Shillelaghs, Megaphones, And Bragging Rights: The Final Chapter?

notre dame michigan state
As many of you who are loyal readers or even long time haters of Subway Domer may know, I have been a strong advocate for Notre Dame using their rivalry trophies like the rest of the country. Maybe you don’t know what I’m talking about. Maybe, you don’t even know about Notre Dame and it’s many, many rivalry trophies (all of which will be listed below). If that’s the case: A) I’m not doing my job & B) You certainly aren’t alone. 

Back in October, I ran a very aggressive campaign to get Notre Dame to do one thing that I thought was kind of missing from the Notre Dame VS. USC game. It failed as miserably as everything else did that surrounded that game. Still, I pressed on with the question; why doesn’t Notre Dame bring the trophies onto the field, and is this whole subject outlined in some dusty handbook handed down from one ND Athletic Director to the next? 

I just can’t understand why Notre Dame Football wants to be even MORE different than the rest of the country. I just can’t understand that one of the things that makes college football special and one of my favorite traditions of college football seems to be completely shrugged off by the school I love the most. While it may seem trivial to some, it does mean something to me. I needed to know why.

My search brought me to Brian Hardin, Notre Dame’s Director of Football Media Relations. In a  quick phone interview, I asked Brian what was the official Notre Dame policy on rivalry trophies, if any at all. Hardin stated that there was no actual policy in place, nor was there any designation on who actually makes that decision as it has “never really been brought up.”

So there I had it. No policy, and no motivation to do anything other than what has been done in the past, which has been private presentations inside the locker room. Still, I was a little frustrated with the answer. I thought there may have been something. If some of you remember, back in 2005, Notre Dame lost to Michigan State in OT. John L. Smith raised a bit of a stink because he thought Notre Dame snubbed Michigan State by not giving them the Megaphone Trophy on the field. When asked, Head coach Charlie Weis said that he didn’t even know that it existed, and ND Athletic Director Kevin White stated that they have just always gave the trophy to some representative of the opposing team to put in their locker room. It wasn’t that big of a story, but I would have thought that the little blurb would have made Notre Dame place some official policy on the matter. 

So I pressed Hardin a little further. With Hardin being an Iowa native, I thought he may be a little more sympathetic to the subject considering the Iowa Hawkeyes are involved in one of the most famous trophy games (Floyd of Rosedale) and infamous games involving a trophy (Cy-Hawk). I asked why not. Why won’t Notre Dame consider bringing these trophies onto the field and give them the same credence as the rest of the college football world does with their rivalry trophies. 

Very simply, Hardin explained that it would all be just a bit much. Literally half of Notre Dame’s schedule in 2012 has trophy games. Six teams and 7 trophies (more on that in a bit). And finally, I understand it. Maybe not in the same way as some fans who could not care less about the whole trophy thing, but I think I understand where Notre Dame is coming from. We can’t bring a trophy out to half of our games without looking a little pompous. We probably can’t bring out only a a couple during the season as that may come off as arrogant to the teams that we play whose trophy isn’t brought out. Basically, it all comes down to good PR. Besides, would a majority of Irish fans even get in to the whole trophy idea after decades of possibly not even knowing that they existed? Probably not, although I can’t say that with any certainty.  

However the fans may view these trophies and Notre Dame’s lack of public promotion, Hardin assured me that the school, Coach Kelly, and the team take them very seriously. He explained how they were presented in the football offices and in particular the Jeweled Shillelagh and how Kelly had it proudly displayed in a glass case outside of his office for all to see after the 2010 victory. And then of course, there was this nugget from ND Tex of Her Loyal Sons (a former team manager):

I love that. Perhaps that is why I make such a big deal out of all of this. The passion of hating one’s opponents. Perhaps I just want more of that on the field. 

Still, after all of this, I do not back down on my stance with the Jeweled Shillelagh. Regardless of past practice, and the other 5 (actually 6 other) teams- USC is our biggest and truest rival. In that sense, I see no reason to not make the Jeweled Shillelagh more prominent. Perhaps one day, but most likely not. No matter though, I will always celebrate the hardware here at Subway Domer and if you like, you can join me on some internet high fives.
jeweled shillelagh
Here are Notre Dame’s 8 rivalry trophies and the 7 teams they play for those trophies:

jeweled shillelaghUSC

The Jeweled Shillelagh is the hardware given to the winner of the annual contest of the Trojans and The Fighting Irish. Legend states that Howard Hughes’ pilot brought this Gaelic Warclub, made of blackthorn oak, over from Ireland in 1952. The Notre Dame Alumni Club of Los Angeles created the award.

The winner of the contest is awarded the trophy with a new medallion to mark the victor. Notre Dame has emerald shamrocks while USC has ruby encrusted Trojan heads. Although the trophy was created in 1952, the entire series is recorded back to 1926. There have been 5 ties and those games are represented with a combo medallion. The original shillelagh was retired after the 1995 season. There was simply no more room for anymore shamrocks or heads.

