Last Call

The voice of Notre Dame Stadium hangs up his mic.

Author: Caroline Pineda

As Notre Dame Stadium’s longtime public address announcer, Mike Collins ’67 has narrated 38 Senior Days, giving voice to hundreds of players’ final home games.

His 39th on Saturday will also be Collins’ own farewell.

“I still can’t believe it,” he says of spending nearly four decades as the voice of Notre Dame Stadium. “I’m still overwhelmed that it happened, that I sort of became a part of the University’s fabric.”

Collins’ calls from the booth have become a hallmark of the gameday experience. Historic moments have bookended his tenure, which began with a 23-17 win over No. 10 Michigan in 1982, the first night game in Notre Dame Stadium. His most recent game was Notre Dame’s double-overtime win over No. 1 Clemson.

During the celebration that followed last month’s momentous win, Collins heard voices calling for him to use his amplified pulpit to help get the students off the field. “And I told them that your PA announcer is not Moses,” he says. “I could not part the Red Sea.”

He did his best, in his typically witty way, by announcing, “If you stay too long, it’ll be last call somewhere.”

Mike Collins and the phrase he made a fixture of the crescendo before kickoff at Notre Dame Stadium. Photo by Matt Cashore ’94

Collins has been fascinated with Fighting Irish football since he was a child growing up in Pittsburgh.

“In the 50s, we tried to save enough money to get us a couple of tickets for every time Notre Dame came into Pitt’s stadium,” he says. “And I was just in awe that that was the Notre Dame team that I heard on the radio every Saturday.”

While attending Notre Dame, Collins worked with student radio, covering the same team he’d been so anxious to see the decade before. To save money on room and board, he lived in the old Fieldhouse, situated on what’s now the Clarke Memorial Fountain, known as “Stonehenge,” near LaFortune Student Center.

“I nickeled and dimed my way through college,” Collins says. “I lived there with some bats and some rats.”

After graduating in 1967, Collins worked as a reporter and anchor for South Bend television station WNDU, whose studios in those days were in the same part of campus where he lived as a student, on the site of present-day Geddes Hall. He spent 27 years at WNDU and — following a stint in Pittsburgh working for his friend, then-mayor Tom Murphy — another 10 years at WSBT before retiring from broadcasting.

“He came to school at Notre Dame and essentially never really left,” says John Heisler, former senior associate athletic director, who now serves in that role at the University of Central Florida. “For a lot of people in South Bend, Mike is somebody that they’ve known almost their whole life, in great part because of his television career.”

In retirement, Collins worked for six years at South Dining Hall, checking students in for lunch. “It was the most enjoyable job I ever had in my life,” he says. “Students I met, to this day . . . stay in touch all the time. I adored those kids, and I always will.”

Generations of students are familiar with Collins’ voice, but they may not know he also popularized what has become a legendary rallying cry: “Here Come the Irish,” a phrase now inscribed above the tunnel where the team enters the field.

“The ‘Here Come the Irish’ line has become iconic with Notre Dame sports,” says Jack Nolan, a Fighting Irish Media broadcaster who worked with Collins at WNDU. “That is a contribution that he has made that will live forever in Notre Dame sports.”

Collins’ legacy extends far beyond that phrase. Nolan and Heisler speculate that, on a professional level, he’ll be remembered for his fervor and friendly sense of humor. He sprinkled jokes into routine information like weather conditions and worked to keep fans excited for the duration of a game.

“A football game takes a long time,” Nolan says. “Mike did everything that he could to keep that enthusiasm from fading in down points in the game or low spots in a game. And that’s something that I think the people that follow him are going to work hard to live up to.”

Collins looks back on his tenure in a more personal light, with memories of his sons — Matthew is a 2006 alumnus and Tim is Notre Dame’s longtime director of football technology. There are also his decades-long relationships with Father Ted Hesburgh and Sgt. Tim McCarthy, another beloved fixture of the booth whose puns enlivened public safety announcements during football games. Collins and McCarthy co-wrote May I Have Your Attention Please . . . : Wit & Wisdom from the Notre Dame Press Box.

Hesburgh passed away in 2015 and McCarthy earlier this year. Collins will be thinking of them when he calls his final game on Saturday — a moment he expects to leave him overflowing with emotion. Afterward, he and his wife, Melissa, will fly back to their home in Sarasota, Florida.

“Melissa will be with me, so when I openly weep on the airplane, she’ll take good care,” Collins says with a laugh.

He will continue to embrace his other role as a public address announcer — for the Pittsburgh Pirates at spring training in Bradenton, Florida. Collins is happy to be occupied with baseball for the spring, but he’s inclined to think he won’t be able to stay away from Notre Dame football and might return to the stadium as a spectator.

“Pittsburgh is always a big part of my heart and my makeup,” he says. “South Bend is, too, and I’m not abandoning either of those places as long as I live.”

Caroline Pineda is a junior studying television and journalism. She works with Notre Dame Football on NBC, serves as sports editor for Scholastic and broadcasts with Fighting Irish Media, Notre Dame Television and WVFI radio. She has written for the Associated Press and NBC Sports’ Inside the Irish.