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Notre Dame Football Heritage Project builds fan affinity

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Many fans can think back and remember the first game they ever experienced at Notre Dame Stadium. Now a new project wants those fans to reach back to that memory and add it to the story of Notre Dame’s heritage.

“I just love the history of Notre Dame,” said Jim Augustine, the owner of Augie’s Locker Room.

His store is full of one-of-a-kind memorabilia from Notre Dame’s past, but it doesn’t compare to actually stepping into the stands.

“Going to that first game was probably what got me hooked,” said Augustine. “It’s fun to go back and reminisce about what my first experience was like in Notre Dame Stadium.”

Cherishing the first memory of every Notre Dame fan is what the Notre Dame Football Heritage Project is all about.

“Over the years I’ve heard many stories of people who have hitch hiked from New York and camped out in the Joyce and slept underneath the bleachers and then snuck into the game. There are a million stories like this and we want to chronical those stories,” said Len Clark, the executive director of the Notre Dame Football Heritage Project.

Clark came up with the idea a few years ago to build a comprehensive database of every fan’s first game.

“There have been some mentions about the fan experience but I don’t think there’s ever been a comprehensive book or a project devoted to the Notre Dame Football experience,” he said. “It’s unlike any other football program in the country. I’ve traveled, I’ve lived around the country. Nothing is comparable to the Notre Dame game day.”

It’s meant to tell the stories every true Notre Dame fan can easily recall.

 “We had crazy things we did you know if you went one yard at a football game at Notre Dame we’d have a little bottle of whiskey and we’d take a little shot, and you know you can get pretty loaded and that’s why they quit drinking at ball games,” said Larry LaCluyse, who works with Augie and collects sports memorabilia of his own.  

Clark is selling personalized certificates to fund the project. Some of the money from each certificate purchas goes towards the Ara Parseghian Medical Fund and the Fr. Peyton Centre in Ireland. LaCluyse bought one of the very first certificates and says he can't wait to see the project take off. 

“I like memories,” said LaCluyse. “And when you get old you forget all the good memories. What these types of things do is they get your brain working again and you say ‘Oh that memory!’ And that turns into another memory.”

Right now fans can submit those memories online in the form of stories, pictures or videos.

And in a few years Clark hopes the project can expand to include a kiosk in the hall of champions.

 “You walk into the monogram room and you look up at the athletes. Now fans when they walk in, they can say I’m a part of that as well,” said Clark.

He’s hoping to work together with all supporters of the Fighting Irish to create a project that’s for the fans and by the fans.

“We’re planting the seed and we’re hoping that we will yield a harvest down the road in the next couple of years to build it in the way that I envisioned it or in the way that others envision it,” said Clark. “Really everybody is going to have to contribute to make this a success.”

Clark is talking with the alumni association and hopes to work with them to reach out to all the Notre Dame Clubs across the globe. He’s also hoping this project will be replicated by other schools in the future.

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