(The Rock Report) – Before Lou Holtz put up the famous “Play Like a Champion Today” sign in Notre Dame Stadium there was an even simpler inspiration for Notre Dame players as they descended the steps into the tunnel, the word PRIDE written in capital letters and a slightly bent sign with subtle changes in words to the Notre Dame fight song underneath, ” What though the odds be great or small, Notre Dame men will give their all”.
The shot on the left is from a 1966 game-day program for the contest against North Carolina. As RocketShark notes below, that inspirational message was put there by Ara Parseghian according to Tom Pagna. That matches well with the current phrase mounted in the Notre Dame locker room, “The Pride and Tradition of Notre Dame Football will not be left to the weak, the timid or the non-committed.” I digress, back to the PLACT issue that is in the Oklahoma papers.
This week Notre Dame plays Oklahoma and before the Sooner players run out onto the field, they’ll also touch a Play Like a Champion Today sign. No Sooner knows the origin of the saying, but legendary Sooner coach Bud Wilkerson put the sign up sometime in the late 40s or early 50s. His son, Jay, doesn’t believe Wilkinson came up with the slogan according to NewsOk.com.
“I don’t think my dad invented it,” he said. “I know that it was a big part of what he believed.”
Which means Wilkinson got it from somewhere. So did Oklahoma take it from Notre Dame first? Lou Holtz, known for using any inspirational method available to him, saw a picture of the sign hanging at the bottom of the staircase in a Notre Dame book he read.
“I read a lot of books about the history of Notre Dame and its football program,” Holtz explains. “I forget which book I was looking at – it had an old picture in it that showed the slogan `Play Like A Champion Today’.”
“I asked everybody, ‘Who took it down?” he said. “Nobody remembered it even being up. So I said, ‘Get that painted up. I’m going to put it in the same place and everybody is going to hit it on the way out to the field to remind them of all the sacrifices they have made, their families have made and other people have made for them to be there.”
Did that instance precede Oklahoma? Regardless of the origin, the claim to the meaning of the phrase could very well be Notre Dame’s.
It was just after the sign went up that the Sooners went on their famous 47 game run of unbeaten games, a feat still not equaled in college football. In 1957, Terry Brennan’s Notre Dame squad traveled to Norman to face the second ranked Sooners and played like champions that day ending the longest streak in football.
Perhaps, like the Little Brown Jug or the Shilelagh, the true owner of the inspiration is the victor on the field and Notre Dame currently holds a 8-1 advantage over Oklahoma. Regardless, it legally belongs in South Bend where the slogan is trademarked.
Theres’ a great recount of the ’57 game and video below.
NORMAN, Okla, (AP)- Oklahoma’s all-time record of 47 straight football victories was shattered yesterday by an underdog Notre Dame team that marched 80 yards on the ground in the closing minutes for the all-important touchdown and a 7-0 triumph.
Oklahoma, No. 2 ranked in the nation and an 18-point favorite, couldn’t move against the rock-wall Notre Dame line and the Sooners saw another of its national records broken- scoring in 123 consecutive games.
The defeat was only the 9th for Oklahoma Coach Bud Wilkinson since he became head coach at Oklahoma in 1947 and virtually ended any chance for the Sooners getting a third straight national championship.
Although the partisan, sellout crowd of 62,000 came out for a Roman holiday, they were stunned into silence as the Sooners were unable to pull their usual last-quarter winning touchdowns- a Wilkinson team trademark. As the game ended, when Oklahoma’s desperation passing drive was cutoff by an intercepted aerial, the crowd rose as one and suddenly gave the Notre Dame team a rousing cheer.