BCS Countdown: The Origin of the Irish

BCS Countdown: The Origin of the Irish

January 3rd, 2013 by David Paschall in Sports College08football


In the 25 days leading up to college football's championship game between No. 1 Notre Dame and No. 2 Alabama at Sun Life Stadium in Miami, the Chattanooga Times Free Press is counting down the traditions and memorable moments involving the Irish and the Crimson Tide. Today is No. 4.

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Notre Dame teams were known as the "Catholics" during the late 1800s and the "Ramblers" during the early 1920s. They did not become the "Fighting Irish" until university president Matthew Walsh officially adopted the nickname in 1927.

How and where the nickname originated never has been precisely explained.

One story dates back to a Notre Dame-Northwestern game at Evanston, Ill., in 1887, which was Notre Dame's first season of football. With Notre Dame leading 5-0 at halftime, Northwestern fans began to chant "Kill the Fighting Irish! Kill the Fighting Irish!" during the opening stages of the second half.

Another tale dates back to Notre Dame's 11-3 win over Michigan in 1909, when a Notre Dame player irritated by a halftime deficit exclaimed, "What's the matter with you guys? You're all Irish, and you're not fighting worth a lick!" The press overheard the remarks and reported the game as a victory for the "Fighting Irish."

The most widely accepted explanation is that reporters coined the nickname for the university's athletic teams due to their fighting spirit and their Irish qualities of grit, determination and tenacity. Francis Wallace of the New York Daily News was a Notre Dame alumnus and popularized the "Fighting Irish" in his columns throughout the 1920s.