Herb Juliano

 In 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.

-George Goeddeke

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.

-Jim Smithberger

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."

-Hugh O'Malley

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.

-Tom Rhoads

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 can run.
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 sideswiped.
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, men!
*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 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 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!!!!
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 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.

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 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
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 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:

September 1998

October 1998

November 1998

January 1999

March 1999

May 1999

July 1999

August 1999