Sept. 16, 2011

By Craig Chval

When the echoes of Notre Dame show up in Notre Dame Stadium, they usually make their appearance in front of a packed house.

Like in 1980, when it seemed as though unseen forces calmed the winds and nudged Harry Oliver’s 51-yard field goal barely over the crossbar on the final play of the game to beat Michigan 29-27.

Or in 1992, when Reggie Brooks, with 20 seconds to play and Notre Dame trailing Penn State 16-15, stretched far beyond his 5-foot-8 frame to snare a two-point conversion pass, giving Notre Dame a breathtaking victory in the “Snow Bowl.”

Or in 1993, when Florida State’s number-one Seminoles arrived to play number-two Notre Dame, whistling past the graveyard by mocking Notre Dame legends in pregame remarks before playing as though they had seen ghosts and being overwhelmed by the victorious Irish.

Indeed, the echoes usually appear on game day – but not always.

Just a few weeks before that memorable Notre Dame-Florida State matchup, Notre Dame junior Christina Glorioso was in the Irish locker room inside Notre Dame Stadium, helping her fellow student managers apply gold paint to the Notre Dame helmets in preparation for that weekend’s game.

As she worked, one of the other managers told Glorioso that she had a telephone call, a call she had been expecting – and dreading. Glorioso’s grandmother, who had been in poor health, had finally succumbed.

Glorioso’s grandfather, Edwin Brennan, graduated from Notre Dame in 1928, before Notre Dame Stadium had even been built. His six children were all daughters, and all were of college age before Notre Dame first enrolled female undergraduate students. So Glorioso was the next in the family to attend Notre Dame.

Brennan passed away when Christina was just four years old. But his love was passed on by her grandmother. When Glorioso returned home after her first visit to the campus, her grandmother was already suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease.

“I came back to tell her and she couldn’t communicate, but she had a sparkle in her eye, so I knew she knew,” remembers Glorioso.

After she hung up the telephone, Glorioso walked into the dark, empty bowl of Notre Dame Stadium. She took a seat in the silence.

“I was calm,” she recalls. “And I realized how lucky I was, how peaceful it was to be sitting here in this big stadium, this hallowed ground, and being able to celebrate my grandmother’s life.

“I knew immediately that my time at Notre Dame was very special and it didn’t take hindsight to realize that I had been given many unique opportunities.” Not that it took the passing of Glorioso’s beloved grandmother for her to take advantage of those opportunities.

Her very presence in Notre Dame Stadium that autumn evening was a testament to that.

“I was very involved in athletics in high school, but I was not a good athlete,” acknowledges Glorioso, who nonetheless helped build and played on the women’s lacrosse club team that planted the seeds for Notre Dame’s varsity women’s lacrosse program. “For me, joining the managers organization was a way to be involved.”

Glorioso jumped into a competition with over 150 of her classmates when she enrolled in Notre Dame’s managers organization as a freshman. The process to winnow that group down to 17 “junior managers” was not for the faint of heart. Managers reported an hour before football practice started to prepare and finished cleaning up an hour after the last player left the field. At the end of their sophomore year, the managers completed peer evaluations as part of the process by which the 17 junior managers.

“I spent more time working on my peer evaluations than I did studying for my finals,” confesses Glorioso.

As one of the 17 junior managers, Glorioso spent that 2003 season working practices and sidelines during games. The following year, she was head manager for Notre Dame’s men’s lacrosse program, responsible for helping with practice and every logistical detail for head coach Kevin Corrigan’s program.

Upon her graduation, Glorioso went to work for a technology firm in Chicago, but soon realized that her passion lies in sports. So she enrolled in Notre Dame’s MBA program, worked in the business side of Notre Dame’s athletics department, and landed a position helping NBC’s production of Notre Dame football telecasts, after being cautioned that her role would be far from glamorous.

“I let them know that I’d been there before, and I was determined to fetch water better than anyone else,” says Glorioso.

And just as she had once earned her stripes by shagging footballs better than anyone else, Glorioso commitment to excellence didn’t go unnoticed. Before long, she was assigned to assist NBC broadcasters Dick Enberg and Pat Haden.

“It was an another amazing opportunity to see Notre Dame sports in action behind the scenes, ” she says. “That was when I knew that I wanted to have a career in which I can be in a position to share this kind of earned access.”

So that’s exactly what Glorioso did.

With her MBA in hand, Glorioso went to work at Clear Channel Entertainment (now Live Nation) and SFX Sports representing various sports and music properties, including Super Bowl events, the Little League World Series and the U.S. Women’s World Cup championship team. Now the chief marketing officer for Majesco Entertainment, Glorioso previously worked at Viacom, including as Vice President of Marketing at MTV Games. Among her many accomplishments there was turning the Rock Band franchise into a billion-dollar property.

“Being at MTV was so special because it was someplace that Notre Dame students wanted access to,” explains Glorioso. “That position really enabled me to have a platform to be appealing to Notre Dame and have an opportunity to give back early.

“So much of my life revolves around Notre Dame and it brings me so much joy, so I feel I could never repay fully for everything I’ve received, both tangibly and in my heart,” she says.

Glorioso seems intent on proving herself wrong. She serves on the Dean’s Business Advisory Council of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business, and is a founder of Notre Dame’s iNDustry Alliance, an alumni association of Notre Dame media and entertainment professionals. She also spends much of her time mentoring Notre Dame students determined to forge careers in sports and entertainment.

“There is a group who really want to get into sports, and it’s typically who you know, not how extraordinary you are,” explains Glorioso. “I really enjoy helping because Notre Dame students are really special – they’re pre-qualified.

“It’s so important to give back because I never would have been able to get into the industry without Notre Dame,” she says. “My whole career, which I’m passionate about and which I love, is predicated on being a manager at Notre Dame.”

Another of the ways Glorioso gives back to Notre Dame is through a scholarship she helped establish in honor of Dr. Sal LaPilusa, a Notre Dame graduate who donated his late wife’s pension to create a scholarship at Notre Dame. As a recipient of the LaPilusa scholarship, Glorioso had a chance to get to know Dr. LaPilusa.

“He used to love to visit campus and he’d come by and watch us painting the gold helmets,” remembers Glorioso. “Back in New Jersey, he’d invite me to attend Notre Dame alumni events with him. It was kind of like having a second Notre Dame grandfather.”

As she reflects on her time at Notre Dame and her accomplishments since earning her degrees, which also include scaling Mt. Kilimanjaro with a group of Notre Dame students and alumni and earning her master scuba diver certification, Glorioso thinks often of Edwin Brennan.

“I’ve often thought that Notre Dame is the closest place to heaven on earth, and I hope my grandfather is up there proud of me carrying on his legacy,” she says.

Legend has it that in his deathbed request, George Gipp told Knute Rockne that he didn’t know where he would be when the time would come for Rockne to ask the Notre Dame football team to “win one for the Gipper,” but that he’d know about it and be glad.

Chances are pretty good that Gipp isn’t the only Notre Dame “ghost” who is glad.