Dec. 14, 2007
NOTRE DAME, Ind. -
While the weather outside the Guglielmino Athletics Complex was frightful, the mood inside the Guglielmino Auditorium was quite delightful. More than 550 students, faculty or staff members from Notre Dame, Saint Mary's and Holy Cross lined up Friday morning to get up to two items signed by Irish head football coach Charlie Weis.
The first people in line apparently arrived shortly after 5 a.m. and by 6:30 a.m. a line of over 100 people existed outside the west door of the Guglielmino Athletics Complex.
"If I had to do it all over again, I'd probably arrive closer to 6 a.m.," joked Steve Santay, a Notre Dame student from Alumni Hall who arrived shortly after 5 a.m. with his friends Ray LeGrand and Sean O'Rourke. "But seriously, this was a great event and a really nice thing to do."
Some people used the autograph session as a way to get a holiday gift for an Irish fan while others used to it to have the head football coach address a signed football to themselves.
Weis was set to start signing autographs at 8 a.m. but when he looked outside his office window and saw a line of people down to the intersection of Moose Krause Circle and Leahy Drive he started signing at 7:45 a.m.
In the lobby of the Guglielmino Complex, coffee, hot chocolate and donuts awaited the faithful. Shortly after 8 a.m., members of the football office staff took trays of coffee and hot chocolate outside to the hundreds of fans waiting to get inside.
"Having breakfast for us was a nice gesture and was totally unexpected," Santay said.
For much of the morning, Weis averaged about a minute with each person in line, conversing with each fan as opposed to just signing every item as if it was handed to him off an assembly line.
"Coach Weis was really nice to everyone this morning," O'Rourke said. "We talked about some friends we had in common back home and had a good laugh. It was a lot more than just a quick autograph."
Shortly after 8 a.m., the line of waiting fans that extended outside the Guglielmino Complex was adjusted so that everyone could wait inside. The fans that had been on the sidewalk along Leahy Drive soon found themselves wrapped around the track in the Loftus Center.
"I was shocked to see the turnout we received today," Weis said. "Not that I needed another example of what makes Notre Dame fans so special, but this was just another illustration of why the Notre Dame nation is unique to all other places."
Because of the incredible attendance, Weis' schedule had to be rearranged Friday and Weis even ordered lunch for the fans still waiting. Fifty pizzas were delivered shortly before noon rewarding those who braved the cold in the morning and the ensuing long lines waiting for a special holiday present.
"I never had met Coach Weis before today and I'll probably never have any interaction with him down the road," said Perry Shoemaker, a Notre Dame student from Morrissey Hall. "But to have the experience that I had this morning with him is something I'll always cherish."