Fans give O'Leary an Irish welcome
By SCOTT BRODFUEHRER
Assistant News Editor
Approximately 1,700 fans joined Notre Dame administrators and reporters in the Joyce Center arena Sunday afternoon to welcome new head football coach George O'Leary in an event billed as a press conference but transformed into a pep rally.
"It's unique to Notre Dame. It's a great way to welcome him, especially with a name like O'Leary," said sophomore Betsy Schroeder.
The Notre Dame band and Olympic cheerleading squad were on hand to lead fans in welcoming O'Leary. Adidas donated 2,000 shirts that were designed by Sports Marketing and printed by PJ Marketing that proclaimed "by George it's O'Leary."
"It's an idea that Sports Marketing came up with and approached Adidas to see if we would be interested to sponsor. It's just a way to create a festive, fun atmosphere," said Molly Anderson, adidas Marketing Representative.
The event served as a small preview for next year's football season, as students introduced new cheers that were variations of O'Leary's name. One group of students modified the cheer done before kickoffs and shouted, "O... Leary!"
"I think it could be huge, we could do it before every kick off," said junior Eric Chanowich.
A group of five students from Keenan and Stanford who called themselves the "O Squad" greeted O'Leary with three signs. One had large print, declaring "O' My Leary!" Another was a modified Notre Dame national championship banner, adding a 12th national championship for the year 2002, coached by George O'Leary. A final sign was a large picture of former head coach Bob Davie and O'Leary at the 1998 Gator Bowl.
"We wanted to welcome him into the program, make him feel welcome. This [press conference] is a family atmosphere, it welcomes him in," said freshman Michael Johnston who was joined on the "O Squad" by Jimmy Atkinson, Stephen Gillespie, Michael Griffin and Rich McIver O'Leary's first exposure to the Notre Dame family was one marked by humor as he adopted a light-hearted tone in his remarks. At one point during his speech, a group of students stood up and shouted, "We love you George!" O'Leary quipped back to the crowd, "I hope you say that after mid-season."
After the press conference, students said that the event met their expectations.
"Nothing really shocked me. He said what he was supposed to say. He said a lot of stuff about the academics, which I guess he has to," said freshman Chris Koegel.
All News Stories for Monday, December 10, 2001