The storied history of NDNation starts almost at the dawn of the commercial use of the Internet.
The Original IRJ
Back in the mists of the mid-1990’s, an ND student who worked for the Observer named Thomas Schlidt agreed to faciliate email discussions about football recruiting between a few folks by creating a message board on the Observer’s website. This became the original Irish Recruiting Journal (IRJ). Some of NDNation’s long-time posters, like Bacchus, Chuck84, and even the infamous ACross, began their association with our NDN family there.
In early 1999, the IRJ had grown in size and complexity, and its existence on one of Notre Dame’s web servers became a compliance issue, so Tom decided to take it over to the Rivals network. Within a couple months, though, some of the posters who had accompanied the site to its new home became frustrated with its speed and utility (or lack thereof). Seeking a quality alternative, late-night poster SEE (a.k.a. Scott Engler) messaged the group to see if anyone was interested in a spin-off board, and got a “yes” reply from 1994 alumnus Mike Cash.
The Pub and The Pit
In July of 1999, with himself as the barkeep and Cash and John Vannie (’75) as bouncers, SEE created the Irish Recruiting Pub on irishtalk.com. “The Pub”, as it was known, was not advertised publicly — it started with 20 to 30 well-known contributors from the IRJ, and grew slowly as new members were invited privately to participate. One of those invites went to a poster on a competing site who called himself “ND91” — a handle which soon changed to “El Kabong”. Possessing some degree of technical skill, Kabong (a.k.a. Mike Coffey) took on the mantle of tech support and started beefing up The Pub’s offering.
In early 2000, Coffey was approached by some folks looking to start a Notre Dame basketball-related site to supplant some of the more haphazard boards available. Wanting instead to work with people more closely associated with ND, he brought the interest to SEE’s attention. The pair formed NDHoops.com, which went online the morning of March 28th just prior to the team’s win over Penn State in the NIT semi-finals. Three months later, Matt Doherty left South Bend to become head coach at North Carolina and the site got over 100k page views the day of his UNC press conference. From there, NDHooops.com and its message board, The Pit, became the go-to place for discussion about Mike Brey’s nascent program, and grew both technologically and philosophically as a result.
A New Site is Born
With the Pub and NDHoops running separately, SEE purchased the NDNation.com URL in May of 2000 to bring both sites together while adding a front page of news links, giving Fighting Irish fans a single place to go to get their news about Notre Dame and its sports teams. Originally modeled off a smaller aggregator site, the structure changed over the years to accommodate the expanding technological capabilities and user palates.
The collapse of the original Rivals network in 2001 left publisher Mike Frank without an electronic home. NDN created a temporary refuge for him and his customers with a dedicated message board, and their participation provided the energy to move the site to the next level.
Today, NDN is the largest independent Notre Dame fansite, with over 12,000 registered posters participating on a dozen message boards in ways that go well beyond sports. The site has contributed to numerous chartitable efforts, has helped its users make meaningful professional and personal connections, and is responsible for at least two weddings.