A Monogram family enjoys Saturday's pre-game reception in the Monogram Room.

Monogram Club Musings: Purdue Edition


Purdue 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 kicked off the 2012 football season with its usual slate of popular football weekend activities and welcomed rowing and tennis Monogram winners back to campus for their program reunions. And per usual, there was no shortage of celebrity sightings on the Fighting Irish football sideline.

Keep reading to find out more!

Purdue Game Notes

– Members of the Notre Dame football family who passed away over the last year were recognized during the pre-game flag presentation. The group included 15 football Monogram winners and three senior football managers.

– Members of the 1992 Notre Dame men’s tennis team celebrating the 20th anniversary of their magical run to the NCAA title match were honored on the field during a special pregame ceremony. The Muse spent some time with members of the tight-knit squad during Saturday’s tailgate at the Eck Tennis Pavilion. Look for a full recap later in the Musings.

– Saturday’s first safety announcement of the season from 2010 honorary Monogram recipient Sgt. Tim McCarthy: “Remember, when traffic is dense as a jungle, do not monkey around.”

Sightings Around Campus

– It may have been the game that fit best with their schedules, or maybe they had a wedding to crash on campus, but movie stars Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson certainly generated plenty of excitement while roaming the sidelines during the Notre Dame-Purdue contest. Both celebs looked sharp on the field rocking black suits, sunglasses and Notre Dame football hats. Vaughn – who holds a special place in the hearts of Irish fans for his role in Rudy – wrote the upcoming film, The Internship,” and is co-starring in the flick with Wilson. The movie is currently filming and will be released in 2013.

– ESPN college basketball analyst and Notre Dame superfan Dick Vitale sat with Notre Dame men’s basketball coach Mike Brey during Friday’s football luncheon, and was seen on campus with his grandkids throughout the weekend. Vitale’s daughters, Terri (’94) and Sheri (’96), played tennis at Notre Dame for current Irish head coach Jay Louderback. Terri also is a proud member of the Monogram Club’s board of directors.

– Monogram Club football guru and All-America tailback Reggie Brooks (’93) joined Tony Rice (’90) – quarterback of the 1988 national championship team – in the north dome of the Joyce Center Saturday morning to sign a slew of Fighting Irish memorabilia during a special autograph session for fans.

– The Muse spotted 2012 United States Olympian Amanda Polk (’08) at the Notre Dame rowing team’s boathouse by the St. Joseph River during the wee hours of Saturday morning. Polk returned to take part in the program’s reunion, which honored Notre Dame’s Early Women’s Crew (1973-84) athletes while also welcoming back members of the varsity program (1998-present).

1992 Men’s Tennis Team Reunion

Members of the ’92 men’s tennis team reunited on campus Saturday.

From Dwight Howard’s free agency soap opera to the charting of Tim Tebow’s every move by major media outlets, the summer of 2012 proved that, at times, it’s difficult for American sports culture to embrace the concept of a team. Individual superstars are idolized above all else, and player-coach feuds often hog the spotlight of today’s saturated, 24-hour news cycle.

With these contemporary issues in mind, it was with great pleasure that the Muse had the chance to spend some time with members of the 1992 Notre Dame men’s tennis team during the Purdue football weekend. Arguably one of the most selfless, group-oriented squads in the history of Fighting Irish athletics, the ’92 team shocked the country and kept its Cinderella shoes dancing all the way to the NCAA title match. In a sport dominated by select, warm weather schools at the time, the season served as a program-defining achievement.

As Notre Dame sports information legend Pete “Sluggo” LaFleur noted in his excellent piece that appeared in Saturday’s football game program, the ’92 team utilized a series of competitive advantages to make its way to the pinnacle of the collegiate tennis world.

It started at the top, where five-time All-American and top-ranked ace David DiLucia (’92) posted a 29-6 singles record and dispatched of many of the top players in the country.

“We had Dave who, frankly, was playing No. 1 singles and always won,” three-time All-American Chuck Coleman (’93) told the Muse. “So there was a confidence that filtered down from him which we all built on.”

Coleman was part of a six-member junior class that composed an integral part of the team and its chemistry. The group’s versatility allowed head coach Bobby Bayliss to shift players from singles to doubles, from No. 3 singles to No. 6, or any other way to gain an advantage during a particular event. In other words, the Irish caused matchup nightmares for opposing squads.

“From a sports perspective and a tennis perspective, it’s a very unique story,” Coleman said. “None of us other than Dave was highly ranked nationally. So we all came in and got better throughout the season. I don’t think that’s something that happens everyday.”

To keep this series of interchangeable parts operating efficiently, it was critical that egos were checked at the door and all players were striving to achieve team goals, and not individual objectives. For the ’92 squad, entitlement issues never surfaced.

“Tennis is an individual sport, but we were different in the fact that as individuals, we weren’t as good as we were as a group,” Coleman said. “There are a lot of reasons for that. We were friends off the court, but we also were very competitive on the court. When we went out there as a team, there was a belief that each guy was willing to do whatever it took to win his match.”

In addition, the individual student-athletes fed off the energy of one another and played better as a result.

“We celebrated each other’s successes,” DiLucia said. “We really enjoyed watching one another play and supporting each other. It wasn’t about any one person. It was about what was best for the team. Coach Bayliss really fostered that. He created an environment like nowhere else I’d seen.”

