Legendary Notre Dame football head coach Ara Parseghian presented the flag prior to the Michigan game to commemorate the 125th anniversary of Notre Dame football (courtesy of Mike & Susan Bennett).

Monogram Club Musings: Michigan Edition

Sept. 24, 2012

Michigan Weekend Photo Gallery

This football season, the Monogram Club will continue to produce the “Monogram Club Musings,” a regular online column following each home football weekend. The publication will fill Monogram winners in on Club events throughout the season, provide information on alumni and prominent figures that return to campus for the game and highlight Monogram Club presentations and activities that occur during the fall.

If you can’t make it to campus, but would like to update the Monogram Club on what you’ve been up to, please send an email to mlafranc@nd.edu and “The Muse” will include it in an upcoming edition.

This past weekend, the Monogram Club brought its members together with its usual slate of popular football weekend activities and welcomed more than 70 members of the 1977 national championship football team back to campus for their 35-year reunion. With more than 1,500 members and guests passing through the Club’s events, it proved to be one of our best football weekends to date!

Keep reading to find out more!

Michigan Game Notes

– Former Notre Dame head football coach Ara Parseghian and his wife, Katie, presented our national colors during the pre-game flag ceremony, in recognition of Notre Dame’s celebration this season of 125 years of football (1887-2012). Parseghian was joined on the field by 1964 Heisman Trophy winner John Huarte as well as a group of captains of Parseghian-coached Irish teams. The contingent included Jim Carroll (’64), Phil Sheridan (’65), Larry DiNardo (’70), Walt Patulski (’71), John Dampeer (’72), Frank Pomarico (’73) and Mike Townsend (’73).

– Members of the 1977 Notre Dame football national championship team were honored on the field during a special pregame ceremony. The team also appeared at Friday’s pep rally, with captain Ross Browner (’78) addressing the capacity crowd in front of the Hesburgh Library. Look for a full reunion recap later in the Musings.

– More than 200 football Monogram winners formed the pre-game tunnel through which the current Notre Dame ran through as it took the Notre Dame Stadium field just prior to kickoff.

– Women’s basketball head coach Muffet McGraw led members of her 2011-12 squad onto the field during the first quarter to be recognized for last season’s memorable run to the NCAA Championship title game.

– The pre-game flyover featured four U.S. Air Force F-16 planes from the 309th Fighter Squadron located at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz. The participating pilots included Air Force Major Greg Keller (’11), Major Steve Whisler, Major Brendan Shannon and Captain Tom Hayes.

– Saturday’s safety announcement from 2010 honorary Monogram recipient Sgt. Tim McCarthy: “Remember, drivers get too loose if they drive half tight.”

Sightings Around Campus

– The one and only Jerome Bettis (’93) returned to campus for the Michigan game and was his usual genial self, posing for pictures with fans, Notre Dame athletes, and a thrilled Irish women’s basketball team. Monogram Club alumni relations manager Reggie Brooks (’93) spent much of the weekend with his former backfield mate and also caught up with 1987 Heisman Trophy Winner Tim Brown (’88). The Muse spotted Brown at Friday’s pep rally as well as on the Notre Dame sideline prior to Saturday night’s game.

– The Muse took in the Friday Football Luncheon from Table 28 and was seated close to World Golf Hall of Famer Billy Casper, who was on campus to spend some time with the Irish men’s golf team. Casper spent his freshman year at Notre Dame before opting to compete as a professional golfer. The San Diego, Calif., native won 51 times on the PGA Tour (ranking him seventh all-time) from 1954-1971 and captured three major titles, including the 1959 and 1966 U.S. Opens and the 1970 Masters.

– Former Tampa Bay Rays owner Vince Naimoli (’59) also made an appearance at the Friday Football Luncheon and sat with current men’s basketball student-athlete Joey Brooks (’13). Naimoli, who still resides in Tampa, is a proud supporter of the Notre Dame basketball teams and often hosts both the men’s and women’s programs when they play at USF during the BIG EAST season.

– Notable former players from the most recent era of Notre Dame football returning for the Monogram tunnel included Grant Irons (’01), Ryan Grant (’05), Corey Mays (’05) and Chris Stewart (’09).

1977 Football National Championship Team Reunion

(left to right): Monogram Club past president Joe Restic (’79, football) and treasurer Ken Haffey (’78, student manager) at their 1977 National Championship Football Team reunion dinner.

In one of the best attended football reunions the Muse can remember, more than 70 members of that legendary 1977 Notre Dame national championship football team returned to campus to celebrate the 35th anniversary of their memorable race to the top. Former teammates reconnected during a Friday night dinner, a host of tailgates on Saturday, and at special recognition ceremonies at the Friday pep rally and on the field of Notre Dame Stadium during pre-game festivities on Saturday.

