Monogram Club Musings - USC

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5752907.jpeg The Monogram Club continues to bring Irish fans the "Monogram Club Musings" following each home football game throughout the 2011 season ...

Last weekend, the Monogram Club welcomed a number of high-profile guests back to campus for a home tilt with archrival USC. A plethora of NFL and NBA talent graced the Notre Dame campus and the sideline was sizzling with star power prior to kickoff.

In addition, the Club had a strong presence at the 2011 fencing national championship ring ceremony Saturday morning in the Joyce Center.

- More than 200 football Monogram winners formed the pregame on-field tunnel for the football team to run through. The annual event is always well received by member. Recently retired Notre Dame Alumni Association executive director Chuck Lennon ('61, '62, baseball) kept the tunnel in order like he does every year with the use of his trusty megaphone. Way to go Chuck!

- The first quarter featured two ceremonies celebrating recent Notre Dame national championship teams. The 2010 women's soccer squad and 2011 men's and women's fencing teams made their way onto the field to be honored for their extraordinary achievements.

- College Football Hall of Fame enshrinee Tim Brown ('88) was honored during the first timeout of the second quarter for receiving a NCAA Silver Anniversary Award. Each year, the Silver Anniversary Awards recognize six distinguished former student-athletes on the 25th anniversary of the end of their intercollegiate athletics eligibility. In addition to the on-field recognition, Brown had a busy weekend on campus. He riled fans up at Friday's pep rally, before stopping by the Monogram Club's football lounge event to catch up with some former teammates.

- The 7:30 p.m. start time represented the first night game in Notre Dame Stadium in 21 years. The last Irish night game at home came on Sept. 15, 1990, against the University of Michigan.

- The Irish sported new gold helmets on Saturday that added plenty of sparkle to the clear skies that surrounded Notre Dame Stadium. Notre Dame director of athletics Jack Swarbrick ('76) has been frustrated with the color of the helmets over the last couple of seasons and charged Notre Dame football head equipment manager Ryan Grooms with the challenge of getting it right. To hear how the decision was made, click here.

- Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau has some free time on his hands with the lockout in full swing, so the 2011 NBA Coach of the Year decided to make the most of his weekend by attending a number of Monogram Club events. The Muse spotted Thibodeau chatting it up with some former Irish gridders at Friday's football lounge and at the Club's pregame reception on Saturday.

- The Muse always seems to struggle with in-game cell phone reception at Notre Dame Stadium, but didn't have the chance to catch up with Sprint CEO Dan Hesse ('75) on the Irish sideline to see if he had some pointers.

- The inaugural Irish Madness to kick off the 2011-12 Notre Dame basketball season certainly brought some star power to Purcell Pavilion on Friday night. Emceed by ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale, the event was awesome with a capital 'A', and included appearances by longtime Irish hoops coach Digger Phelps, San Antonio Silver Stars center Ruth Riley ('01) and the current Irish men's and women's basketball squads.

The highlight of the night had to be the running commentary from current Irish baller and all-around cool cat Joey Brooks, who had a couple solid quips during the dunk contest. After graduate student Tim Abromaitis and fifth-year senior Scott Martin - the elder statesmen of the team - failed to connect on a number of tag team dunk attempts, Brooks proclaimed that it might be time to get out the "Life Alert."

- Football Monogram winners Luther Bradley ('78) and Reggie Brooks ('93) had the crowd of more than 1,000 fans and supporters in stitches at Friday's football luncheon in the north dome of the Joyce Center. The two Notre Dame legends shared their favorite stories from the Notre Dame-USC rivalry while engaging with luncheon emcee Ted Robinson ('78), an NBC sports commentator and the play-by-play radio man for the San Francisco 49ers.

Bradley - the all-time interceptions leader at Notre Dame - had the line of the afternoon, describing an interaction with his daughter recently while driving past Notre Dame on I-90. While sneaking a glance at the Golden Dome, she turned to her father and asked, "Daddy, are you sure you played in a game there?" That one must have stung a bit, Luther!

- With a number of NFL teams enjoying bye weeks, the Muse identified some prominent Monogram winners on the sideline. The group included Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle Mark LeVoir ('05), New England Patriots safety Sergio Brown ('10), Chicago Bears tailback Armando Allen ('11) and San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle Ian Williams ('11).

- For seven long months, members of the 2011 Notre Dame national championship fencing team walked around campus with the knowledge that they'd achieved the apex of success in their sport. After this weekend's festivities, they finally have the hardware to show for it.

Joined by family, friends and members of the University of Notre Dame athletics department, the 2011 fencing team celebrated one of the most extraordinary seasons in program history with a special ring ceremony Saturday morning in the Monogram Room. The rings - funded by the Notre Dame Monogram Club - will function as a lasting reminder of the tremendous accomplishments the squad achieved over the past year.

"This was an unusual team," head coach Janusz Bednarski said. "In my 25 years here, I've never seen such a combination of talent and personality in one room and in one gym, helping each other. This was a team of dreamers and winners at the same time, which is very rare in this sport."

University president Rev. John I Jenkins ('76,`78), C.S.C., attended the ceremony and blessed the collection of rings before they were distributed to the student-athletes.

Jenkins lauded the athletes for their ability to come together as a unit, especially in supporting teammate Ted Hodges, who struggled to recover from a heart transplant during the season after being diagnosed with viral myocarditis in 2009.

"I feel privileged to be connected to this group," Jenkins said. "It is a team of talented individuals, but you don't win a national championship just with talent. You have to apply that talent and work hard. You went beyond application of individual talent to achieve team success."

Notre Dame athletics director Jack Swarbrick ('79) took to the podium after Jenkins and spoke adamantly about the program's elite coaching staff, and how excelling in sport prepares student-athletes for life after their competitive careers are complete.

"You had the benefit of great educator-coaches who used the sport of fencing to teach life lessons," Swarbrick said. "Even if you might not realize it now, this experience in five, 10 or 20 years from now will get you through a tough spot, because there's nothing like the pressure of athletics and having to respond in that environment to prepare you for the challenges you'll face in life."

Following the formal program of remarks, Monogram Club president Dick Nussbaum ('74, '77, baseball) and executive director Beth Hunter distributed the rings to the program's student-athletes, coaches and support staff.

"This team has given this University and the family of Notre Dame athletes the great gift of a national championship," Nussbaum said. "On behalf of 4,000 dues-paying members representing all 26 Notre Dame sports, we'd like to give back something to you in the form of these rings."

Sophomore sabreist Alex Coccia thanked the Monogram Club for funding the team's rings and showed his appreciation for the Club's ongoing support.

"The Monogram Club is so active in the lives of student-athletes during our time here and after graduation," Coccia said. "To have the Club present the rings and have them be a part of the ceremony shows how deeply involved they are and how much they care about us."

At the conclusion of the ceremony, the student-athletes posed for photos with their new rings and celebrated one last time before kicking off the 2011-12 season in hopes of capturing back-to-back NCAA titles.

But Saturday's festivities were meant to be a time of reflection, and the team's coaches and administrators ensured the 2011 squad will be a competitive unit the program won't soon forget.

"I'm so proud of these student-athletes, especially the graduating seniors that were so close to winning the national title in their first three seasons," fencing sport administrator and assistant athletics director Maureen McNamara said. "For them to finally get over the hump in 2011 was so special. We had a lot of stars, but there was a great chemistry and this team stuck together all season."

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