Monogram Club Musings - Air Force

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5714151.jpegThe Monogram Club continues to bring Irish fans the "Monogram Club Musings" following each home football game throughout the 2011 season ...

This past weekend, the Monogram Club joined with the athletics department to honor former Notre Dame football head coach Dan Devine by dedicating a new statue of the Hall of Fame coach at Gate A of Notre Dame Stadium. More than 60 members of the Devine family returned to campus to celebrate the momentous occasion.

The Club also hosted MLS All-Star Matt Besler ('09) at halftime of the men's soccer game versus Connecticut and put on its usual mix of popular football weekend activities.

- For the third-consecutive home game, a pre-game flyover electrified the crowd before the opening kickoff. Saturday's flyover featured a USAF B-2 stealth bomber named the "Spirit of Ohio."

- During the contest, Notre Dame football head coach Brian Kelly and the rest of the Irish sideline wore the adidas Breast Cancer Collection, a line of apparel and headwear created to support October's National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Notre Dame players also sported pink arm, wrist and head bands as well as pink gloves.

- The weather for Saturday's game was so perfect, Notre Dame Stadium announcer Mike Collins quipped you could "put it in a bottle and sell it." The warm, sunny temperatures were certainly noted by NBC News' Chief Environmental Affairs correspondent Anne Thompson ('79), who may have jotted down a few notes for an upcoming report on global warming. She stopped by the Monogram Club pregame reception on Saturday to share some stories and memories, as she roomed with Devine's daughter, Sarah, during her undergrad career at Notre Dame and has remained close with the family ... During her 14-year career with NBC News, Thompson has covered a number of front-page global events, including the death of John F. Kennedy, Jr., the Martha Stewart trial, the Columbine school shooting, and the 2010 Gulf Oil spill. She won an Emmy for her extensive coverage of Hurricane Katrina in 2004.

- Comedian Brian Regan enjoyed Friday's Dan Devine statue dedication and reception as a guest of the Devine family. Hopefully his flight to South Bend went smoothly, because he's been known to poke a little fun at the airline industry.

- The Muse spotted former NBA standout Pat Garrity ('97) at events throughout the weekend, including the Devine proceedings on Friday afternoon. Garrity received his MBA from Duke University this past spring and has moved on to a financial services career in Connecticut. The Muse wonders if Pat can still throw it down like he did during his time with the Magic.

- Up until Friday afternoon, four of the five national championship coach gates at Notre Dame Stadium were adorned with a sculpture dedicated to their namesake field generals.

Rockne, Leahy, Parseghian, and Holtz.

Clearly, something was missing.

Outlined against an incredibly sunny October sky that would make Grantland Rice proud, more than 200 family, friends, colleagues, and players of Dan Devine gathered at Gate A of the stadium to dedicate a sculpture in the Hall of Fame coach's honor. Many of the more than 60 family members in attendance had a hand in the blessing ceremony after the statue was unveiled.

Athletics director Jack Swarbrick opened the speaking program of the ceremony by musing that every Catholic University should have a "Devine gate," and remarked that Notre Dame is the first to make it a reality.

Swarbrick also surmised that Devine had arguably the hardest coaching job in the history of Notre Dame, following two-time national championship coach Ara Parseghian. But Devine nonetheless achieved great things at the helm of the Fighting Irish, including leading his squad to the 1977 national championship title.

"Under the toughest of circumstances, he achieved at the highest of levels," Swarbrick said. "That's a Notre Dame man, and that's the Notre Dame way. We are especially proud to be able to honor that in a permanent way today."

University president Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C. echoed Swarbrick's sentiments, and outlined Devine's extraordinary coaching talents both on the field and off during his dedication prayer.

"Dan Devine was a master motivator who always brought out the best in his players," Jenkins said. "May this sculpture inspire all who see it to face life's challenges with courage and hope."

Devine prided himself on the ability to mentor and prepare his players not just for competition, but also for life after Notre Dame. Fittingly, the statue - created by Jerry McKenna ('62) - is inscribed with the words: "Leave the field a better player. Leave Notre Dame a better person."

Former Academic All-American and Monogram Club past president Joe Restic ('79) represented Devine's players during the ceremony, and spoke passionately about the impact of the coach's decision to unveil a new green jersey for the 1977 game versus USC.

Devine didn't just give the jerseys to the players - he spent the entire week leading up to the game teaching the team about the importance of wearing green, and how that tradition has shaped critical moments over the course of Ireland's history, specifically the rebellion of 1798.

Once the uniforms were unveiled, the players fully understood the meaning of the motivational tool, and responded by drubbing the fifth-ranked Trojans, 49-19, to climb back into the national title picture.

"When we came into that locker room after warming up and saw those green jerseys hanging in our lockers, there was a tremendous outpouring of emotions," Restic said. "There were some fantastic collisions in the locker room, and we just carried that attitude right back onto the field."

Many of Devine's former players that made the trip back to campus attended the post-dedication reception in the Monogram Room, and the Muse caught up with some of his all-time greats.

All-America tailback Vagas Ferguson ('80), ran for 3,472 career yards from 1976-79 - the third most all-time at Notre Dame - and led the nation with 130.6 rushing yards per game as a senior during the team's run to the 1979 Cotton Bowl title.

"Coach Devine commanded respect, and as a young kid looking up to a man, he served as a father figure to me," Ferguson said. "He made you feel like you were part of the team and that you could be successful, and that was very encouraging as a player."

Ferguson formed a dynamic backfield tandem with Jerome Heavens ('79) during a large part of Devine's tenure. A two-headed monster during their three seasons together, the duo continues to receive rave reviews more than 30 years later, as they ignited the crowd of supporters at Friday's pep rally with a bevy of rousing remarks.

Heavens, the leading rusher for the Irish in 1977, feels that his teammates owe a lot to Devine for helping them develop into well-rounded individuals during their time together in South Bend.

"Coach Devine was a great psychological leader that captivated us all and brought us together to accomplish a true goal - to obtain an education, to be a positive member of the community, and to have a memorable experience at Notre Dame," Heavens said. "That's what we did. We obtained everything that we set out to do."

- Monogram Club executive director Beth Hunter presented Besler with a "Mike Bennett collage" during the football halftime ceremony.

In the first 15 years of Major League Soccer, the annual All-Star Game was played without representation from the University of Notre Dame. That changed in 2011, when MLS fans selected Sporting Kansas City defender Matt Besler ('09) to play with David Beckham, Thierry Henry and the rest the league's top players against British Premier League powerhouse Manchester United in July.

To recognize this outstanding achievement, the Notre Dame athletics department and the Monogram Club recognized the former All-American at halftime of the men's soccer contest versus top-ranked Connecticut on Saturday afternoon.

"Notre Dame has a very rich tradition in soccer and it's one of the best programs in the country," Besler said. "For me to be the first All Star, it's a great honor, and hopefully there are many more to come."

"The overall experience as an undergraduate here was phenomenal," Besler said. "Notre Dame teaches student-athletes good values and a good work ethic. You're presented with challenges on and off the field and are taught how to deal with those challenges. We succeed in the real world because of that."

After graduating from the University with a degree in psychology, Besler was selected by Kansas City eighth overall in the first round of the 2009 MLS SuperDraft. That is the highest any Notre Dame player has ever been picked in the MLS Draft.

- Another capacity crowd of 400 packed the Monogram Room before heading to Notre Dame Stadium to watch the Irish knock off Air Force. The menu was, in a word, scrumptralescent. With mini pizzas, pasta salad, quesadilla, tortilla chips, and guacamole in the buffet line, Monogram Club members certainly left the reception satisfied.

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