Oct. 3, 2013

Dear Students,

In light of the discussion that has taken place since our game against Oklahoma on Saturday, I want to address concerns raised by some of you relating to confusion that surrounded the post-game playing of “Notre Dame Our Mother.”

The tradition of the members of the football team standing with their classmates and singing the alma mater began during the 2006 season. Ever since, it has been a valued part of game day at Notre Dame, especially for our players who frequently cite its emotional impact when reflecting on their experience as a member of our football team.

As part of that tradition we would, when the marching band traveled with us, also sing the alma mater after a road game. Regrettably, in recent years our attempts to honor this tradition, while traveling, became more difficult. Too frequently, especially after a loss on the road, the singing the alma mater was met with derision by fans of our opponents. We were not, as one might hope, accorded the same respect that we give to the military academies when they sing their alma mater – even in defeat – at Notre Dame Stadium. As a proud graduate of Notre Dame, having to deal with abusive behavior when attempting to sing “Notre Dame Our Mother” represented an outcome that was simply unacceptable to me. Faced with this reality, I concluded that we needed to decide what our policy would be. Should we sing the alma mater only at home and never on the road? Should we sing it after victories on the road, but after both victory and defeat at home? Should we sing it only after victory?

In making the decision, one of the most important steps Coach Kelly and I took was to consult with the student-athlete leadership of our team. As you no doubt know, different Notre Dame teams have different traditions. For example, our men’s lacrosse team enters the stadium led by a member of the team playing the bagpipes, but it does not play the alma mater after the game. Both of our soccer teams sing the alma mater after home games, but our basketball teams typically do not. I welcome these differences so long as they are appropriate and they reflect the preferences of the student-athletes.

After consideration of the matter, and with the input of the student-athlete leadership of our football team, Coach Kelly and I chose to sing with our band as it plays the alma mater only after victories – a fact that I discussed publicly after the decision was made. In this way the singing of the alma mater honors our University and becomes an expression of solidarity with the student body that we enjoy only after we achieve our shared goal of a victory for Notre Dame – whether that triumph comes at home or on the road.

I apologize for the confusion after the Oklahoma game, but it was understandable. We made our decision toward the end of the 2011 season, but having not lost a home game since October of that year, many of our players had forgotten the policy and half of them ¬- the sophomores and freshmen – had no frame of reference because they had never experienced a home defeat.

Coach Kelly, I, and – most importantly – our players are deeply appreciative of the support each of you provides to the football team. Every player who was on the field at the end of the Stanford game last year will tell you that they may not have prevailed without the energy you provided to them as we defended the “student end zone” during that memorable goal line stand. And that experience also speaks to why our team prefers to preserve the special experience of singing the alma mater with you, their fellow students, when they achieve the shared goal of victory.

Finally, let me emphasize how much Coach Kelly and I appreciate the manner in which so many of you have chosen to express you concerns about this issue to us. We recognize those concerns for what they are – the heartfelt view of the best student fans in the country. When, at the end of this season, Coach Kelly and I sit down, as we always do, and talk about what we might do differently in 2014, you can be assured that we will include our post-game activities as part of that discussion. I cannot promise you that, in consultation with our players, we will reach a different conclusion about our approach to the post-game singing of the alma mater, but I can promise you that we will carefully consider the issue in light of the concerns you have raised. For the remainder of this season, however, please do not allow this issue to become a distraction for our team or a detriment to your continued support for your classmates. With your help we will do all we can to be in a position, as victors, to sing the alma mater with you after each game.

Thanks for all that you do to support your classmates who represent our University as members of an athletic team. And Go Irish!

Jack Swarbrick `76
Director of Athletics