It now resides at Notre Dame because the Irish won more games up to that point. (We still do even after only winning 1 in the last 9 games with a 43-35-5 mark). There is a new trophy that is a little longer than the original. It was purchased by Jim Gillis, a former baseball player for Notre Dame and USC. It is the same kind of oak and hails from the County Leitrim in Ireland. It was introduced in 1996.

shillelagh trophy purdue notre damePurdue

In continuing with the shillelagh theme, we next look at the Purdue game. It is simply called The Shillelagh Trophy. It was donated by a merchant seaman and Fighting Irish fan, Joe McLaughlin. He purchased the blackthorn oak club while in Ireland.

The winner of the game has received this trophy since the 1957 game. The winner has its initials put on a football medallion along with the score, and that is placed on the oak stand the Shillelagh sits upon.

The Irish hold a 55-26-2 record all-time against the Boilermakers, making this in-state-rivalry-trophy-game a bit underwhelming for most Irish fans, but it is still the only school from Notre Dame’s home state of Indiana that the Fighting Irish play each year. 

megaphone trophyMichigan State

Known only as The Megaphone Trophy, this trophy may now be the most famous of the Notre Dame trophies…or should I say infamous. Introduced in 1949, it is a joint sponsorship by the Alumni Clubs of Notre Dame and Michigan State in Detroit. Half of the megaphone is painted blue with an ND monogram and the other side is white with a green MSU. The score from each year is painted on it. The current trophy is the third one in use since it has run out of room for scores twice before.

This award became nationally known after the 2005 and 2006 games. The Spartans were outraged when Notre Dame did not present them with the trophy after they were victorious against the Irish in 2005. Notre Dame stated that it has been the custom all along to give the trophy to the opposing team after a defeat away from the field. This may have been the starting point for Johnelle to becoming crazy as a bat. Most of the Notre Dame players and Coach Weis himself, admitted to not even knowing the trophy existed. This is probably true since there was little written about the trophy prior to this game, and I don’t remember hearing much about it until EA Sports NCAA Football began showing what games had rivalry trophies. 

Notre Dame leads the series with a 46-28-1 mark. The one tie was one of the most famous ties in all of college football history, the 1966 “Game of the Century.” 

ireland trophyBoston College

This is the only rivalry game in existence, that I have heard of, that contains two trophies to the winner. The one depicted on the top right is called The Ireland Trophy. It was created by the Notre Dame Student Government as a sign of goodwill and sportsmanship. The second is called The Frank Leahy Memorial Bowl and is shown hoisted in the air on the bottom right.

frank leahy memorial bowl

This second trophy gives this game one of its unofficial names- The Leahy Bowl. (The game is also known as “The Holy War”, “The Vatican Bowl”, & the “Jesuit Invitational”) The Leahy Memorial Bowl is named as such after legendary Notre Dame and Boston College coach Frank Leahy. Frank coached Boston College during the 1939 and 1940 seasons leading the Jesuits to a 20-2 record before getting the call to come back to his alma mater, Notre Dame.

The all-time series is in Notre Dame’s favor at 12-9 after the Irish have struggled with it’s annoying cousin for most of the 2000’s. There was talk of the series ending soon, but it appears that both administrations want the only 2 Catholic major football programs playing each year- so it goes on.

legends trophyStanford

The Legends Trophy is fairly unknown. It’s a shame, really. This game is now a little more “primetime” thanks to a resurgant Stanford.  

It was presented for the first time in 1989 by the Notre Dame Club of the San Francisco Bay Area. The Legends Trophy, is a combination of Irish Crystal and California Redwood. It’s a beautiful trophy, and one that represents both schools well.

Notre Dame leads the series 17-9, but has lost the last three after the last game in 2011.  

rip miller trophyNavy

Somehow, I completely missed the unveiling of a new rivalry trophy for Notre Dame. The Rip Miller Trophy is named after the legendary Rip Miller who was a part of Notre Dame’s 7 Mules that blocked for the 4 Horsemen. Rip went on to coach for Navy and then became their Athletic Director. He was one of the key figures in Navy sending students to Notre Dame during WWII as so many of Notre Dame’s students went to off to fight. It saved the school, and is why Notre Dame and Navy will play a football game every year until the second coming-and beyond.

From Forever Irish:

ND Club of Maryland member Peter Trophy (ND ’88) designed the trophy, working with Jason Hardebeck of the Baltimore Chapter of the Naval Academy Alumni Association, and engaged multiple craftsmen to implement the design. Different from a typical rivalry trophy that is held by the winner each year and inscribed with the score of the game, the Rip Miller Trophy is composed of two symmetric halves, each of which will be inscribed with the names of the team’s captains for each year and will be held by the respective institutions during the year, being reunited whenever possible for the weekend of the annual game. Notre Dame’s half will reside in the trophy case outside the Alumni Association office in the Eck Center.

Notre Dame leads the series record 72-12-1.


Yes. Northwestern. There is a trophy for this game too, however it seems to be lost to history. For more on this matter and the trophy itself (also called The Shillelagh) please refer to this excellent Hail To Purple article about the series and the trophy itself. Below is what it looks like. Please call the FBI if you are aware of it whereabouts.
shillelagh trophy northwestern notre dame

The Subway Domer

About The Subway Domer

Warlord and Emperor of the Subway Alumni... also, I do this "dad" thing pretty damn well.