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    Monogram Club Musings - USF

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    The Monogram Club will bring Irish fans the "Monogram Club Musings" following each home football game throughout the 2011 season.

    This past weekend, Monogram winners returned to South Bend to kick off the 2011 campaign.

    In addition to participating Monogram Club events throughout the weekend, Monogram winners also bore witness to one of the strangest games ever to occur inside Notre Dame Stadium.

    Despite the multiple stadium evacuations on Saturday due to lightning warnings members still enjoyed the weekend, highlighted by the baseball program's annual reunion weekend and alumni game. The newest member of the Monogram Club was also inducted on Sept. 2 in a special ceremony. Keep reading to find out more!

    - The season kicked off in grand fashion in Notre Dame Stadium, as pre-game festivities were highlighted by a special flyover featuring two USAF E/A-18 Growlers.

    - Members of the Notre Dame football family who passed away over the last year were recognized during the pre-game flag presentation. The group included 19 football Monogram winners.

    - In addition, representatives of three current Notre Dame football families who lost family members in 2010-11 presented the flag, including current Notre Dame receiver TJ Jones, whose father Andre Jones ('97) died in June. TJ was joined by his mother, Tiffany, and twin sisters, Kayla and Kynna.

    - A much talked about storyline leading up to the game, Monogram winner and former Irish assistant coach Skip Holtz ('87) returned to Notre Dame Stadium Saturday as head coach of the USF Bulls. Holtz is in his second season at the helm of the program after spending five seasons as the head coach at East Carolina from 2005-09. Honorary Monogram recipient Beth Holtz was also on hand to see her son return to his alma mater.

    - Monogram Club first vice president Haley Scott DeMaria ('95) took the field during a third quarter timeout to be recognized as the recipient of the Notre Dame Alumni Association's 2011 Harvey Foster Award. The award is presented annually to a Notre Dame graduate for service to the community and the University.

    - Fresh off a productive training camp, Minnesota Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph took part in a few television interviews during pre-game festivities on the field. Rudolph pulled down a team-leading six receptions for 44 yards in four preseason games, including a touchdown grab in the exhibition finale against Houston on Sept. 1.

    - Chicago Blackhawks vice president and general manager Stan Bowman ('95) made the short trip east on I-90 to watch his alma mater take on USF from the Notre Dame sideline.

    - ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale sat with Associated Press National Coach of the Year Mike Brey (honorary) during Friday's football luncheon. Vitale and Brey are eagerly awaiting the start of another exciting season of Fighting Irish basketball. Brey's squad tips off the regular season Nov. 14 in Purcell Pavilion.

    - More than 20 baseball Monogram winners and their guests attended the events surrounding the program's annual reunion Sept. 2-3. Baseball head coach Mike Aoki kicked off the weekend with an open practice featuring the 2012 Irish squad on Friday, followed by a meet-and-greet and evening reception in Frank Eck Stadium.

    - Festivities continued on Saturday morning, as 18 former baseball players participated in the annual alumni game. Monogram Club president Dick Nussbaum ('74, '77) set the lineup cards and assigned fielding positions for each team, while the recently retired Chuck Lennon ('61, '62) set up his usual post in the dugout to enjoy the camaraderie that comes with the yearly event.

    - Although uniforms ran a bit tighter for some than they did during their playing days, baseball Monogram winners were delighted to catch up with the Muse to recall some of their favorite memories from years past.

    - There are thousands of individuals who make significant contributions to further the mission of the Notre Dame athletics department each year, but to receive one of the University's most prestigious athletics honors, it takes a lifetime of extraordinary service, leadership and support. Only 268 honorary Monograms have been awarded in the 95 years since the Club was founded. So to be number 269, Rees LaBar ('53) truly had to do something special.For a lifetime of astounding achievements and service to our Lady's University, LaBar received his Monogram blazer and scroll at a surprise ceremony on Sept. 2 at the Morris Inn.

    "This is truly something I would never have expected," LaBar said. "Being aligned with Notre Dame is truly a special honor. It's a unique place, and the people here make it easy for you to feel good about yourself."

    LaBar and his wife, Carol, together are two of the largest contributors in Notre Dame history to undergraduate scholarships for deserving students. More than 100 students from the Cincinnati area have attended Notre Dame as a result of their long-time financial support.

    In addition, the LaBars have endowed the directorship for Academic Services for Student-Athletes, the department that provides academic support for Notre Dame's 650 student-athletes. They also have created two Hesburgh Library endowments.

    Also significant contributors to the athletics department's facilities upgrade initiative, the LaBars served as the lead benefactors for the $2.5 million LaBar Practice Complex, a three-field football practice facility that opened in 2008. The FieldTurf practice fields are available for use primarily by the football squad, but also for lacrosse, soccer and RecSports use.

    - Not sure if it's a record, but a jam-packed crowd of 815 Monogram winner and their guests stopped into the Monogram Room to spend some time relaxing and renewing old acquaintances at the Club's pre-game reception Saturday morning. The menu was burgers, brats, and a personal favorite of the Muse - baked macaroni & cheese.

    - Mark LaFrance

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