“I’m one of those guys that believes in the power of nostalgia, and to see all my teammates again that I went to battle with is special,” consensus All-America defensive back Luther Bradley (’78) said. “We’ve always had a great camaraderie because we know we did something special with an opportunity that only comes around once in a lifetime.”

Led by Hall of Fame head coach Dan Devine and a wealth of legendary Notre Dame student-athletes, the Fighting Irish began the 1977 season amidst high expectations after ending the previous campaign with a 20-9 win over No. 20 Penn State in the Gator Bowl.

The third-ranked Irish made a statement early with a 19-9 win at No. 7 Pittsburgh to kick off the season, before a stunning defeat at Ole Miss (20-13) threatened to dampen championship hopes just two games into the year.

Fresh off the disappointing loss, Notre Dame traveled to West Lafeyette to take on Purdue and faced a 24-14 deficit in the third quarter. At that point, Devine made a decision that would change the course of the season.

After multiple injuries at the quarterback position, Devine turned to a previously unheralded name: Joe Montana (’79).

Montana connected with tight end and 1977 Walter Camp Award winner Ken MacAfee (’78) for two fourth-quarter touchdowns and helped the Irish escape, 31-24, in what was the first of many Montana comebacks over the course of his career.

From there, the Irish rattled off wins over Michigan State and Army, before heading into a monster matchup with fifth-ranked USC at Notre Dame Stadium. In what became famously known as the “Green Jersey Game,” Devine unveiled the special uniforms just minutes before kickoff, and many believe that moment was critical to the game’s outcome.

“When we came into that locker room after warming up and saw those green jerseys hanging in our lockers, there was a tremendous outpouring of emotions,” safety Joe Restic (’79) said. “There were some fantastic collisions in the locker room, and we just carried that attitude right back onto the field.”

The Irish thumped the Trojans, 49-19, and never lost again. The win streak set up a Cotton Bowl clash with top-ranked Texas in Dallas, and Notre Dame made easy work of the Longhorns in a 38-10, championship-clinching victory.

“We had very strong junior and senior classes,” Restic said. “When you look at the names, people will most certainly remember Montana, MacAfee, Browner, Willie Frye (’78). We had some really talented players, and because of that we were not only competitive, but also very close.”

Despite all of the talent, the 1977 team was refreshingly team-oriented, as noted by All-America tailback Vagas Ferguson (’80).

“We came together as a unit – there was no selfishness on that team and there were no stars,” Ferguson said. “We encouraged each other, and that’s the most important thing a team can do.”

Now, 35 years later, while many of the team members have gone through changes in their lives, the championship bond that was formed decades ago is still as strong as ever.

“This reunion has been a thrill,” Ferguson said. “I missed the 30-year reunion, so I had to double take with a few guys. Some of the lineman that blocked for me are smaller than I am. But it’s great to reminisce and get these relationships going again.”

Restic mentioned the team remains close, and an email list maintained by a few of the members ensures updates on families, jobs, and future reunions are shared amongst the group. There will certainly be some emails going around after another successful reunion, and not too long down the line, plans will begin for the 40th anniversary gathering in 2017.

“To be recognized and appreciated by the University for achieving our national championship goal is something we feel very proud about as we get older,” Dave Mitchell (’80) said. “It’s a great feeling we can share with the fans and our families. That’s what being a part of Notre Dame is all about.”

Pre-Game Reception Alumni News & Notes

A near record of 1,017 Monogram winners and their guests packed the Club’s pregame reception on Saturday afternoon to grab some snacks before the football game. Monogram Club staff member Karen Demeter ordered another delicious menu for the event, including pulled pork, deli sandwiches, chicken tenders, potato salad and brownies. Delicious!

The Club also owes a big thank you to the Varsity Clubs of America, which serves as a Club sponsor and helps us to put on the pre-game receptions each football weekend. The Varsity Clubs also serves as the official hotel of the Monogram Club.

Here are some of the Monogram winners we caught up with during this week’s pre-game reception:

St. Albans, Mo., nativeTom Blythe (’66, baseball) enjoyed the Monogram festivities over the weekend. He is retired after serving as a long-time partner at Price Waterhouse Cooper.

Tom Krueger (’81, trainer) joined us from LaGrange, Ill., where he practices as an attorney.

Anthony Rettino (’86, lacrosse) joined us from Winnetka, Ill., where he is a founding principal and portfolio manager at Elementum.

Boston, Mass., native Mark O’Sullivan (’89, hockey) is a financial advisor at Senior Service Network of Boston South.

Former student manager Brian Tierney (’93) resides in Dallas, Texas, where he works in the finance industry.

Alison Guengerich (’07, manager) took a break from her new job as the athletics director at Truman Community College in Chicago to join us in the Monogram Room.

Rachel Velarde (’12, cross country) came in from Chicago where she is in graduate school at Rush University.

— ND —