Prior to the adoption of the now iconic “Fighting Irish” nickname in the 1920s, the usage of Notre Dame mascots and team names was highly capricious and unbound in nature. For quite some time (in fact, if you do the math, for almost half of Notre Dame’s existence) there was no uniform moniker to refer to the Catholic institution that today possesses such a cherished and unmistakable identity. During the pre-Fighting Irish era, sports journalists commonly used their own discretion to colloquialize Notre Dame athletics, with documented names including the “Catholics,” “Hoosiers,” “Ramblers,” and “Rockmen.”
Notre Dame mascots in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were seen more as ‘good luck charms,’ and also took no specific form—ranging from Willie Robb, a child who was listed and served as the baseball team’s mascot 1895, to actresses, trick dogs, canaries, and billy goats (thankfully we spared the fate of the Chicago Cubs when we stopped using it).
As the school grew, change was inevitable. It all seemed quite natural—an emerging university needed an identity, and not only did Notre Dame discover its identity in the Fighting Irish name, it developed it in its mascot—an Irish Terrier. The first Irish Terrier, Tipperary Terrence, nicknamed “Terry,” was presented to Knute Rockne in 1924 by the Notre Dame Club of Toledo. Unfortunately, Terry was hit by a car and killed just five months into his tenure.
His successor, Tipperary Terrence II, had a little more luck; he helped Notre Dame bring home their first national championship in 1924 and another one in 1929. Not much is known about Terry II other than the fact that he vanished and was replaced by Brick Top Shaun Rhu for the 1930 National Championship season. Continuing the recent trend of mischievous canines, Shaun Rhu loved nothing more than running away. He was known for disappearing from campus for days, only to be found strolling amongst traffic on a busy street miles away from campus. Despite his rambunctiousness, he still managed to survive three full football seasons. After 1933’s 3-5 season, however, he decided that he had seen enough of South Bend, packed his bags, and departed for good.
If you are a Notre Dame history buff, you already have heard of Shaun Rhu’s successor—arguably our school’s single greatest mascot—Clashmore Mike. Mike first appeared in 1935 and was a mainstay on the sidelines and around campus for an entire decade. Mike was best known for his trademark gymnastic abilities that he routinely displayed during games under the tutelage of his trainer, Mr. Dan Hanley. With the assistance of head coach and athletic director Elmer Layden, Clashmore Mike was also the first Irish mascot to hit it big with the media—depicted often in big city daily newspapers against his rivals such as the Pittsburgh Panther, the Army Mule, and the Navy Goat. The official Notre Dame Football Gameday Program also heralded the magnetic terrier through Mike’s very own weekly journal, “Says Clashmore Mike.” The public adored Mike’s energy, his swagger, and his toughness.
Fans were not the only ones who fancied the Fighting Irish mascot. Mike was undoubtedly the “Big Man on Campus” with the students, and would constantly show up to the gym to make new friends and to be spoiled with constant grub, especially candy. The pampering eventually got so bad that his trainer made several public announcements for students to stop feeding Mike out of sincere concerns for his health. Even Coach Frank Leahy enjoyed the company of Clashmore Mike: rumor has it that Leahy found particular use for his mascot by training him to run on the field to disrupt gameplay if called upon. While there is no documentation of this genius ploy actually happening in a game, one can would certainly not be surprised if it was in Leahy’s bag of tricks.
After a long, happy life, Clashmore Mike passed away just weeks before the 1945 season and was fittingly laid to rest—you guessed it—beneath Notre Dame Stadium. He was succeeded by Clashmore Mike II, and then several other terriers bearing some semblance of the name “Mike” until the late 1960s when the university transitioned seamlessly to the Leprechaun, who has now taken over as a worldwide emblem of Notre Dame. While I could not be more honored to partake in this tradition, I have no choice but to conclude with an interesting comparison—the Irish Terrier mascot brought home seven national championships in 40 years of service, and from 1924 through the retirement of Coach Leahy in 1953, won 85 percent of the time. The 44 Notre Dame Leprechauns have now served about the same amount of time and have mustered enough luck to win only four championships and a winning percentage of 68. I am not advocating for the abolition of the Leprechaun, but does anyone want to get a dog back on the sidelines? Please?
Lou Ganser is a senior Dillonite who lives life, and writes articles, on the edge. Contact him at email@example.com.