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From the Archives: Football fanaticism

, , and | Monday, September 23, 2019

Diane Park | The Observer

Football is a cornerstone of Notre Dame student life. On game days, electricity pulses through the student body as everyone anticipates the thrill of Irish football.

Prior to the game, friends often partake in time-honored traditions like the tailgate. However, some fans take a less conventional approach to football season.

Seniors celebrate their class with “Death March” tradition

November 6, 1975 | Maggie Waltman | Researched by Marirose Osborne

The “Senior Death March” was an annual Notre Dame tradition where hundreds of Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s seniors united to bar-hop across South Bend. The event traditionally took place the Friday before the last home football game.

The administration had previously shut down the Death March due to pressure from local bar owners. During the 1973 football season, the marchers were “very destructive” and had caused “much damage” to local establishments, according to an article by News Writer Maggie Waltman.

Senior class president Auggie Grace (’76) succeeded in resurrecting the Death March for the 1975 season, however. He won over bar owners by moving the march earlier in the day and giving it shorter hours. He also made seniors commit to paying for any resulting damages — “the senior class stands to lose money if too much damage is done,” he said. 

A comprehensive, hour-by-hour schedule for the March was included in the article. The day’s festivities began with a “pre-Death March rally” at Campus View Apartments. Destinations included Bridget’s, Corby’s and Nickie’s. Only Corby’s Irish Pub remains in business today.

Grace said “the administration neither approves nor disapproves of the march.” He considered it a celebration of four years of football and the class’s upcoming graduation. The commemoration carried special significance for the class of ’76, as it was the first fully co-ed class to graduate from Notre Dame. 

Death Marchers could also cap off their weekend with the Armory Party, a ticketed event with the student union. Grace promised “45 kegs of beer and 100 pounds of pretzels” for attendees. 

Undoubtedly, nothing quite like the Senior Death March exists today. The class of ’76 considered it the best way for seniors “to show a certain togetherness” and celebrate their hard work.

Alumnus calls for “foxy cheerleaders”

November 4, 1975 | Patrick Henry Buckley | Researched by Sarah Kikel

On Oct. 25, 1971, the Trojans trumped the Irish 28-14. However, alumnus Patrick Henry Buckley (’71) didn’t see that as Notre Dame’s only defeat. On Nov. 4, 1975, Buckley wrote a letter to the editor with a bizarre question: “Why was it only the USC cheerleaders that looked so foxy?” 

According to an April 15 report from the same year, Notre Dame’s ’75-’76 cheerleading squad was selected based on “poise and appearance, potential, crowd appeal, gymnastic and mini-tramp, jumps and personal interviews.” The female squad was also judged on dancing abilities. However, none of these qualities seemed to matter to Buckley — his focus on the cheerleaders’ “foxiness” remained steadfast.

Buckley said the student body voted against “girl cheerleaders” during his time at Notre Dame, though he jokingly questioned whether “that was before girls were invented or maybe that was the year they were all recalled for factory defects” (Notre Dame did not become coed until 1972.) If needed, Buckley offered to donate money toward a scholarship fund to recruit foxy women to the cheerleading team. 

Buckley seemed to hold out hope for the Notre Dame squad: “It’s high time my alma mater got as much television coverage of foxy women as USC,” he wrote. 

Columnist says no humming football songs

Nov. 12, 1987 | Kevin Becker | Researched by Evan McKenna

In November of 1987, as the last home football game of the season loomed over students, then-Observer editor-in-chief Kevin Becker (’88) asserted the student body “should get a few things cleared up” before the season came to a close. 

Becker addressed a phenomenon concerning some of Notre Dame’s most classic and iconic tunes — the Notre Dame Victory March, Alma Mater and Fight Song. According to him, many game-day goers hardly knew the lyrics.

Clueless students “[began] to sing the chorus of the fight song well before it [was] time to break in with the familiar words,” Becker said. As for the Alma Mater, Becker called out visitors for their “melodic mumbles followed by an overwhelming ‘Looove thee Noootre Dame!!’ 

In an effort to remedy the lyrical naïveté that ran rampant in the stadium, Becker ended his column with a complete listing of these often-forgotten verses. 

Things are different these days. The stadium’s recently-introduced video board flashes the Alma Mater’s lyrics for any confused students, and the Internet provides rapid access to the words of our fight song. With this wildly different home game experience, have Notre Dame students finally grown mindful of school songs? 

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Evan is a graduate of the Notre Dame class of 2022 with majors in English and psychology and a concentration in creative writing. He served as The Observer’s Managing Editor for the 2021-2022 term, and is currently rekindling his relationship with the Oxford comma. Reach him at [email protected] or @evanjmckenna on Twitter.

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