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Notre Dame lore: A brief primer

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Published:   |   Updated: March 20, 2013 at 08:33 PM

New to the Fighting Irish's legendary football tradition? Here's a crash course.

What does "Notre Dame" mean?

Notre Dame is French for "Our Lady," a Catholic salutation in reference to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The school was founded on Nov. 26, 1842, as an all-male institution (female undergraduates first were admitted in 1972). The most recognizable landmark is a gold statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which sits atop a Golden Dome on the campus's main building.

 

Who was Knute Rockne?

Rockne, a former Irish football player, was Notre Dame's most famous football coach, winning 105 games and losing just 12 before being killed in a March 31, 1931, plane crash at age 43. He was known for inspiring locker-room oratory ("But don't forget, men — we're gonna get 'em on the run, we're gonna go, go, go, go! — and we aren't going to stop until we go over that goal line! And don't forget, men — today is the day we're gonna win!). His life was chronicled in a 1940 film, "Knute Rockne, All American," which also starred a young actor named Ronald Reagan as George Gipp.

 

Who was the Gipper?

George Gipp was Notre Dame's first All-American football player. He died of a throat infection on Dec. 14, 1920, at age 25. Eight years after that, as Notre Dame was enduring its worst season, the Fighting Irish came to New York for a game against Army. Before the game, Knute Rockne told his players that Gipp said on his deathbed that someday, "when the boys are up against it and the odds are piled high against Notre Dame, you ask them to win one for the Gipper. All right. This is that game." Notre Dame upset Army 12-6, stopping Army on the Fighting Irish 1-yard line at the final whistle.

 

Who were the Four Horsemen?

On Oct. 18, 1924, New York Herald Tribune sportswriter Grantland Rice wrote of Notre Dame's backfield — Harry Stuhldreher, Jim Crowley, Don Miller, Elmer Layden — following the Fighting Irish's 13-7 upset against Army. Rice's lead paragraph: "Outlined against a blue-gray October sky, the Four Horsemen rode again. In dramatic lore their names are Death, Destruction, Pestilence, and Famine. But those are aliases. Their real names are: Stuhldreher, Crowley, Miller and Layden. They formed the crest of the South Bend cyclone before which another fighting Army team was swept over the precipice at the Polo Grounds this afternoon as 55,000 spectators peered down upon the bewildering panorama spread out upon the green plain below."

 

What is Touchdown Jesus?

It's a 134-foot mural of the resurrected Jesus Christ that was installed on the Hesburgh Library, near Notre Dame Stadium, in 1964. Because it resembles the raised arms of a referee signaling a touchdown, it's affectionately known as "Touchdown Jesus."

 

Who is Rudy?

Daniel Eugene "Rudy" Ruettiger was a walk-on player at Notre Dame. He began at Holy Cross College and was three times rejected for admission at Notre Dame. He became an ND student in 1974 and served on the scout team. In 1975, his final home game, he dressed against Georgia Tech and was in for two plays, the last a sack of the Georgia Tech quarterback. Teammates carried Rudy off the field in triumph. His story inspired the 1993 film, "Rudy."

 

What is the 'Notre Dame Victory March?'

The fight song for the University of Notre Dame was written by two students. Lyrics were revised to their modern-day form in the 1920s. In 2003, a Northern Illinois University professor, in a study of collegiate fight songs, ranked the "Notre Dame Victory March" at No. 1 ahead of Michigan's "Hail to the Victors."

Notre Dame's song is best known for its chorus:

"Cheer, cheer for old Notre Dame,

"Wake up the echoes cheering her name,

"Send a volley cheer on high,

"Shake down the thunder from the sky."

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