There’s nothing better to do on a Sunday than watch some really intense college football action.
No, that wasn’t a mistake. At the University of Notre Dame, football lasts all weekend, as attention shifts from the Irish to the Big Red, the Dawgs, the Ramblers and more on Sundays in Interhall Football action.
Rudy dreamed of one day playing football in Notre Dame’s storied stadium; today’s students know that they don’t have to be quite that good to win playing time in the House that Rockne Built.
So what is Interhall Football? A full-pads tackle football program for the men of Notre Dame that plays games on the Stepan Fields. However, if you make it to the Interhall Championship, you get the play the final game of the season in the iconic Notre Dame Stadium. Only one other university in the country – West Point – offers tackle football (full –contact with full pads) as an intramural sport. Notre Dame’s program exists because of Knute Rockne, who encouraged all Notre Dame students to play football, and even installed a program for the residence hall teams to inherit his varsity players’ old jerseys.
It is called “interhall” football because students play for their particular hall’s (aka dormitory) team. When students arrive as freshman at Notre Dame they are randomly assigned to a particular hall to live in, or at least remain affiliated with, for their entire time at the University. A large percentage of Notre Dame’s students (roughly 75%) do stay on campus all four years, which is different from almost any other school – this is because Notre Dame does not, and has never had, fraternities or sororities. The residence halls very much take their place. Students make the hall their home, their community, and the center of their campus life.
In fact, it is common practice for varsity football players to give a shout-out to their hall at the pep rallies on the nights before home games. And when the basketball team’s starting lineup is introduced before a home game, the public-address announcer includes which hall each player hails from.
So with all of the dorm pride on campus, it makes sense to have interhall sports. And Interhall Football is the most intense of them all, and the most popular.
The term “interhall football” first appeared in the Scholastic (the Notre Dame student magazine) on Oct. 24, 1885. One of the main reasons the program has survived this long is Knute Rockne himself. Rockne believed a man could learn a great deal from playing the game of football, and strongly encouraged the students of Notre Dame to participate. He also began the hand-me-down program that they still use today whereby the varsity football team donates uniforms and equipment to the interhall teams.
“Four years of football are calculated to breed in the average man more of the ingredients of success in life than almost any academic course he takes.”– Knute Rockne
While only the men have the extremely physical full-pads version to play, even the girl’s dorms have interhall football. When I played we played flag, and not tackle, football. (But we would have worn pads if they would have let us!) When I was a senior, my dorm went to the Interhall Football Championship game, in Notre Dame Stadium, and yes, we won. In recognition of our win, we all got letterman jackets JUST like the varsity football players had. How about that…I have a letter jacket for playing football AT NOTRE DAME!
Although it’s just an intramural sport, Interhall Football is taken very seriously. The school newspaper, the Observer, covers all the games, and lots of fans come out to watch and cheer on their fellow dorm-mates. The competition on the field is intense, with each hall’s pride on the line. Oh, and there’s one more very important thing on the line, too: the championship game which takes place at Notre Dame Stadium.
Every year, on the Sunday after the last varsity home game of the season, two intramural teams get to play in one of the most historic buildings in sports.
My senior year, our championship game was played the day after the legendary Notre Dame/Penn State “Snow Bowl.” I think that game was one of the best memories that I have of my time at Notre Dame, to be able to take the field and play football in Notre Dame Stadium. I have no words to describe how great it was to play football where so many greats have played before me. And that feeling is all thanks to Interhall Football.
A big thank you goes out to Tyler Moorehead for his editing help & perspective on this story. Tyler is a Senior English major at Notre Dame (& writes for CollegeSpun.com). You can catch Tyler on Twitter at — @Tmoorehead627, and his latest College Spun pieces here.