The Leprechaun is the official symbol for the University of Notre Dame located in St. Joseph County in the town of Notre Dame, Indiana.
The feisty bearded little man with fists raised ready for battle represents the never-say-die fighting spirit of the athletes and students of the school, aka, “The Fighting Irish.” It is thought the presence of The Leprechaun brings good luck to the Notre Dame campus and its athletic teams.
The mascot’s logo was designed by sports artist Theodore W. Drake for the sum of $50.00. The original drawing of the Leprechaun first appeared on the cover of Time Magazine on November 20th 1964. Drake also created the symbol of the Chicago Bulls. In 1993, Notre Dame’s national alumni board paid a special tribute to the artist.
There are two versions of The Leprechaun at the University of Notre Dame. There is the graphic image of The Leprechaun that appears on a variety of merchandise, including banners, tee-shirts, hats, etc. And then there is human personification of the graphic symbol that appears at campus athletic events.
Annually, a human version The Leprechaun appears in the form of a student chosen by way of tryouts (lead a pep rally and do mock TV interviews) to play the roll of the energetic mascot who sports a green suit, Irish country hat and carries a shillelagh. The Leprechaun leads the traditional cheers on the student section, who are named “The Leprechaun Legion” and performs an Irish jig for the fans in the stands.
Notre Dame has three student Leprechauns. The “Gold” Leprechaun, the most coveted position, works with the football and men’s basketball teams and is the only Leprechaun who travels with the teams. The “Blue” Leprechaun works with women’s basketball and volleyball. And the “Green” Leprechaun works with hockey and soccer. The colors represent rankings and not the color of their costumes.
The Leprechaun, unlike the mascot at some schools, is not a scholarship position. There are no height or facial hair requirements for the leprechaun. The person just needs a lot of pride and Fighting Irish spirit. The overall “look” of candidates does weigh into the decision, however, and more often than not a young man with a chinstrap beard will be chosen.
Michael Brown, a sophomore business major from Milwaukee was the first African American chosen to serve as the Notre Dame mascot. Can a female leprechaun be far behind?
Years before The Leprechaun, the teams at Notre Dame were represented by a series of Irish terrier dogs.
The tradition began when Knute Rockne, Notre Dame’s football coach, was given an Irish Terrier by the Alumni Club of Toledo in 1924.
The Notre Dame school paper held a contest where students could name the dog. The winning name was Tipperary Terrence (later killed by a car in 1924).
Other terriers to grace the school campus included, Tippery Terrence II, Brick Top Shuan Rhu, and, of course, Clashmore Mike.
The demise of the terriers as campus mascots began in the 1940’s, when a human Irishman appeared at pep rallies, at media day, on the sidelines game day, and on the ND vs. Navy football program covers. The terriers and the costumed Leprechauns appeared together for the next 20 years.
In 1960, the Irish cheerleaders added the leprechaun to its cheering lineup. Terry Crawford, dressed in green, would walk back in forth in front of the cheerleading group with the Irish terrier, Mike.
In 1961, John Brandt from Elyria, Ohio became the first man to don the uniform and appear with Clashmore Mike at a home game against Oklahoma. Brandt served as the Leprechaun
The terriers faded by the 70s, leaving The Leprechaun as the top dog on campus as the school’s mascot. In 1965, The Leprechaun was named the official mascot in 1965, as well as
being registered as an official university mark.
In recent years, students playing the role of The Leprechaun included Mike George, The Leprechaun for the 2011 academic year; Senior Bryce Burton as The leprechaun for the 2012 football season; senior Johnny Romano is the leprechaun for the 2013 football season.
John Doran, a sophomore accounting major at Notre Dame became the Leprechaun for 2014. Thrilled to be chosen, Doran said, “I have been a life-long Notre Dame fan….I have the red hair and beard. Everyone told me I look like the Leprechaun. This is something I have wanted to do for a long time. To be here at Notre Dame and be the face of something so great is awesome.”
Daniel Colt Collins, a former mascot wrote “Life as the Notre Dame Leprechaun: Behind the face of the Fighting Irish” published in 2013 by Corby Books. Available at Amazon.com.
In 2013, the university unveiled a statue of the Fighting Irish mascot. The statue will be located inside of Gate 10 in Purcell Pavilion. Per the Merck Family, whose donation made the statue come to life, “the mascot of the Leprechaun has symbolized the joy, determination, and fighting spirit of Notre Dame.”
NOTE: The campus of Notre Dame had its origins one bitterly cold afternoon in November 26,1842, when a priest purchased a 524 acre snow covered lot in St. Joseph County in Indiana.
In the 1800’s, the university’s teams were dubbed the “Catholics.” The Catholics evolved to the Ramblers or Rovers. It wasn’t until the 1920’s that the school earned the nickname of the Fighting Irish” because coach Knute Rockne’s football teams were populated with so many Irish players.
In August of 2005, the NCAA ruled that it would not tolerate “hostile and abusive racial/ethnic/national origin mascots, nicknames or imagery” at any of its postseason tournaments. It was then, their “Fighting Irish” nickname came under fire as being a stereotype for an entire nationality, much like other sports team mascots like the Native American inspired team names such as The Braves, and The Chiefs.
In recent years, the University of Notre Dame has protected its trademarked symbol of The Leprechaun by notifying others using the name to cease and desist such practices so as to not weaken the university’s rights to its own symbol.
Case in point was Chapman High School, also named the Fighting Irish, who used The Leprechaun as their own school logo. According to a Notre Dame spokesman, “Chapman is one of many schools that, over the years, have adopted the nickname Fighting Irish and/or used our logo. Notre Dame does not actively seek out such schools, but when a school’s use of our trademarked symbols comes to our attention, we do notify it and ask administrators there to find alternatives.”
In the past, the university has had to enforce its trademark in regard to Catholic Central High School in Springfield, Ohio, and Cathedral High School in El Paso, Texas, among other schools.
University of Notre Dame
Notre Dame, Indiana 46556