How The “Fighting Irish” Got Their Name

You never know where you are going to find your motivation to get back in the saddle and start writing again. It has been a while since the fingers hit the keyboard for something other than work. I had tried a couple of weeks ago and then a second round of layoffs at work took the wind out of my sails.

Monday night while thumbing through Facebook, I came upon some very angry Irish fans. I read the responses to an article that was written about how Notre Dame needs to change their name. I can’t tell you what I was thinking , because it wasn’t nice. Those that know how Shake Down The Thunder Sports covers Notre Dame sports, that kind of writing was not going to go unanswered. The bear was awoken and the story started to build inside.

Inside The “Gug”

Theories On How The Fightin’ Irish Got Their Name

Theory One

The moniker of the “Fightin’ Irish” is one of debate. There are many different times which people believe the name came to fruition. One is the nickname came from the Civil War era when Union’s Irish Brigade fought against the Confederacy. Father William Corby, CSC, the third President of Notre Dame was chaplain of the Irish Brigade.

During the the Knute Rockne years, the team had many different nicknames. The Notre Dame football team was referred to as the Rovers and the Ramblers. They were called this because of their travel around the country to play their opponents. They even picked up the name “Terriers” after the Irish Terrier.

Theory Two

In 1909, Notre Dame and Michigan met in South Bend. Notre Dame, was coached by a former Michigan player Frank Longman. Notre Dame beat Michigan for the first time 11-3. Also handing Michigan its only loss that season. This is also believed to be the first time the nickname “Fighting Irish” was used. The “Fighting Irishmen” was part of the headline by a sports writer E.A. Batchelor from the Detroit Free Press. “Eleven Fighting Irishman wrecked the Yost machine this afternoon. Three sons of Erin, individually and collectively representing the University of Notre Dame, not only beat the Michigan team, but dashed some of Michigan’s greatest hopes and shattered Michigan’s fairest dreams.” Detroit Free Press report, November 7, 1909 Batchelor had overheard a Notre Dame player trying to motivate his teammates at halftime by pleading, “What’s the matter with you guys? You’re all Irish and you’re not fighting worth a lick.”

Theory Three

In 1924, The Ku Klux Klan tried to show how powerful it was and held a picnic and parade in South Bend. The University of Notre Dame students stood up to the Klan and started ripping of their hoods and robes. This is written in the story called “A Clash Over Catholicism” written by Brendan O’Shaughnessy. The students stood up against the Klan on many occasions. Father Walsh began addressing the need for on campus living as most students lived off campus and the students had to fight their way home. Finally in 1927, Father Walsh authorized the “Fighting Irish” as Notre Dame’s official nickname.

Alumni Response

Who better else to get a response about the moniker than alumnists of the university. We reached out to Peter Zabroski a ’78 alumnus and ND Baseball player and Lisa Kelly a ’93 alumna and author of the book series, The Men We Became and Triumphs From Notre Dame.

Peter Zabroski

“Notre Dame was a French Jesuit school “Notre Dame du Lac”, should it be changed absolutely not. It’s not a derogatory name. It was the moniker of the Irish Brigade. Also the subway alumni from the Northeast kept the school open with their donations.”

Lisa Kelly

“I don’t think I can say it better than Coach Holtz”, referring to Coach’s interview in February 2018 after Max Kellerman tried to stir the pot and say the mascot is racist. “First of all understand how the Fighting Irish came about. It is not about Irish, it’s about a spirit, it’s about a feeling,” Holtz told   Stuart Varney during his interview. “Learn and understand what it means and you don’t have to be from Ireland to be Irish.”

The Wrap Up

The first thing you learn in anything you do is to know your audience. Lighting up the fan base is almost a way of taking yourself out of the game. When writing a story, you need to work with the facts. We researched the history of Notre Dame and it’s easy to see there is no intention to harm anyone’s heritage. The name was given as representation of those who were attending the school and the lore goes back to the Civil War as well. To put a bow on this, the “Fighting Irish” is not relating to brawls in pubs, it’s not saying you’re Irish and you have a bad temper, it’s about the fight you have inside.

Cheers and Go Irish🍀🌩

6 thoughts on “How The “Fighting Irish” Got Their Name

  1. Lived this! I have two boys who went there! We are Ski’s, i.e. of Polish heritage but the and I consider them to be Honarary Irish! They have the fight in them@

    1. it was something that needed a response. I am Polish/Irish and yes neither had it easy.

  2. Notre Dame has never been a Jesuit school. Was founded by the Congregation of Holy Cross.

Shake Down The Thunder Sports would love to hear back from you

%d bloggers like this: