Legendary former Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz defended the university’s Fighting Irish nickname on Thursday amid calls for the school to reconsider it.
Holtz spoke Thursday evening on Fox News’ “The Ingraham Angle” about the return of college football and whether the Fighting Irish nickname should be left behind.
“They were named the Fighting Irish because the Ku Klux Klan tried to attack the Catholics,” Holtz said.
“They went down and fought the Ku Klux Klan and that is where the name the Fighting Irish came.”
Holtz’s comments about the Ku Klux Klan probably refer to a May 1924 incident that took place in South Bend, Indiana.
The Klu Klux Klan “wanted to showcase its power and cement its sudden grip on Indiana politics by holding a picnic and parade in South Bend, the most Catholic area in the state,” according to the University of Notre Dame.
About 500 Notre Dame students responded by chasing Klan members down the streets and stealing their hoods and robes as “battle trophies,” according to Notre Dame.
Both the university and “Notre Dame Vs. the Klan: How the Fighting Irish Defeated the Ku Klux Klan,” a book written on the matter by Todd Tucker, describe the encounter at length.
The university notes that it is not exactly clear how Notre Dame adopted the Fighting Irish nickname.
The nickname may have originated from a 1919 visit from Irish freedom fighter and future president of Ireland Éamon de Valera, according to the university.
It may also refer to the fact that four of the six founders of Notre Dame were Irish.
Additionally, Irish immigrants who fought for the Union in the “Irish Brigade” during the Civil War were called the Fighting Irish, which Notre Dame suggests was the first usage of the term.
Rev. William Corby served as chaplain for the brigade and would go on to become the third president of the University of Notre Dame.
The university suggests that the first time the nickname was used for Notre Dame athletic teams was in 1909, when news reports attributed a comeback by the Notre Dame football team to the spirit of the Fighting Irish.
Notre Dame did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Daily Caller News Foundation.
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