Herb Juliano

Herb's Archive features an excerpt from his book Notre Dame Odyssey, about the mysterious messages from the anonymous "Phantom."


Ara flanked by 1967 captain-elect Rocky Bleier and 1966 captain Jim Lynch. The captains are holding the Associated Press and United Press International trophies designating Notre Dame No.1 after the 1966 season.

Ara flanked by 1967 captain-elect Rocky Bleier and 1966 captain Jim Lynch. The captains are holding the Associated Press and United Press International trophies designating Notre Dame No.1 after the 1966 season.


Grantland Rice, called "the Dean of American sportswriters," wrote: "I will stand for the fierce and continued spirit of Notre Dame teams. Spirit is the most vital of all football factors. They got this from the Fathers at Notre Dame and from Knute Rockne. It can't and should not be destroyed." During more than one period in Notre Dame's illustrious football history was this spirit in danger of destruction. But always, something or somebody would come along to revive it.

During the eleven years in which Ara Parseghian was head coach of the Fighting Irish, each week of the football season an anonymous member of the coaching staff would write a letter to the team regarding the upcoming game. Copies of the letter were given to each player for his own personal reading. Always, the letters would be signed "The Phantom," so the "Phantom" became an institution for the football program during those eleven years. As you might expect, there was much speculation as to whether the "Phantom" was Parseghian himself, one of his assistant coaches, or an "outsider." Such as the case may be, they are interesting studies in philosophy and psychology. I have in my possession three of these letters from the 1974 season, Ara's most frustrating, which led to his resignation. First, the letter prior to Game 2 against Northwestern.

The Phantom Speaks

When the "Fighting Irish" assembled for their last reminders, against Georgia Tech; when they kneeled en masse reaching out to touch someone else on "our team"; the unity of team intention and dedication told me we would not be beaten easily!

Having prepared physically, mentally and emotionally, only the execution and effort remained to bring us our first 1974 season victory.

Everyone we play will rise up to their highest point for us. This is a tough reality that is really a high form of compliment.

It would be shaky if we were not aware of it...but we are...and this knowledge forearms us not to relax and never to underestimate the opponent.

The first win was a tribute to the offensive and defensive prep teams. It was the big "D" coming of age on a goal-line stand. It was an offense that played to overcome obstacles...for a full and complete 60 minutes. Within the great team victory were magnificent individual plays that spurred and ignited the entire team. This is the thrill in overcome all that opposes with the tenacity of effort and the cooperation of many minds and hearts "tuned in" to a final goal.

We have two rather worn sayings at Notre Dame. (I) That "we" have no breaking point. Behind by 30 or ahead by 30... we're coming after you with the same degree of intensity because a team that won't let itself be beaten, cannot be beaten. (2) NO GAME IS AS IMPORTANT AS THE ONE YOU ARE PLAYING! (What went before--other games, and other times, won't help now!) A long look down the road at an arch rival-will not help on the particular day of a contest with a different opponent. The game we are most involved with-the most important contest in the world to all of us here and now-is the one we are going to play. In this case Northwestern's Wildcats.

Each man learns to believe in himself and the things he belongs to. We all belong to this 1974 Notre Dame team. We must, therefore, believe that our small parts may become big parts in the overall success. We cannot waver or weaken, only prepare.

Someone once said that, "Success is when preparation meets opportunity.  Many people never find it because it is hidden under hard work." If the good things and moments of life come with work, LET US WORK WITH JOY! Nothing is sadder than "it might have been." Few things are more grand than "We did it!" Let's do it to Northwestern!! BEAT THE WILDCATS!!!!

The Phantom

On this occasion the inspiration worked. The following Saturday, however, whatever The Phantom had to say, it was not enough to get the team "up" and Purdue's Boilermakers upset the Fighting Irish, 31-20, in a game played in the rain at Notre Dame Stadium. This set off a chain reaction of frustration for Parseghian that reached its climax in the final game of the regular season against Southern Cal-the unbelievable second half turnabout which obliterated a 24-6 Irish half-time lead and wound up an ignominious loss to the Trojans, 55-24.

What happened in the Irish dressing room at half-time to cause such a urnabout remains a mystery to this day, to all save those who were present to witness it. To this day the rumors abound. Was it racially motivated? Were there punches thrown? The only point of agreement seems to be that half-back Art Best sat next to Father Edmund Joyce during the entire return flight. Before that game was played, however, The Phantom had these words for Irish players:

The Phantom Speaks

We have taken one giant step in our planned series of three-and now for number two. No one gives Notre Dame much chance of beating Southern Cal. In the many years we have played we are finally an underdog. Just as when we are made 30 points a favorite, this underdog role is an opinion.

We are walking into a situation where no one except those who really count figures we can do it. We-the players, the coaches KNOW WE CAN! ! A great effort-a great feat-starts first in the mind. The idea explodes in the thinking process, it crowds out the maybe's and the if's. It takes out everything negative and dwells on, We will do it!

The mind harnesses energy and stores it up. The body prepares and practices and works at the preparation. It slowly ebbs towards the climax and then with full heart and full team harmony-explodes at the game! All great efforts and all great achievements are a product of readiness. When the idea of "WIN" hits, and when it is coupled with fierce determination, no power can withstand such readiness.

Sure they are big and fast, sure it is their home field, sure they are smarting from last year's loss. This only causes doubts in their mind. Doubt is the enemy. Believe in yourselves. Believe in the "stout hearted" idea of team walking in-doing the job-and walking out victoriously.

