this except from his book Notre Dame Odyssey, Herb talks about the famous Notre
Dame pep rallies, (those in the old Fieldhouse) the spirit of Notre Dame students and
fans, and the mysterious "Phantom" of the Ara Parseghian years.
The Spirit and The Phantom
Allow me to repeat myself. There is no university in the
world whose name is more synonymous with spirit that the University of Notre Dame. And, I
would venture, never is that spirit more evident than in pep talks and at pep rallies. The
phrase Notre Dame spirit is tossed around a lot in the course of a season, but what does
it really mean to the coaches and players? Just what do they think of this intangible,
this mystique called the Notre Dame spirit?
The enthusiasm of the student body helps the team immeasurably. Any time you are at
home, or even if you are away and a number of students make the trip, the team looks for
it as the Notre Dame way of behavior. And I use that factor, telling them, "Those are
our students, the students you are playing for."
- -Coach John Ray
You are, by all means, emotionally keyed up before a rally
even starts. But many times, just watching the guys in the fieldhouse can
give you that extra push that can make the difference in a close game.
Pep rallies are as much a part of Notre Dame spirit as
Rockne and the Four Horsemen. They reflect the interest of the student and show us that
there really are thousands of students behind us.
Whether you are going to play the next day or not, you look
down from your seat, and you really know what the phrase means, "Remember who you are
and what you represent."
Rallies reflect the importance of a game for both the team
and the students. A visitor at the rallies would feel how such a game like Southern Cal
meant to us, but even at the Carolina rally I had visitors tell me it was the greatest
rally they had ever seen.
Pep rallies and pep talks, of course, don't always
accomplish what they are meant to accomplish. Perhaps the most famous pep talk in Notre
Dame's football history, or in all of history for that matter, Rockne's "Win one for
the Gipper" speech at half-time of the 1928 Notre Dame-Army game in Yankee Stadium,
was occasioned by the fact that his pep talk prior to the game was not doing the job,
albeit this pep talk is more representative of all Rockne pep talks. 'The talk was dubbed
from the Walter Cronkite CBS-TV series "Twentieth Century" and I have annotated
it to give you a better idea of how it was delivered.
Rockne's delivery was staccato. He spoke in rushes. He hit key words hard-not often enough
to detract eventually from the impact of such stresses. Sometimes he hit the key word or
words explosively-then dropped his voice quickly, almost to sotto voce. Example: EVERY
PLAY-but under control ... He accelerates his pace notably toward the end of this
exhortation. NOTE: Toward the end of this talk he uses the injunction..."Don't
forget, men"...twice, with a variation of inflection.
All right, Collins: you and Kolrick will play the ends.
And the same backfield: Jimmy*, Collins, Chevigny (Shev-in-yeh) and Niemiec (Nee- mik).
Now-w, it's the test of any team, men. Based on team-play-the same as you've shown all
year-: Sacrifice; unselfish sacrifice!
These are the fellows they say are pretty good; but I think we're better!
And I think if we get ourselves keyed up to a point, and when we're confident of that ...
why-y-y** the results will take care of themselves.
All right, now. On the kickoff-if we receive, the zone men will drop back to the receiver
and block long-that old Notre Dame style.
If we kick off-which the rest of the teams want-let's run down fast-just as fast as you
And then we go on defense.
And on defense-I want the center in and out of that line-according to the situation.***
Use your old head!
And I want you guards charging through as far as you can go-on every play. Expect the play
right over you every time-.
And the tackles-I want you to go in a yard and a half-and then check yourselves. Spread
your feet-squat down low-and be ready with your hands and elbows, so you won't be
But I want the ends in there fast every play. Every play, but under control.
And you men in the backfield-I want you to analyze it before you move. If you go for a
forward pass, a zone pass, wait until you see the ball in the air-and then go get it!
And when we get it, boys, that's when we go on offense. And that's when we go to 'em-and,
don't forget, we pick on that tackle that is weak.
We're going inside of 'em, we're going outside of 'em-inside of 'em outside of 'em- and
when we get them on the run once, we're going to keep 'em on the run.
And we're not going to pass unless their secondary comes up too close.
But, don't forget, men-when we get 'em on the run, we're going to go, go, go!-and we
aren't going to stop until we go over that goal line!
And don't forget, men-today is the day we're going to win.
They can't lick us-and that's how it goes...
The first platoon men-go in there and FIGHT, FIGHT, FIGHT, FIGHT, FIGHT What do you say,
*Jim Brady, quarterback
**'This was a drawl, not a case of stutters.
** *This was a defensive-center instruction in a seven-man line.
It should be noted that Notre Dame entered this game as the decided
underdog, as the result of a shortage of material. Army at that time still could use
players who had exhausted their eligibility in college competition. But the "Win one
for the Gipper" speech in the locker room at half-time evoked the magic. The Fighting
Irish overcame a 6-0 deficit by scoring two touchdowns and holding off a last-minute Army
rally to win 12-6. What would have been Rockne's only losing season was averted.
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 Garne 2 against
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 football ... to overcome all that opposes with the te- nacity 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. (1) 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 leams 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!!!!
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 turnabout 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 harrnony 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.
WITH A FULL HEART-WITH A GREAT EMOTION-AND A CHAMPION'S POISE-LET'S GO BEAT THE HELL OUT
OF SOUTHERN CAL!!!!
BEAT SOUTHERN CAL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 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 I 1-0 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
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
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
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-
The Irish did beat 'Bama, 13-1 1. 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-life
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
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.
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