Seen and heard on the Notre Dame campus (Winter 2007–08)

Author: John Nagy ’00M.A.

The 2007 season on the field was one to forget, but the previous year Notre Dame still boasted the most valuable team in college football, according to data that Forbes magazine evaluated in its second annual appraisal of the revenue generated by the sport. The 20-team ranking valued the ‘06 Fighting Irish squad at $101 million, based on profits contributed to the University and incremental spending in Saint Joseph County. Some $21.1 million of the program’s $45.8 million profit for that season underwrites academic programs, “as much as the next five most valuable programs contributed to their respective schools combined,” Forbes reported. And football Saturdays were worth about $9.4 million apiece in sales among local businesses. . . . Laughing all the way to the bank, the ‘07 Irish endured a painful tour of the comedy circuit in the fall. After the Michigan shutout, The Onion worried the school might “give in to temptation and make a deal with Touchdown Satan.” ESPN The Magazine redrew Jesus in the Word of Life mural with his hands over his eyes. Taco Bell served free nachos at its South Bend restaurants on the Sunday after the Michigan State game as part of Charlie Weis “Nacho Day” (read “not your day”). And Jay Leno tagged the team practically every night. A sample: "If God had the power to stop disasters, wouldn’t he do something about the Notre Dame football team?" . . . With ESPN cameras rolling, the body of Irish football legend George Gipp was exhumed Oct. 4 near his hometown of Laurium, Michigan. A family member formally requested the disinterment in order to obtain DNA material, which ultimately proved the Gipper had not fathered the daughter born to his girlfriend five days after his death in 1920. Dissenting relatives filed a lawsuit in a Michigan court seeking at least $25,000 in damages from Gipp’s grandnephew, ESPN and the author of a forthcoming biography on the Rockne-era star, among others. . . . The right to publish the classic photograph of Notre Dame’s Four Horsemen now belongs to the University. Under Indiana law, the descendants of Jim Crowley, Elmer Layden, Don Miller and Harry Stuhldreher controlled the image that became a pop culture icon but passed that responsibility—and its financial rewards—along to Notre Dame in order to safeguard use of the image. Royalties from future uses will support Rockne Heritage Fund scholarships for student-athletes. . . . Ruth’s Chris, the national chain of high-end steakhouses, opened a new location five miles from the Golden Dome in August with dining rooms named for Regis Philbin ‘53, Charlie Weis ’78 and University vice president and chief investment officer Scott Malpass ’84, ’86MBA. . . . The Golden Dome is now home to the most lucrative award in architecture, the Richard H. Driehaus Prize, which the Chicago philanthropist and classical architecture fan established at Notre Dame in 2003. Driehaus decided the time was right to double the unrestricted cash portion of the award to $200,000 (and throw in a handsome model of Athens’ choregic monument of Lysikrates). That’s twice the mount of the prestigious Pirtzker Prize, which often goes to specialists in modern architecture. The 2008 award will go to leading New Urbanist architects and planners Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk for their productive and influential work in traditional town design. Diehaus also upped to $50K the monies attached to the Henry Hope Reed Award for non-architects who support classical principles. . . . University provost Thomas Burish ’72 and his Strategic Academic Planning Committee received 72 proposals from faculty representing each of Notre Dame’s six colleges and schools in response to their May 2007 call for “initiatives that will significantly enhance Notre Dame’s research endeavors.” Eleven big ideas were selected for Phase 2 consideration, which will identify “transformative” projects eligible for a portion of the $40 million that University trustees budgeted for the effort. They include research proposals in global health, nanoelectronics, zero emissions energy and American religion. The committee will make its recommendations in April. . . . Would you pay 200 to 300 percent more for something if it meant the convenience of one-stop shopping? That’s what professors and students say happened to the cost of many course packets when the Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore took over the business last fall. The bookstore, part of the Follett Higher Education Group, won’t disclose its mark-up but pointed to higher copyright and production fees to explain the increase. Many customers remain unconvinced, and the Student Senate passed a resolution calling for increased use of electronic reserves in the University Libraries. . . . Sixty ND students chased their own Olympic dreams in October, interviewing with NBC for internships connected to the network’s coverage of the 2008 summer games in Beijing. . . . Freshman Kaitlyn Conway loves peer pressure, at least when it comes to pounding out a manuscript on deadline. As one of at least eight would-be student novelists at Notre Dame, Conway participated in National Novel Writing Month, a prizeless, annual web-based challenge to churn out a 50,000-word page-turner during November. In 2006, the contest drew nearly 80,000 participants and anointed more than 12,000 “winners,” meaning all those who kept up the 1,667-words-per-day pace. Since 2003, 16 NaNoWriMo authors have published their work, but Conway was content just to cross the finish line. Her futuristic crime story, The Name Game, was 17,000 words short with four days to go, but she credits her neighbors in Farley Hall with pressuring her to get it done. . . . Among the 12 “heroes for America” identified by Catholic Digest in its October 2007 issue were Dr. Paul Farmer, the co-founder of Partners in Health who received an honorary ND doctorate at the 2007 commencement, and Kristin Shrader-Frechette ‘71Ph.D., the F.J. and H.M. O’Neill professor of philosophy and concurrent professor of biological sciences. The magazine recognized Shrader-Frechette for her work to correct environmental injustice, which she defines as “disproportionate pollution forced on children, poor people, minorities and workers.” . . . All senior Caitlin Fitzgerald wanted last summer was an internship in the U.S. Department of Commerce, but her networking landed her in the White House. The marketing major served in the Presidential Scheduling Office, where she chatted or corresponded with everyone from the Speaker of the House to “people who wanted the president to come to their family barbecue.” . . . In November, sophomore Charlotte “Charlie” Buhler became the first African American to win the Miss South Dakota USA crown. The film, television and theatre and American studies double major will compete in the Miss USA Pageant this spring. . . . Twelve years after the University banned it for undisclosed misconduct, the Notre Dame Rugby Football Club was officially reinstated as a club sport last May. Trading in the Kelly green jerseys players wore for three years as the Out Side Irish, the club’s A-side donned the blue and gold and smashed its way to the top of the Chicago Area Rugby Football Union standings last fall with a 5-0 conference record and an 8-1-1 finish overall. . . . Team SolarShade’s victory in the inaugural Indiana Collegiate Idol business competition netted it $10,000 to further research and develop its patent on its product, a “smart window” that can tint from clear to black or anywhere in between at the touch of a button. All told, the group secured $43,000 in prize money and R&D grants for its work. Will McLeod, a senior engineering student and one of the team’s four student partners, expects SolarShade’s market debut in RV windows and skylights in April.