Monogram Club president Joe Restic '79 (football) addressed the crowd at the Blue-Gold Alumni Football Dinner Friday night.

Monogram Club Musings: Blue-Gold Edition

April 20, 2011

media-icon-photogallery.gifBlue-Gold Weekend Photo Gallery

NOTRE DAME, Ind. –

The annual Blue-Gold contest is advertised as the “spring football game,” although spring has become a relative term in recent seasons.

This year was no different, as everything from tiny droplets to torrential downpour wreaked havoc in the South Bend area over the course of April 15-17 as temperatures barely reached 50.

And although the annual alumni flag game was canceled for the second-straight year, the rest of the Monogram Club events that define Blue-Gold weekend went off without a hitch, including one of the best annual dinners in recent memory.

Join the Muse as he walks you through each event frame-by-frame, with interviews, recaps, and photos galore from all of the important activities.

Blue-Gold Football Dinner

More than 450 former football players and their families joined 150 student-athletes and staff members from the 2011 Notre Dame football squad to celebrate the program’s great strides over the past year at the Blue-Gold Alumni Football Dinner Friday night in Purcell Pavilion.

Notable guests at the event included Dave Casper ’74, Luther Bradley ’78, Mike Golic ’85 and Allen Pinkett ’86.

One to two current players were stationed at each table to share their experiences and stories with monogram winners in attendance.

The dinner was catered by Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, and in addition to the delicious New York Strips being offered to all attendees, the Muse fell particularly in love with the joint’s famous sweet potato casserole. If you haven’t tried it, think warm pecan pie filling without the pie crust! Delicious.

The night kicked off with remarks by Monogram Club president Joe Restic ’79 (football), who summarized some of the impressive accomplishments by Notre Dame athletics teams over the past year. Restic then introduced athletics director Jack Swarbrick ’76, who remarked on the importance of Monogram Club members in helping current student-athletes achieve success.

“We need to remind ourselves that our success is built upon the shoulders of those that came before us,” Swarbrick said. “The great programs in the country have that continuity, from their historical greatness to their current greatness. You can only do that on a person-to-person basis, and we have to stay connected to our past because it is the foundation of our present.”

Football head coach Brian Kelly echoed Swarbrick’s thoughts, and was thankful that members of his team could spend an evening learning more about the players who helped get the program to where it is today.

“Tonight for us is a celebration, giving us an opportunity to reconnect with our alumni and our letter winners,” Coach Kelly said. “It is an opportunity for our players to reconnect with the past as they forge ahead and build our future.”

Kelly went on to reveal “The Shirt” design for 2011 and did his best “Project Runway” impression to fill the dinner guests in on the new duds that were unveiled earlier on campus.

From there, he introduced cornerback Robert Blanton ’12, who addressed the crowd as the 2011 football team representative.

“At Notre Dame it’s not about how hard you work, it’s about achieving excellence,” Blanton said. “We want to be mentioned with some of the great teams at Notre Dame and keep that pride and tradition that you all created and make it everlasting here.”

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Notre Dame men’s swimming and diving head coach Tim Welsh served as the manager reunion’s keynote speaker.

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90th Anniversary of Student Manager Program Reunion

One of the highlights of the weekend for the Muse was having the privilege of attending the student manager reunion in the Joyce Center’s Club Naimoli on Friday night.

More than 100 managers attended the function and reminisced about their time working for some legendary Notre Dame coaches and recalled their favorite memories from practices and road trips.

The evening was emceed by Monogram Club treasurer Ken Haffey ’78, who worked as a senior manager on the 1977 football team that won the national championship under head coach Dan Devine.

“Those of us who served as managers shared the same dream and passion to be part of something in the Notre Dame athletics department,” Haffey said. “We learned a number of invaluable lessons while being a part of the organization.”

Haffey’s fellow senior managers Mark Chain ’78 and Bob Sobanski ’78 made the trip back to campus for the reunion, and shared some of their favorite stories with the Muse from that memorable season. Obviously, the highlight for both was defeating top-ranked (and previously undefeated) Texas in the Cotton Bowl to solidify the national title.

Men’s swimming and diving head coach Tim Welsh served as keynote speaker for the reunion and commented on how critical the manager program is to the success of Notre Dame’s athletics teams.

Welsh has employed 26 managers during his long career at the University.

There’s a saying that if you want to succeed in an organization you have to know the people who run it. That’s you guys,” Welsh said. “Like this University, you are service-oriented, and the people you served are the athletes and the coaches at the University of Notre Dame. This is your community, and the community service you’ve given to us has made us all better.”

“You connected the ideas, the players, the tradition, and the life of Notre Dame and you did it with precision, you did it with loyalty and you did it with trust.”

After Welsh’s remarks, associate athletics director and former manager Tom Nevala ’90 took the stage to introduce a special video sent to the reception from former Irish head football coach Lou Holtz. Nevala also shared some memorable stories from his manager career under the always-entertaining football coach.