Victor Hugo once said, "NO ARMY IS AS POWERFUL AS AN IDEA WHOSE TIME HAS COME." They are no army and our time has come!

What is size? Hell, if size were everything, elephants would rule the world. We are going to out hit, out heart, and out hustle Southern Cal. We are going to be such a bonded and connected group of team, that no one will penetrate us. Total unity, total concentration and effort is our goal, and with these we will win!

Eleven individuals can be bigger-faster-and more talented, but individuals cannot match the harmony of one "TEAM" with one "MIND" and one "GOAL."

In our fleeting lifetimes only rare opportunities present themselves for moments of great achievement. Though opportunity KNOCKS or WHISPERS- few are aware of it when it does. We have that advantage-WE KNOW the opportunity and thrill at the challenge for such a chance. The world's football eye is on us. Few give us hope. Those who do not cannot look into our hearts nor know the magnitude of our "TEAM DESIRE."

These are the "almost did" or perhaps "never can" -they never discovered the mystery of belief and faith in themselves. They allowed doubt! You lose or get beat or get blocked or tackled only because you think it first.

You can never be beaten if you refuse to think it and fight to never let it happen.


The Phantom

Obviously, that call for "total team unity" did not land on all ears and the Irish suffered their second loss of that season. Not all Irish stories are magical. But the season wasn't over. The Irish had a date to play Alabama, ranked number one, in the Orange Bowl on New Year's Day. Alabama would be coming into that game ranked first on the UPI poll and second in the AP poll with an 11-0 record. The Irish were going in at 9-2, ranked eighth in the UPI poll and ninth in the AP poll. Notre Dame had its job cut out and The Phantom, undiminished in spirit, was going to get in his words:

The Phantom Speaks XI

No one that understands football and our unique situation can view the upcoming game with Alabama as anything less than a great opportunity. It is an opportunity to close the season on a sweeter note than we had on the West Coast. It is a chance again to play the number one ranked team on national T.V. Great rewards go hand in hand with great challenges.

No one gives you a chance. The staff at N.D.-team members and the Phantom see things unlike the viewing public. We have a great chance! We have more than a great chance to beat Alabama.

The severe loss to Southern Cal was not our "normal" game. We know this-but no one else does. We are capable of beating any college football team on any given day.

People on the outside looking in, think Southern Cal overpowered us. They really don't understand the momentum switch and the "stunned" reaction. They think we quit and were that much inferior. We didn't rely on their observations or guidance or understanding before and more than ever, should not now. One thing we've never done is quit and God only knows we're not inferior to anyone!

Alabama has great speed! We have a little more size. They have a revenge motive. We have one also. There is no other way to meet this challenge than with a great "bounce back" effort.

All the seniors, juniors, sophomores and frosh-united with great harmony-and dedication to play an errorless game with a full heart.

"Pride" is our key now! We are not a "lame duck" just to afford an opponent to Alabama, but a football team of men that play to win whenever they walk on the field. In this case-it is the last walk for the 1974 team.

Make a vow-Do your part- BEAT BAMA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The Phantom

Coach Parseghian is carried off the field after his last game as Notre Dame coach, a 13-11 Orange Bowl victory in 1975.


The Irish did beat 'Bama, 13-11. And the spirit lives on.

For years, Notre Dame was a lighthouse to the immigrant dream, not only to working-class Irish who adopted it as their own, but for all of the poor Catholics with bigger-than-Iife ambitions and foreign names who saw in it not only a standard-bearer for their pride, but a symbol of their destiny.

In the early part of this twentieth century , when it took all of their fight and furor just to earn a living and battle the prejudice and prove their newly acquired loyalty to America, there was Notre Dame fighting and winning on the battlefield of that most American of causes, football.

Each Notre Dame victory was a kind of vindication for the workers in the dark little coal-mining towns of Pennsylvania and West Virginia. And the nuns in their cloistered convents said their rosaries for the Fighting Irish team.

To this day, it hasn't really changed that much, except that most of the students who come here now tend to be offspring of a prosperous middle class, for the most part polite, with an optimism that fits them as comfortably as their blue and gold sweatshirts. During orientation, incoming freshmen are still shown the movie "Knute Rockne, All American," but now the University also exploits its new pride, "Wake Up The Echoes: The History of Notre Dame Football," a real heart-tugger.

At Notre Dame, from the guidance and direction of demanding coaches and a self-imposed discipline, an improved image is created. At Notre Dame, a football player is a special kind of man. He does not only have the physical strength necessary for success, but also personal discipline and a more-than-average intelligence necessary to get into school, to stay in school, and to earn a diploma. Above all, he has dedication. A dedication that allows him to give of himself-both mentally and
physically-seven days a week and, at times, seven hours a day. A dedication that forces him to budget his time, to regulate his activities, in order to fulfill all obligations. A dedication that drives him to readily sacrifice, so that he may proudly say, "I am a Notre Dame football player."

And so to each Notre Dame player-from the All Americans to the lowliest prepper-a thank you and an admiring recognition-you ARE a special kind of man.


To read previous installments of Herb's archive please click below:

1998 1999 2000 2001 2002
September 1998
October 1998
November 1998
January 1999
March 1999
May 1999
July 1999
August 1999
October 1999
December 1999
January 2000
February 2000

March 2000

April 2000
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June 2000
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September 2000
October 2000
November 2000
December 2000
January 2001
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March 2001
April 2001
May 2001

June 2001
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September 2001
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November 2001
December 2001
January 2002
February 2002
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June 2002
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August 2002

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