Dear Stadium Ushers

Aug 31, 2011

As I get ready to head off into the sunset and sing “Happy Trails to You” (I loved those old cowboys), I thought I would take the time to send out some reminders about important points for Ushers to remember:

We are Ambassadors for Notre Dame. We are the most plentiful and most visible Notre Dame representatives on campus. If you are ever in doubt about what to do, think “What would an Ambassador do?”

“Welcome to Notre Dame”.

We can’t say it enough.

Saying this does several things. It makes the guest feel welcome. It sets a favorable tone for everything that follows. It also makes us known as a friendly environment with friendly hosts. This becomes very important when Ushers or Game Management Teams have to enforce rules. We seldom receive any backtalk or problems from surrounding guests as all of them have been warmly greeted by other Ushers many times already.

“May I help you?”

This is the best way to approach a guest who seems to be in need of assistance …AND…the best way to confront a guest who may be doing something we want to prevent. For example, a guest standing in an aisle needs to be told that they must be kept clear. Rather than saying “Please move out of the aisle”, it is far better to say “May I help you?” The guest will get the message. If the reply is “I just want to watch one more play before I go to the restroom”, this is a win-win for us.

Try to use the word “guest” instead of “fan”. If we think of everyone in the Stadium as a “guest” this will remind us of all we need to know about how they should be treated.

NEVER argue with a guest. Common sense. See the previous sentence. More importantly, there is no need. If a guest does not like something we have said, IMMEDIATELY take that as your clue to do the following: Be MORE polite and friendly, AND, summon help. Keep getting help there until I arrive (if necessary). If this situation ever gets to the complaint stage, let’s have the entire focus be on the rule the guest violated, NOT on the conduct of the Usher enforcing the rule. A former Police Chief friend of mine used to say “A lot of my cops get in trouble because they are talking when they should be listening”.

Welcome to Notre Dame!

The first impression our Stadium guests are going to have about our Ushers is the friendly greeting and the personal appearance of the Ushers. Good grooming and clean and neat clothing and a friendly smile will start everything off on the right foot. We wear white shirts and ties because we want to appear as professionals.

I send out a lot of emails to stay in touch with Ushers and help build our camaraderie. I also want our Ushers to know a lot about Notre Dame and its rich history.
Here’s a few facts at random:

We were founded by Fr. Edward Sorin, in November, 1842. He was a Missionary Priest of the Holy Cross Order (C.S.C.) sent over from France to create a Catholic College in Indiana. In December of 1842, he wrote a letter back to his superiors in France. He wrote, “This college will grow on a grand scale”. “It will become a great force for good in the world.” “It cannot fail to succeed.” Excerpts of the letter are on a plaque, in front of Old College (the original building of Notre Dame, built in 1843), just East of the Log Chapel (the 1906 replica of the 1839 chapel built by Fr. Stephen Badin in 1839. This is the site where Fr. Sorin founded Notre Dame.

Football was our first varsity sport. 1887. Baseball was our second. 1892. This month, Kyle Weiland became the 82nd man from Notre Dame to play in the Major Leagues, from 1871 onward. If you want to learn more about the others, purchase my book, NOTRE DAME BASEBALL GREATS. (forgive the shameless plug). My favorite book in the Bookstore is the CAMPUS GUIDE. It is an outstanding history of all the buildings on campus. Unlike my book, however, there is no money-back guarantee if not satisfied (OK……no more plugs).

Our first formal playing field, Cartier Field, was built on the approximate space now occupied by the Hesburgh Library and the lawn south of it. We played there from 1900 through 1928. The final year was the only time Rockne lost more than two games in a season. He was 5-4. He would likely have been 4-5, but he came up with the Win one for the Gipper speech that enabled us to defeat Army. We lost the final two games. Rockne limped into the 1929 season, literally and figuratively. He had thrombophlebitis in his legs. If you want to learn which of his former football players was his surgeon at the Mayo Clinic and which future Notre Dame hero was his roommate, you will have to read NOTRE DAME BASEBALL GREATS (oops……I’ve done it again). Also, since the team was going to be playing all of its games on the road in 1929, there were reports by some that Rockne and Notre Dame would not do well. Notre Dame played 9 games in 1929. We played 10 games in 1930, with the opening of Notre Dame Stadium. We won all 19. Later in the decade, when the wire services retroactively named National Champions, those two teams were declared the best of those years, as was Rockne’s 1924 Four Horseman Team. That team defeated Stanford in the January 1,1925 Rose Bowl to settle the debate that year over who was the best.
Rockne died on March 31, 1931, in Bazaar, Kansas, while flying to Hollywood.

Gipp had died in December of 1920, not long after leading ND to a win over Northwestern and being named our first consensus First Team All American. Gipp had originally planned on playing another sport at ND……….modesty prevents me from saying anything more about that.

Knute Rockne has the highest winning percentage of all college coaches. His pupil, Frank Leahy, is second. Leahy was the line coach at Fordham when they featured the Seven Blocks of Granite. Vince Lombardi was one of those linemen, which is why the Lombardi Trophy is a block of granite. The Head Coach of Fordham was Jim Crowley, one of the Four Horsemen.

Notre Dame has won 11 consensus National Championships. We also have been named a “co-national champion” on 10 other occasions. The 1953 season was an interesting one for the Irish. We finished 9-0-1, tying Iowa. Maryland finished 9-0 and was declared the consensus National Champion. In those days, the bowl games did not count in this determination. Maryland played Oklahoma and was defeated. ND had defeated Oklahoma during the season. Under today’s rules, ND would be the consensus National Champion.

When Notre Dame Stadium opened in 1930, Knute Rockne created the Stadium Usher Program that we all represent. On Cartier Field, Boy Scouts had shown people to their seats, as was common in those days. When I was hired in this position, in March, 1996, I inherited Vic Couch, who had been a 14 year old Boy Scout Usher at Cartier Field, in 1926, and Leo Pasman, who had been one of the first Ushers hired, in 1930.

The Notre Dame Stadium Ushers are well known for their long tradition and welcoming spirit. You are carrying on for a lot of fine men (and, since 1996, women). We have to maintain these high standards.

Go Irish!

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