Friday, February 12, 2010

#73: Digger Phelps

Basketball season at Notre Dame is usually most notable because it is the end of the football season, but there are certain things about Notre Dame Basketball that are uniquely enjoyed by Notre Dame Students (at least some students).  Digger Phelps is one of those things.

Digger Phelps was the head basketball coach at Notre Dame in the 70’s and 80’s, and probably the most successful coach in the history of Notre Dame Basketball.  He holds the NCAA record for most upsets of number one ranked teams, and led the Irish to their only appearance in the Final Four in 1977.  He is the son of an undertaker.

Despite the fact that these successes occurred before current Notre Dame Students were even born, the student body likes Digger Phelps for things that have nothing to do with his coaching prowess. 

Like Lou Holtz (see #23), current Notre Dame students like Digger Phelps for his oversized personality and his appearance on the ESPN College GameDay program (the basketball version).  Similarly to Holtz, Phelps uses the program to make unreasonable predictions about how the Fighting Irish will do in their games (although unlike Holtz he is capable of picking against the Irish squad) and as a way to showcase his uncanny ability to match the color of his highlighter to the color of his necktie.

Not only do Notre Dame Students like Digger Phelps for the unnecessary publicity he brings to their basketball program, but they also like him for his willingness to make frequent appearances on campus for events ranging from pep rallies to dorm talks.  At pep rallies, he is one of the most intense speakers the university has at its disposal, and he can make the crowd overly excited even when the team’s predicament is most dire.

If his pep rallies are noted for their intensity, his dorm talks are noted for their bizarreness.  When Digger starts talking in a dorm he will seamlessly transition from talking about his life and his career in basketball to talking about his political opinions about globalization and America’s future.  While oftentimes unpredictable, these talks can be even more interesting than those of the beloved Fr. Hesburgh (see #56)

Overall, Notre Dame Students like Digger Phelps because his personality matches their zeal and his devotion to the school brings him back again and again.  Whether they see him at pep rallies, on ESPN, at dorm events, or in the bars around South Bend, Digger Phelps can excite students in a way that few personalities are able.


  1. I danced with him at a bar. Just because it was Digger and I wanted to be able to tell all of my friends I did it.

    I think they were ashamed for me.

  2. Shouldn't he be on a list of things ND students don't like?

  3. he taught one of my p.e. classes freshman year... coach o'sullivan brought him in. it was fantastic.

  4. one night during senior week after freshman year i met digger phelps at parisi's with tino martinez. it was pretty awesome

  5. I also think he should be on a list of things ND students don't like. Ever had to serve him in a cafe on campus? He is an overbearing asshole.