Indeed, countless Monogram winners approached the Muse during the reunion to sing the praises of Bayliss. The coach, who enters his 26th season as the Irish skipper in 2012-13, built a culture with the ’92 squad in which hard work was rewarded and team dynamics were celebrated.

Bayliss kept the team on its toes, especially if he sensed that practices were growing stale. In particular, Andy Zurcher (’93) recalled a practice in March where, after playing for three months inside the Eck Tennis Pavilion, Bayliss sent the team outside to hit in the near-freezing temperatures. And if the squad was heading to a road match that featured fast courts, Bayliss would send the student-athletes into Joyce Center to practice on the lightning-quick surface of the basketball hardwood.

While Bayliss pushed the players on the court, he ensured they understood their importance off it. Chris Wojtalik (’93) told the Muse that throughout the 1991-92 campaign, Bayliss wrote frequent letters to each of his student-athletes, informing them that while they were putting in countless hours of practice, it meant they would always be more prepared than their opponents. He also stressed how much he cared about each student-athlete and what they meant to the program.

The powerful combination of talent, chemistry and coaching certainly paid dividends, as the Fighting Irish tore through the NCAA Championship field. After knocking off seventh-seeded Mississippi State (5-3) in the opening round, the Irish played before 5,000 raucous Bulldog fans in a do-or-die matchup at Georgia. With the contest knotted at 4-4, it came down to No. 2 doubles, where Zucker and southpaw Will Forsyth (’93) came through in the clutch and sent the Irish to the national semifinal.

Notre Dame certainly pleased Irish nation with its next match, a 6-1 drubbing of top-seeded USC that many still call the greatest upset in the tournament’s history.

The Irish ultimately fell to Stanford in the title match, but the ’92 team continues to serve as a benchmark for proudly representing the “team” aspect of team sports.

The tight-knit nature of the group was certainly on display Saturday, as 100 percent of the student-athletes from the squad returned for its 20th anniversary reunion.

“The camaraderie of our group was, and still is, just unbelievable,” Ron Rosas (’93) said. “I think this weekend is a testament to that. You may not have seen these guys for a long time, but you can always count on them. This tennis team truly represents what it means to be part of the Notre Dame family. The fact that everybody got along so well and respected each other – there’s no doubt that it was critical to our success.”

Justin Morrow Recognition Ceremony

Morrow became the second Monogram winner selected to an MLS All-Star Team.

In what’s quickly becoming an annual tradition at Alumni Stadium, the Notre Dame department of athletics and the Monogram Club recognized a former Fighting Irish men’s soccer student-athlete Friday night for being named to the Major League Soccer All-Star Team.

For the first time since graduating in 2010, San Jose Earthquake defender Justin Morrow (’10) returned to campus and was honored during halftime of the men’s soccer team’s match against Oregon State. Morrow made his way to midfield with Monogram Club executive director Beth Hunter, who presented the Cleveland, Ohio, native with a framed collage showcasing his career with the Fighting Irish.

“It’s been a pretty special day for me,” Morrow said while speaking with the Muse. “As soon as I stepped foot on campus, a big smile came across my face. To come back and be honored like this – it’s been a very emotional experience.”

In July, Morrow was named a Major League Soccer (MLS) All-Star and was the starting left back for the MLS squad that defeated Chelsea from the English Premier League, 3-2. Morrow is the only Earthquake to play every minute on the pitch so far this season. He has one goal and two assists in 26 games for San Jose, who currently is in first place in the Western Conference.

“It was unbelievable to represent my team at the All-Star game,” Morrow said. “Playing against Chelsea was pretty cool, but for me the best part was meeting all the MLS guys. I’ve always admired [Thierry] Henry, so it was incredible to meet him and all of the other players.”

To read more about Morrow’s career at Notre Dame, click here.

Pre-Game Reception Alumni News & Notes

Close to 550 Monogram winners and their guests stopped by the Club’s pregame reception on Saturday morning to enjoy plenty of good food and conversation. Our new Monogram Club staff member Karen Demeter, who spent much of her career with the Notre Dame football office before gracing us with her presence, picked out a delicious menu for the event. Choices included mini burgers, mini bratwursts, macaroni & cheese and brownies!

Here are some of the Monogram winners we caught up with during the afternoon:

Paul Reilly (’76, tennis) currently resides in St. Petersburg, Fla., where he is the CEO of Raymond James.

Former football student-athlete and retired attorney James Witchger (’71) joined us from Indianapolis, Ind.

Harry Smith (’57, tennis) checked in with the Monogram Club after making the marathon flight from Maui to South Bend to catch the Irish and the Boilermakers. Smith retired to the Hawaiian Islands four years ago after spending his career as a marketing professional.

Darien, Conn., native John J. Ryan (’73, manager) enjoyed the Monogram festivities over the weekend. Ryan is currently an attorney with Tibbetts Keating & Butler, LLC.

Young alum Sunni L. Olding (’08, cross country & track) comes from nearby Chicago where she is enrolled in chiropractic school.

Lou Ferrello (’73, football manager) joined us from Sugarloaf, Pa., where he does financial work for aerospace company Unison. His nephew, Joseph Lapira (’07, soccer) was an All-American with the Irish and won the Hermann Trophy, given to the nation’s top player, as a junior in 2006.

Angela Bessolo (’99, softball) resides in San Diego, Calif. with her husband and two kids that are five and two.

Indianapolis native David Bemenderfer (’04, football) owns his own software company aptly titled Bemenderfer LLC.

— ND —