AL.com - A group of University of Notre Dame student-athletes and administrators wrapped up a week of volunteering in tornado relief Thursday on a fall break service trip organized by Notre Dame and the University of Alabama. The trip, called Fight for Tide, brought 24 students and six administrators to Tuscaloosa to work in collaboration with Project Team Up, an initiative to rebuild communities partnered with Nick Saban's foundation Nick's Kids. Students representing the Notre Dame baseball, cross country, cheerleading, fencing, men's golf, women's lacrosse, rowing and track and field teams were selected for the trip based on essays they wrote. Sarah Smith, program coordinator for student athlete welfare and development at Notre Dame, said the idea to help Tuscaloosa began with a former Notre Dame employee who currently works in the ticket office at Alabama. He emailed the athletics office at Notre Dame and asked them to collect relief supplies that Alabama would pay to ship. Smith, who is originally from a town an hour away from Joplin, Missouri, began to come up with an idea of a service trip when students started talking over the summer about going to down to Tuscaloosa to help. "I just kind of ran with the idea and started calling people to see if it would be a possibility, and people started wanting to support it and make it happen," Smith said. After arriving Saturday, the group has worked at two sites in Alberta City, clearing storm debris on lots where new houses are planned to be built. They also met with Alabama athletics director Mal Moore and went on the field at Bryant-Denny Stadium, had dinner with Notre Dame's Alabama alumni club at Dreamland, attended Mass with students at the St. Francis of Assisi Parish on the Alabama campus and toured the baseball and softball facilities. On Thursday, at a site just off University Boulevard on 21st Avenue East, Alabama softball coach Patrick Murphy and several players joined the group from Notre Dame in clearing debris from destroyed houses and carrying limbs to the street. Notre Dame baseball player Tommy Chase said the experience changed his perspective on the important things in life. "I look at this as a great opportunity to help where there's a need," Chase said. "We get caught up at school doing a lot things for ourselves, whether it's in sports or in the classroom. Those are all great things, but it's revolved around our own needs and goals. Being able to come down here and help others is really important for my own personal development, but also I want to hopefully inspire this community in some way." Notre Dame sophomore cheerleader Erin Garfield took time away from her team to travel to Tuscaloosa because the fall break gave her time to join the service trip. On Saturday night, she'll be cheering on the sidelines as the Irish face USC in South Bend. "It's just been a great experience all around, hearing all these stories from people who experienced the tornado and getting to meet all these amazing people, Garfield said. Alabama sophomore softball player Ryan Iamurri said she was glad to share the experience of volunteering in Alberta City with the students from Notre Dame. "When you live here, you kind of get back in your normal routine, and if you don't cross this bridge (to Alberta), you forget what it's like," Iamurri said."It was so nice of them because we realize there's still so much more to do. To come out here with them is special."
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When you consider all the technology available today, it's downright amazing to think how archaic athletic communications were just a few short years ago. Need the latest University of Notre Dame football statistics? They'd be calculated and typed by hand on a manual typewriter (eventually the "big innovation" IBM Selectric typewriter came along), reproduced and mailed on Sunday nights and maybe you'd receive them via ordinary mail by Thursday. Need them quicker than that? The hit commodity in technology in the 1970s was the Xerox Telecopier (a facsimile machine) that required either four or six minutes (depending on how clear you wanted the type to read) to send a single page of copy to another Telecopier on the other end. If a media representative out of town needed your entire news release, depth chart and stats, it might take an hour or more to send it all. Breaking news happening on one of the Irish athletic fields? There was no simple way to communicate it. Pick up the telephone and dictate. Call media outlets one at a time to alert them about a hiring or press conference. Three technology advances changed everything in the sports information world everywhere - cell phones, the Internet and e-mail. For years the joke around the Notre Dame athletic offices was that the Irish quarterback on a given day might break his leg and - given that practices were closed to the media - there was some chance no one would find out until the next day. There was no texting, no Facebook - maybe no way for the word to get out other than old-fashioned word of mouth. The World Wide Web prompted the offering of athletic sites like und.com that debuted in 1995. In the beginning sites like Notre Dame's offered strictly the basics - mostly what was available via traditional press releases. There was no video in the "early days," and media members weren't yet routinely carrying computers or laptops. So, quite often, the plea to media to utilize school sites for time-sensitive items like statistics went unheeded. About that same time, cell phones changed the face of telecommunications. When current athletics staffers consider all the detailed scheduling and adjustments that go into, for example, a weeklong stay for a postseason bowl game, it's hard to imagine how those events ever occurred without cell phones. The Orange Bowl provided some new contraption-style portable phones to Notre Dame reps one year, but they looked more like walkie-talkies than the current variety and they didn't exactly fit in your pocket.