A Notre Dame Fanatic's Collection

SOUTH BEND, Ind. – At the front door visitors take off their shoes, at the basement door visitors put on a piece of clothing.

Hats and jackets hang just above the stairs, no one is allowed down the steps without sporting some kind of Fighting Irish attire.

That is just one of the rules at Pat Karpinski’s house, the next one, “Everybody has to hit the ‘play like a champion.’” Karpinski said, “It’s tradition, just like they do in the tunnel.”

After a tap on the sign, Karpinski stepped down the stairs and into a world that’s all about Fighting Irish Football. This is not a basement; this is a Notre Dame cave.

“Everybody just walks down the stairs, and basically their reaction is ‘Oh, my God,’” Karpinski said.

Every inch of the fourteen-hundred square foot space is covered in blue and gold, “It’s filled to the brim,” Karpinski said.

Pieces of the Golden Dome, drawings of “Touchdown Jesus,” photos, and autographs are framed and hung on the walls, each a cherished Irish memory.

“This is a lifetime; you know 60 years…I was born on St. Patrick’s Day so it started right away,” she said

Karpinski said she’s just a fan turned collector, and now Notre Dame lights dangle from the ceiling and N-D rugs cover the floor. From the footrest, to the beanbag chair, to the bar, it’s all Irish.

If it’s not Notre Dame it just doesn’t have a place down here, Karpinski said, “I never planned for this, it just happened.”

She said it took a lot of time and a little bit of luck to track down all the pieces to her collection, especially rare items like a football signed by  National Champions, the entire 1977 football team.

That football was once the most valuable thing in the Notre Dame cave, “Probably not worth anything now because the kids played with it in the yard and ruined all the names on it,” Karpinski said.

But she has held onto it, more than 30 years later she had her sons, now both in their 40’s are able to laugh about the whole thing.

“That’s the funniest story we have that they took such a valuable football and played out in the yard with it and ruined it,” Karpinski said.

The football is the funniest, most expensive story she’s got, but everything in her collection has a story.

"Everything has a story behind it, who gave it to you, what was the occasion.”


Karpinski said she has never gotten her collection appraised, but guessed it’s worth about twenty-thousand dollars.


She said she gets curious sometimes, but the value doesn’t interest her much because she doesn’t plan on selling it.


Karpinksi plans to pass the collection down to her kids and grandkids, but even then it won’t be sold… That’s another one of her rules.

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