manager. Although members of last season’s Guard auditioned for this year, none were selected.

“There is no longer a definitive height requirement for Guard members, and the selection process emphasizes stature, citizenship, band service, marching ability, attitude and poise,” Dye said. “All of the current Guard meet these requirements and have fulfilled a year of service in the band as either a musician or a manager as is consistent with the selection criteria.

“Eight to 10 members may march on any given Saturday based on the precision marching routines,” he said. “The group continues to wear its traditional uniforms, marching before games as well as during pre-game, halftime and post-game, and continues to assist with the pre-game flag ceremony.”

The changes met resistance, particularly from the ousted guardsmen as well as alumni who served in the Guard. The group has been in existence since 1949, according to the Notre Dame Band website.

After Saturday’s opening game against Rice, current students noticed changes in the Guard. Junior Kim Mai said the new members did not project the same force they have in years past.

“The Irish Guard … have a way that they hold themselves, and they’re supposed to be tall and stoic and poised,” she said. “That’s the tone that they set on the field, and now you don’t really get that. It’s kind of like the end of an era.”

Junior Connor Quigley said he disagreed with the directors’ decision to change the composition of the Guard and considered it a needless break from a noteworthy tradition.

“At a University that stands so much on tradition, why change such a big one?” Quigley said. “The Irish Guard is something that is very recognizable with Notre Dame football and is a big part of game days. I don’t like that they would change it … I would rather see the Irish Guard completely removed.”

Other students, however, did not perceive any drastic changes in the Guard on the field Saturday compared to the groups of years past. Junior Kerry Walsh said although the new guardsmen appeared shorter than their predecessors, their presence was the same.

“I didn’t see much of a difference between the Irish Guard this year and last,” Walsh said. “It’s hard to tell as a student in the student section that the members are different … I saw them at halftime and remembered that they had switched the policy, so I noted they were different only at halftime. I’m also no marching expert but they seemed like they were doing a pretty good job.”

Current and former members of the Irish Guard did not respond to requests for comment.

Last spring, Dye said he and the band staff, with the approval of the Office of Student Affairs, changed the requirements for new guardsmen in hopes of increasing the leadership potential of the group and the commitment of its members.

“We’re trying to elevate the responsibility of the Guard so that they exemplify the best qualities of a Notre Dame student,” Dye said in May. “… If we pick from the membership of the [2013] Guard rather than from an auditioning membership at the beginning of the fall, then we know what their record and habits and citizenship are, and it gives us a stronger pool of applicants and participants to really put the best people that we have in front of the band.”

Dye said Sunday he expects the tradition of the Irish Guard to continue as it has for the last 65 years.

“The Irish Guard is certainly a valued and unique tradition at Notre Dame, and the University hopes that its presence will endure for years to come,” he said.

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About Lesley Stevenson

Lesley Stevenson is a senior news writer for The Observer after previously serving as News Editor and an Assistant Managing Editor. She is a senior from Memphis, Tennessee, studying Film, Television and Theatre (FTT) and American Studies and living in Breen-Phillips Hall. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @lcstevenson, and visit her website at lcstevenson.wordpress.com

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About Jack Rooney

Jack is a 2016 graduate of Notre Dame, and The Observer's former managing editor. He is currently spending a year living and working for the University in Ireland, and writing columns to keep him busy. For more random thoughts and plenty of news links, follow Jack on Twitter @RooneyReports.

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  • bread

    If it ain’t broke—don’t fix it !! Has PC done in the Irish Guard ? Shame—looks like a needless change !! Out with tradition ???

  • Craig Smith

    Where was the St. Mary’s student or LGBT representative? Doesn’t seem to be very inclusive to me.

  • Domer1990

    My father was a member of the band, and guard, from 1956-1962 (undergrad and law school). He was big on tradition but would have liked the fact that band members should make up the Guard. But the height requirement should have been kept. It kept me out of the guard so fair is fair, right?
    Despite the foregoing, they did a great job on Saturday. Gotta love the band!

  • cincyirishman

    The Guard should have kept the height requirement. It is a Guard. Should be intimidating, stoic, and project a sign of strength. What will be the next tradition to go? New modern stadium? No more “house that Rockne built”. Change the name to be more PC..no longer “fighting Irish” . .maybe a taller tough looking mascot. Maybe other end of stadium should have “touchdown Buddha” so as to be more inclusive. Come on ND. Leave the traditions alone.

  • patrick moran

    Some times it’s ok to be ‘exceptional’. When you do take institutions like the Guard away you do hurt the whineys by depriving them of the object of their whineyness. Then they move on to the next thing and whine about it. When that is gone there’s something else to whine about and so on. Then, one day, nothing is left. Boy, the whiners will really be pissed off then.

  • sheesh

    Watching NDPD escort the guys who used to serve as the protectors of the band broke my heart.

    The crowd that gathered to watch the inspection was also broken hearted.

    Thanks Dipshiite Dye, oh I mean Dr. Dye. You’ve shown how you respect ND tradition. I hope I’ve shown my respect for your decision.

  • Derek

    What a joke, the old guard did just fine. This new group is a disgrace, can “progressives” like Dye just leave well enough alone? There were people much smarter than this guy in 1949, people who fought in world wars, the arrogance of some people never ceases to amaze me.

    • sheesh

      Someone smarter than Dye? Gasp!

  • Strapper

    As a past member of the Irish Guard from the 1980s it was hard to watch. Setting aside there was no reason to get rid of the height requirement, I was dissapointed the new guard didn’t know how to properly put on the uniform, can’t do the clog the right way, and didn’t seem to take the tradition seriuosly. I watched them dance around the sidelines like school girls and, at one point, one pretended to be a bull and the other used his plaid as a matador — embarrasing view that I had from section 8, with the ushers making similar comments. Guys — have some class — it may not mean much to you, but it was an honor and privilege that the rest of us took seriously druing our time at Notre Dame. The bottom line is it is no longer the Irish Guard and they should stop using the name. Another tradition dismantled for no reason.

    • jasonN

      Not the first time I’ve seen antics from Guard members. Most recently watching the old Guard carry around some stupid large branch at the Pinstripe Bowl without any rhyme or reason to it. At least this Guard won’t be hammered on the sidelines.

  • kovers

    These band members clearly had no understanding of the responsibility they shouldered when they put that Guard uniform on. My heart broke for all those who have worn the uniform before them. Instead of stoic, poised men who command respect, I witnessed child-like behavior… playing air drums, dancing, pretending to be a bull and matador on the sidelines. Although, I am sure these band members exemplify outstanding qualities of a ND student, they didn’t demonstrate a bit of understanding for the tradition, honor and respect.

  • Alan

    Did they at least carry on the tradition of not wearing underwear, or are we destined to no longer have the media snap shots of Guardsmen going commando at BCS championship games? #keeptraditionalive

  • daDeac

    Why did the powers-that-be have to go and mess with what was a fine tradition?
    Bull and matador? Change. It. Back.

  • BandAlum

    The height requirement should have stayed, but the Guard was full of a$$holes who were useless. They didn’t properly do their job and were constantly hammered on the sidelines while in uniform. Does nobody remember not to long ago when the Guard didn’t make the trip to Purdue or when NBC filmed them asleep on the sidelines?

  • steve

    “We’re trying to elevate the responsibility of the Guard so that they
    exemplify the best qualities of a Notre Dame student,” Dye said in May. So what does this say about those men who served in the past Mr. Dye? I guess they did not exemplify the best qualities of a Notre Dame student? Looking at the list of those that signed the petition I’d say they did exactly that.