Will Notre Dame give up gridiron independence after 135 years to join a conference amid the latest whirlwind of college football realignment? The buzz has been huge since USC and UCLA announced in June they would join the Big Ten. Athletics Director Jack Swarbrick ’76 gave ESPN three reasons why remaining independent could become unsustainable: “The loss of a committed broadcast partner, the loss of a fair route into the postseason, or such an adverse financial consequence that you had to reconsider.” CBS Sports reported the University is asking for $75 million per year from NBC for exclusive rights to televise Irish home football games; the current agreement with the network expires in 2025 and pays the school $22 million a year. No decision had been announced by press time. Stay tuned.
Swarbrick likes the name, image and likeness rights that compensate student-athletes for their commercial activity, but he’s not a fan of the way the system has rolled out. “It’s a mess,” he said during a University web chat in August. “We as college athletics have completely screwed this up.” No regulations prohibit players from being paid to attend a certain school, he said. Swarbrick doesn’t see a correction coming from the NCAA or Congress anytime soon and predicts “a couple more years of this absolute mess.”
The University drew a record-breaking $244 million in research funding during fiscal 2022, surpassing the previous mark of $222.7 million set in 2021. The sum includes nearly 800 separate awards from a broad array of federal, foundation and industry sources.
The last remaining section of the Hesburgh Library parking lot vanished over the summer as construction began on a second building in the East Campus Research Complex that will connect to McCourtney Hall and is expected to open in winter 2025. Nearby, work is underway on an as-yet-unnamed men’s residence hall, slated to open in 2024 as the University’s 33rd undergraduate residence hall.
An enthusiastic crowd turned out for a June 25 Billy Joel concert in Notre Dame Stadium. The performance by the Rock & Roll Hall of Famer was originally scheduled for June 2020 but was postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic. Memorably, the Piano Man had performed on campus twice before, in 1984 at the Joyce Center and in 1996 at Stepan Center, but it hadn’t been The Longest Time since the last concert in the stadium. In May, country music superstar Garth Brooks performed his second concert there — his first was in 2018.
The field in Notre Dame Stadium is greener for the Fighting Irish football team this season. It was resurfaced in July. The reboot is the first since 2014, when the grass was replaced with synthetic FieldTurf.
Brother Columba O’Neill, CSC, was a humble cobbler at Notre Dame who died in 1923. Now the formal process has begun to declare him a saint. Born in Pennsylvania in 1848, John O’Neill entered the Congregation of Holy Cross in 1874 and took the religious name Columba. Around 1890, he began making thousands of images of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and badges of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which he shared with students and others with instructions to pray a novena when they came to pick up their shoes. Soon, cures associated with O’Neill were reported around South Bend and beyond, and he came to be known as the “Miracle Man of Notre Dame.” Columba Hall, the brothers’ community house between the campus lakes, was renamed in his honor in 1954. In June, Brother Philip Smith, CSC, an archivist for the congregation’s Midwest Province who has curated more than 10,000 letters to and from O’Neill acknowledging his prayers, badges and cures, lodged the petition for canonization.
All that was missing was the ectoplasm. Rumored sightings of Jerome Bettis’22 and former pro football quarterbacks Peyton and Eli Manning, attired in Ghostbusters uniforms and driving the cinematic spook-fighters’ signature Cadillac hearse, rippled across campus in April. With the help of student volunteers, the trio taped Ghostbusters-themed episodes of the Manning brothers’ popular ESPN+ shows, Eli’s Places and Peyton’s Places. The action took place at the stadium, Washington Hall and other campus spots.
The Chicago White Sox and Notre Dame have jointly established the Ed Farmer Sports Media Endowment for Excellence, named in honor of the late broadcaster who pitched for 11 seasons in the major leagues and became the team’s radio voice for nearly 30 years. Farmer, who died in 2020, had a great love of Notre Dame football. Through the endowment, Ed Farmer Scholarships will be awarded to students in the new Sport, Media and Culture minor or the John W. Gallivan Program in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy, and offer research, applied learning and professional opportunities in sports media and journalism. The endowment was seeded with a gift from Farmer’s longtime friend William Bennett, a physician who specializes in kidney transplants. Farmer, who suffered from kidney disease, received a transplant in 1991.
As of August 1, the University increased the starting wage for all hourly employees to $17.50 per hour and for student employees to $15 per hour, while eligible faculty and staff received a 3 percent raise. The decision, part of a historic $25 million commitment to increase employees’ base compensation, was the third part of a three-phase enhancement strategy the University introduced in April that in total surpasses $75 million. Administrators said the wage increases would apply to about 6,000 employees and won’t affect tuition or financial aid.
Main Circle is being redesigned to honor the impact of Notre Dame women on the University as part of the 50th anniversary of the admission of undergraduate women. The circle is the site of the “Our Lady of the University” statue created by the late Rev. Anthony Lauck, CSC, ’42.
A year or so ago, Andy Nickle ’74J.D. rescued the 1906 Notre Dame diploma of Ernest Morris, whose benefaction funded the original Morris Inn, from an uncertain fate. The diploma had found its way onto eBay after being sold in an auction of property abandoned in a storage building. The backstory goes that in 1906 the law student couldn’t pay his tuition bill. He asked the University’s president to let him graduate on credit — and to take care of his horse, Dexter. Confident in the young man’s earning potential, Rev. John W. Cavanaugh, CSC, agreed. Morris gratefully took his degree and later donated $1 million to Notre Dame to fund construction of the inn, which opened in 1952. “I’ll just never forget how kind Notre Dame was to my horse,” he said. Now Nickle, whose wife, Tina ’77, is one of Morris’ granddaughters, wants to donate the diploma to the inn on the condition that it be reframed and placed on permanent display. Meanwhile, guests of Rohr’s, the inn’s restaurant, may order a bourbon, vermouth, dry Curaçao and cherry cocktail . . . known as the Dexter.
In July, North Dining Hall sous chef Jeremy Cantwell took first place in the culinary challenge at the National Association of College and University Food Services’ conference in Spokane, Washington. Cooking against the clock, Cantwell and five other chefs from colleges across the country each prepared a signature entrée — which included this year’s mandatory ingredient, a whole frozen turkey — and were evaluated on organization, technique and taste. Cantwell wowed the judges with his winning dish, Guajolote con Mole.
Molarity Odyssey, a graphic novel by Michael Molinelli ’82, was published in August. It’s billed as the last Molarity, a comic strip Molinelli launched in The Observer in 1977 and has sustained in books and online — including on the magazine’s website — ever since. In this volume, the Notre Dame football team is victorious over USC, but perils await Jim Mole, Chuck Mason and Coach Mitch as they make their final, comical return to South Bend.
Notre Dame will award more than 250 honorary monograms to mark the 50th anniversary of Title IX. The honorees will include the founders of the Women’s Athletic Association — a group of women’s club sport captains that promoted the interests of female student-athletes — and others who competed for Notre Dame during the first five years of coeducation. The University will publish a list of the honorees and recognize them on the field during the UNLV football game in October. Notre Dame now fields 26 varsity athletics programs, 13 for women.
Campus View Apartments east of Notre Dame fell to the wrecking ball this summer. Originally named Turtle Creek Apartments, the 193-unit complex opened in 1970 and served mostly student residents throughout its existence. (Grads of the 1995-2005 era may remember its “Rally in the Alley” parties.) A luxury home and apartment builder is planning a $100 million redevelopment of the 11-acre parcel into a new, 328-unit apartment community.