While Coach Holtz couldn’t make the event, he wanted to pass along his well wishes to all former managers in attendance.

“There are so many great things about the student managers and the contributions you’ve made to Notre Dame,” Holtz said. “You people are absolutely outstanding. Every manager that I’ve ever been associated with could write his own recommendation, and I’d be more than happy to sign it.”

Pre-Game Lunch Tent

Luckily for the Muse and all of the monogram winners in attendance, the annual pre-game lunch tent was fully equipped with plenty of hot chocolate and coffee.

Despite the soggy conditions, the tent became a spirited place for people to share a meal of burgers and brats while catching up with old friends.

The Muse spoke with father-son football tandem Tim Monahan ’61 and Dr. Mark Monahan ’96 about their careers at Notre Dame and how that common bond has shaped their relationship over the years. The relationship actually goes three ways, as Tim’s other son, Tom Monahan ’87, also suited up for the Irish.

As a result, when Mark walked onto the team in 1992, Coach Holtz already knew his name, which Mark was quick to point out was not necessarily a good thing.

Today, Mark works as an emergency room doctor living in South Bend while Tim is retired in Arcola, Ill. after working for his family business in a long and successful career.

The Muse also spotted recently elected Pennsylvania congressman Tim Kelly ’70, who just completed his first 100 days in office.

Kelly compared battling a major budget crisis in Washington to his first year at Notre Dame, when he was a freshman on the 1966 national championship football team. While people remarked on both occasions how unusual and special of a situation he was involved in, Kelly operated in a “business as usual” type mentality, as he had never been acclimated to the status quo in the years prior.

Overall, Kelly was happy with how the budget crisis was resolved, and is looking forward to making a difference in the nation’s capital in the coming months.

“I’m glad to be there,” Kelly said. “It’s great coming from Notre Dame, because I think you come in well-grounded,” Kelly said. “The people I went to school with here – the people I had the opportunity to play football with, to practice and pray with – it gives you a sense of who you are.”

Kelly made it back to campus for the first time in two years, and was happy to see a number of former teammates and friends. After leaving South Bend on Saturday, Kelly began a two-week whirlwind tour of Vietnam, Korea, and the Philippines, which will include important meetings and a visit with troops abroad.

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Kathy Speybroeck became the first honorary monogram recipient of 2011.

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Annual Dinner

The Monogram Club annual dinner was highlighted by the presentation of the 2011 Moose Krause Distinguished Service Award to Alumni Association executive director Chuck Lennon ’61, ’62 (baseball).

“I have watched Chuck all across this country, and whether he’s serving as president of something or serving a meal, he’s going to treat you exactly the same,” Monogram Club incoming president Dick Nussbaum ’74, ’77 (baseball) said. “He’s going to remember your name, he’s going to look you in the eye, and he’s going to really care about you and what you say, and there aren’t enough people like that in the world.”

Emcee Bob Nagle (honorary) was quick to point out that Lennon’s greatest career accomplishment may have been his spot-on portrayal of Judas during the Monogram Club Annual Mass just hours earlier. Lennon read the Passion spiritedly along with Monogram Club board members Haley Scott DeMaria ’95 (swimming), Terri Vitale ’94, ’95 (tennis), and Tom Galloway ’87 (football), who were in town for the Club’s spring board meeting.

A number of Lennon’s family members were on hand for the annual dinner – including daughter and Monogram Club board member Molly Lennon-Anderson ’92 (soccer) – who followed her father’s acceptance speech with a special presentation of her own.

Lennon-Anderson announced that Notre Dame head olympic sports equipment manager Kathy Speybroeck would become the first honorary monogram recipient of 2011.

In addition to serving as the director of the University’s renowned student manager organization, Speybroeck is responsible for awarding monograms to managers and ordering letter jackets for more than 200 annual recipients.

“Kathy’s worth and value to our Monogram Club is much deeper than any job description could ever entail,” Lennon-Anderson said. “She believes in the monogram’s meaning, it’s worth and it’s message. She takes pride in what it means to us.”

The recognition came as a complete surprise to Speybroeck who took the stage and emotionally accepted her monogram.

“I’m not a Notre Dame grad, but I’ve been here a long time and I’m very proud to be working at this University,” Speybroeck said. “I’m the gatekeeper of the monograms here because I’m very proud to give them out and I know how hard it is to receive one.”

In addition to these award ceremonies, the evening included a number of other speakers and presentations, including keynote addressed by athletics director Jack Swarbrick and men’s basketball head coach Mike Brey.

Recent honorary monogram recipient and safety announcement extraordinaire Sgt. Tim McCarthy joined his fellow members at the dinner, and closed the evening with one of his trademark quips: “Don’t let what strikes you most about Notre Dame be someone’s car.”

To read a full recap of the dinner, please CLICK HERE.

That’s it for this addition of the Musings. The Muse will see you again in the fall for what hopes to be another memorable football season!