The Fighting Irish
Exactly where and how Notre Dame's athletic nickname, "Fighting Irish,"
came to origination never has been perfectly explained.
suggests the moniker was born in 1899 with Notre Dame leading
Northwestern 5-0 at halftime of a game in Evanston, Ill. The Wildcat
fans supposedly began to chant, "Kill the Fighting Irish, kill the
Fighting Irish," as the second half opened.
Another tale has the
nickname originating at halftime of the Notre Dame-Michigan game in
1909. With his team trailing, one Notre Dame player yelled to his
teammates -- who happened to have names like Dolan, Kelly, Glynn, Duffy
and Ryan -- "What's the matter with you guys? You're all Irish and
you're not fighting worth a lick." Notre Dame came back to win the game
and the press, after overhearing the remark, reported the game as a
victory for the "Fighting Irish."
The most generally accepted
explanation is that the press coined the nickname as a characterization
of Notre Dame athletic teams, their never-say-die fighting spirit and
their Irish qualities of grit, determination and tenacity. The term
likely began as an abusive expression tauntingly directed toward the
athletes from the small, private, Catholic institution. Notre Dame
alumnus Francis Wallace popularized it in his New York Daily News
columns in the 1920s.
The Notre Dame Scholastic, in a 1929 edition,
printed its own version of the story:
"The term 'Fighting Irish' has
been applied to Notre Dame teams for years. It first attached itself
years ago when the school, comparatively unknown, sent its athletic
teams away to play in another city. . . . At that time the title
'Fighting Irish' held no glory or prestige. . . .
"The years passed
swiftly and the little school began to take a place in the sports world.
. . . 'Fighting Irish' took on a new meaning. The unknown of a few years
past has boldly taken a place among the leaders. The unkind appellation
became symbolic of the struggle for supremacy of the field. . . . The
term, while given in irony, has become our heritage. . . . So truly does
it represent us that we are unwilling to part with it. . . ."
Dame competed under the nickname "Catholics" during the 1800s and became
more widely known as the "Ramblers" during the early 1920s in the days
of the Four Horsemen. University president Rev. Matthew Walsh, C.S.C.,
officially adopted "Fighting Irish" as the Notre Dame nickname in 1927.