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Banner aims to boost ND football morale

Claire Heininger | Wednesday, October 29, 2003

With the Fighting Irish loss column steadily growing and student confidence rapidly shrinking, Alumni Association Executive Director Chuck Lennon decided it was time to unite the campus community behind its football team.

After a weekend of brainstorming following the team’s disheartening loss to Boston College, Lennon and other campus leaders announced their plan, the Notre Dame Spirit Banner project, Tuesday. Intended to boost morale and demonstrate unity, the display will consist of two oversized bedsheets bearing the words “We Are ND” with handwritten messages of encouragement from students and alumni.

“It started with [University spokesman] Matt Storin and I talking about what we could do to bring the excitement, the morale, the energy back to where it was before this upset loss,” Lennon said. “In his press conference, [Coach Tyrone Willingham] talked about how much his team will need a lift from the crowd on Saturday against Florida State … We talked about hanging sheets from dorms, but we wanted to make a bigger statement by sewing 250 feet together.”

James O’Connor, director of retail operations at the Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore, added that the idea for the banner was consistent with Lennon’s personality and reputation.

“The project is indicative of Chuck Lennon’s energy and spirit,” O’Connor said. “He was talking about the atmosphere on campus with the miserable weather and the team’s luck being a little bit down, and we knew that we had to do something to bring up the team’s spirit, and the best way to do that is to involve people. When the breaks are getting the best of the boys, people want to step in and see what they can do.”

Students will have the chance to contribute their messages when the two sheets are displayed in front of both dining halls Thursday. Around 6:00 p.m., the sheets will be symbolically joined and the band will march through campus, followed by student volunteers carrying the signed banner. The procession will continue to the practice field where it will greet the players with the fight song when their meetings conclude at 6:30 p.m.

“The band was very supportive, as were the Hall Presidents’ council, the bookstore and the maintenance and laundry departments,” Lennon said. “Our first call was to Robin Kramer in laundry, and she said ‘absolutely, we’ll start sewing tomorrow.'”

In addition to its presentation at practice, the completed Spirit Banner will be available outside the bookstore on Friday morning for additions from visiting alumni.

“The idea was to extend it from the internal community to the external,” O’Connor said. “That’s the beauty of it – if we can fill in those letters with thousands of signatures, we can get the entire Notre Dame family to make this idea quickly progress into a reality.”

The banner will then be showcased on the floor at Friday night’s pep rally, along with Ruth Riley, the 1953 football team and some surprise guests, Lennon said.

Finally, it will hang in the locker room on Saturday morning, with the goal of providing encouragement to the players as they run out onto the field.

“We have the opportunity to inspire the team and to make something happen,” O’Connor said. “That would get me going if I were in that locker room.”