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A New Kind of Notre Dame Football
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A New Kind of Notre Dame Football

Last November, outlined against a blue-gray autumn sky, the tower of Notre Dame College’s Administration Building stood guard over Northeast Ohio’s newest football team; and while the phrase “Notre Dame Football” has been around for some time, those words now have a new connotation around College Road.

The College announced on November 25 that the development of a football program was underway. Notre Dame will begin play in the fall of 2009, with its first intercollegiate varsity season slated for 2010. With their development of a team, NDC becomes the only scholarship football team in the metropolitan Cleveland area.

“We’re thrilled at the prospect of initiating a football program at Notre Dame,” said Director of Athletics Susan Hlavacek. “We have challenges ahead, but this is the right time for the College to take this step. NDC football will bring a certain unity to our campus, and in turn keep us connected to the Greater Cleveland area.” On January 29, NDC hired its first head coach, Adam Howard, who’ll start up the fledgling Falcon program after serving as defensive coordinator at Baldwin-Wallace since 2003. “I'm grateful and excited to be chosen to represent Notre Dame College as their first football coach,” said Howard. “I feel very fortunate to have been places in my career that have taken a special interest to help prepare me for this.”

Howard and the new program have hit the ground running, said Hlavacek. Recruiting efforts are underway now, with Notre Dame’s cozy South Euclid campus and its gridiron startup being an attractive combination to local student-athletes who no longer need to leave Cleveland to pursue scholarship opportunities.

Howard, a standout defensive back at Wilmington College in the mid-1990s, indicated that a 2009 leadership class would be the backbone of the startup program: “My first objective is going to be recruiting a class for 2009. We have had a lot of interest from local prospects, and it will be important for us to establish a presence in Northeast Ohio.”

Hlavacek indicated the decision to launch NDC Football was made after months of due diligence in investigating the matter with various elements of the College.

Notre Dame President Dr. Andrew P. Roth added that football would be leveraged as part of the long-term success of the College: “The time is right for football at Notre Dame College. It helps foster a full college experience and further develops the campus atmosphere we’ve been striving to create. Falcon football will also be a vehicle to build even closer relationships with our alumni and with the Greater Cleveland community.”

That full college experience at Notre Dame will soon include the pageantry, colors and spirit of college football, as well as the sounds – NDC also announced the development of a marching band.

And while this brand of Notre Dame Football has yet to develop its own Four Horsemen or engender stadium echoes cheering their names, Head Coach Adam Howard already knows what Falcon Football looks like: “I want our players to be defined by their actions. I want them to be classy, respectful, and extremely tough physically and mentally.”

Those are the attributes Howard sees in the players he has already brought onboard – through the end of March, the football program had recruited more than 25 student-athletes. Dr. Roth appreciates those traits, and he too has a vision for what football looks like as part of the fabric of the Notre Dame campus. “

Football is a great sport, and it will help define Notre Dame as a coed institution,” Dr. Roth said. “Adding this program is just one step in our ‘Voyage of Discovery’ as Notre Dame College continues its quest to be a Cleveland success story and an institution of distinction.”

Skip Snow is the director of sports information at Notre Dame College.