From the Archives: The Blue and Gold Game — a time of hellos and goodbyes
On a bright and sunny Saturday morning, students roamed around campus clad in Irish gear, music blared on the quads and a palpable energy radiated from Notre Dame stadium. It was game day. On May 1, 2021, the Fighting Irish football team squared up against each other in the annual Blue and Gold Game, bringing the excitement of a Notre Dame football game to a beautiful spring day.
The Blue and Gold Game and the NFL Draft this past weekend were bittersweet reminders of all the talented athletes who will be graduating this year. This week’s edition of From the Archives celebrates the legendary legacy of Fighting Irish athletics, as we say goodbye to players whom we have grown to love and support and prepare to welcome a new generation of talented athletes.
Late sports writer Lou Somogyi recaps 1983 Blue and Gold Game
May 13, 1983 | Lou Somogyi | Researched by Evan McKenna
This edition of From the Archives is all about the hellos and goodbyes — so when our team found yet another outstanding example of the late Lou Somogyi’s coverage from his time at The Observer, we couldn’t help but pay tribute to the legendary sports writer to whom we all recently had to say goodbye.
In the May 13, 1983 edition of The Observer, then-sports writer Lou Somogyi (‘84) recounted the 1983 Blue and Gold Game, a smackdown between the first-unit Blue squad and second-unit White squad.
1983’s matchup looked different from this year’s in a few ways: While the 2021 game featured a relatively low-scoring 17-3 win for Blue, crowds in 1983 were treated with a more exciting 33-21 battle in which Blue also came out on top. And while 2021 saw Notre Dame Stadium at 20% capacity — capped at 15,525 tickets under COVID-19 restrictions — the pre-renovation 1983 scrimmage brought 20,028 fans into a smaller stadium.
While the game had its fair share of enthralling moments — including walk-on Thant Wright’s 100-yard touchdown run for the White team — the real star of the show here is the late Somogyi’s stellar reporting. From the beginning of his time at The Observer, Somogyi showed a deep passion for all things Irish, and demonstrated an “encyclopedic knowledge” of Notre Dame athletics. His 1983 Blue and Gold Game coverage is no exception — through his attention to detail and lively wordplay, Somogyi transforms a relatively standard scrimmage into a battle for the ages.
As I looked through dozens of Somogyi’s old columns and sports stories during my research for this piece, I came to notice one thing about his pieces — each was marked by admirable amounts of thought and care. For Somogyi, the heart of sports was humanity. And no story was ever too small: In 1981, he founded and hosted a “Club Corner” column in which he highlighted the lesser-known stories of club sports on campus. Somogyi poured his heart and soul into the football beat — week after week, he delighted in chronicling the electric energy of Notre Dame Stadium — but he also regularly took the time to write about the little things: the new but growing Notre Dame Gymnastics Club. The postseason standings of the Notre Dame-Saint Mary’s ski team. The afternoon activities of the Notre Dame Sailing Club.
Not many members of our Archives team knew much about Somogyi’s life at our first meeting following his death, so we spent our first few minutes together sifting through his four years of contributions to The Observer’s sports section. Whether or not you were a fan of Somogyi’s work during his lifetime, I encourage you to do the same: Visit The Observer’s digital archives website and search “Lou Somogyi.” Take a few minutes to read through his old writing, and to appreciate the immense amount of care he put into every word. I don’t think you’ll regret it.
Reminiscing on a remarkable year in Irish sports
May 7, 1971 | Jim Donaldson | Researched by Uyen Le
Nearing the end of the 1970-1971 academic year, Jim Donaldson (‘73), then-sports editor of The Observer, reflected on the impressive accomplishments of Notre Dame’s student athletes over the year.
That year, the Fighting Irish football, basketball and hockey teams finished with successful seasons. The football team won the Cotton Bowl in an upset against the Texas Longhorns, who were ranked first in their conference. After defeating the previously undefeated UCLA Bruins on Jan. 23, 1971, only a few weeks after the Cotton Bowl win, the Irish basketball team also moved to the number one position. To top off the successful year, the hockey team, in only its third year of existence, defeated the Denver Pioneers, who went on to finish second in the NCAA hockey program.
As he reveled in these athletic triumphs, Donaldson also expressed a “tinge of regret” as the year came to a close. “So many of the young men who played important roles in the athletic dramas of the past year have played their final game for the Blue and Gold,” he reflected.
Paying tribute to graduating athletes, Donaldson highlighted some stars of the season. He described Larry DiNardo (‘71), a two-time All-American guard and co-captain of Notre Dame’s football team, as “a perfect Notre Dame man.”
Another notable name on the list was Joe Theismann (‘71), who led the Fighting Irish football team to “their first Bowl victory since the days of the Four Horsemen” and went on to play for the NFL for over a decade. Theismann started 25 games as the Irish’s quarterback, winning 20 of them. A formidable player, Theismann, nicknamed “The South River Roadrunner,” “surpassed [Terry] Hanratty and the immortal Gipper in the N.D. record book.” In 2003, Theismann was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
Deemed “the greatest player in Notre Dame history” by Donaldson, Austin Carr (‘71) propelled the Irish into “the national basketball limelight” in his three years on the court. In addition to being a phenomenal player, Carr was also a humble and soft-spoken leader beloved by his teammates.
“When Austin says, ‘Let’s go!’ you feel like jumping through the roof,” captain Doug Gemmell remarked.
Donaldson went on to recount many other seniors’ achievements in their respective athletic programs. He also recognized the senior sports writers in The Observer and Scholastic for their dedication to chronicling Irish athletics.
After contemplating an unforgettable year, Donaldson ended on a nostalgic note. “I’ve just about run out of memories for now. And out of space, too. You know, it really has been a great year.”
2010 Blue and Gold Game begins Brian Kelly’s coaching career
April 26, 2010 | Laura Myers | Douglas Farmer | Researched by Spencer Kelly
The Blue and Gold Game has been the site of many tearful goodbyes over the years. As the last team practice of the school year, it naturally cultivates a sense of closure. But for new players and coaches, the spring game can be a first opportunity.
Brian Kelly’s experience was the latter. After finishing the 2009 season at Cincinnati, the April 24, 2010 Blue and Gold game — albeit a scrimmage — marked Kelly’s first game at Notre Dame.
“It’s the first coat of paint for us,” Kelly said. “This is a process that we’ve entered into and we know that this is not a destination for us.”
As for the game itself, the Gold team picked up a 27-19 win. Starting as quarterback for the victors was Nate Montana who, after walking on in the fall from Pasadena City College, had his first chance to suit up for the school where his father Joe is a legend.
Nate Montana would only attempt nine regular season passes for the Irish, but other future standouts appeared: Kyle Rudolph caught four passes, Cierre Wood ran for 111 yards, Theo Riddick scored a touchdown and Manti Te’o racked up eight tackles. The latter three would play starring roles in Notre Dame’s 12-win season in 2012.
Overall, the game was a promising start to the Brian Kelly era. Then-sports editor Douglas Farmer wrote about his excitement for the Irish in a column on the same day.
“Kelly has already sparked more change throughout the program than was seen in the previous five years,” Farmer wrote. “Notre Dame football is headed in the right direction under Brian Kelly.”
Kelly himself was just excited to be inside Notre Dame Stadium for the first time.
“I will not understate the wow factor of coming into this incredible stadium,” Kelly said. “Having said that, I’ve waited my entire life for this opportunity so I’m going to be pretty excited every game we play.”
“Now, we’ve got to win some games,” Kelly said. “That makes it really exciting. And that’s what we’ll be looking forward to doing.”