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Joe Stachler from South Bend holds a box of sod from the Notre Dame stadium.

Notre Dame turf tales

Fans from all over tell how stadium sod gets 2nd down

Associated Press photos
Notre Dame staff and members of the media wait for buyers to come in to buy rolls of sod from the football stadium in South Bend. Notre Dame sold rolls of sod in May before a switch to FieldTurf.

– When Mike Seis received an early Father’s Day gift of a roll of sod from Notre Dame Stadium, he knew right away what he’d do with it.

The Wichita, Kansas, resident visited the grave of his mother, Frances Seis. He and his son and daughter laid some of the sod on her grave.

“My mother raised her children to love Notre Dame and I thought she would love having some of Notre Dame with her,” said Seis, 49, who spent the summer of 1999 at Notre Dame as a visiting student in a master’s degree program.

His mother died in 2013.

“She had gone to parochial schools in Kansas City in the 1930s and 1940s, and she always had a crush on Johnny Lujack,” Seis told the South Bend Tribune, referring to the famed Notre Dame and Chicago Bears quarterback and 1947 Heisman Trophy winner.

The last time his mom opened her eyes before she died, Seis said, he played the music from the “Notre Dame Victory March” for her on his cellphone.

Seis is among the Fighting Irish fans who recently purchased or received as gifts Notre Dame Stadium sod.

The university sold rolls of turf that were removed from the football field in May in preparation for installation of synthetic FieldTurf. The 5-by-2-foot rolls were sold online for $150 (including two-day shipping) or $100 during a final day cash-and-carry sale for local residents. Each purchaser also received a certificate of authenticity.

Notre Dame is not releasing details about how many rolls of sod were sold, university spokesman Dennis Brown said. Proceeds from the sale are going toward the cost of installing the artificial turf.

Some fans shared with The Tribune photos and stories about what they did with their sod.

Toronto

Joe Bowen, the “Voice of the Toronto Maple Leafs,” now has a roll of the ND Stadium sod planted in his backyard in Toronto. The sod was a gift from his four sons.

“We put rocks around it and spray-painted them blue and gold,” said Bowen, 63, a well-known Canadian sportscaster.

He’s called Maple Leafs hockey games since 1982, but he’s also a big Fighting Irish fan. “My dad was a fan. You could say I’m a subway alumnus,” Bowen said in a telephone interview.

Bowen started regularly going to Fighting Irish football games while a friend, Canadian Mike Wadsworth, was Notre Dame’s athletic director in the late 1990s. (Wadsworth died in 2004.)

Now Bowen, his sons and other family members have a tradition of renting a motor home each year and coming to South Bend for a home football game.

Bowen wanted to buy the sod himself, but was dismayed to learn Notre Dame would only ship it to addresses in the continental United States. So his sons had it shipped to Bowen’s former longtime broadcast partner, Harry Neale, who live in New York state.

Bowen drove to New York to play a round of golf with Neale, then drove the sod back home.

The turf is growing well in its new climate, Bowen said. “What a great early Father’s Day gift from my lads.”

Bowen said that, after he dies, he’s always wanted his sons to be able to sprinkle his ashes on the turf at Notre Dame Stadium.

“Now they don’t have far to drive,” he said.

Michigan

Jason Bryan, 35, of Mason, Michigan, a lifelong Fighting Irish fan, was thrilled to receive a surprise gift of the stadium sod from his father on Memorial Day.

“I’ve always followed the Irish. It started when I was a kid,” said Bryan, a graduate of Hillsdale College and a special education resource teacher.

He lived in South Bend for a short time in childhood while his dad, Dr. Dwight Bryan, completed a medical residency. Jason Bryan and his wife attend at least one Notre Dame football game a year in South Bend.

Bryan planted his roll of sod along his driveway near his basketball hoop. “I moved some wood chips and installed it there. And nearby I put up a metal sign that says Notre Dame,” he said by phone.

The sod arrived in fine green condition. He’s been watering it carefully and it’s doing well. “I’m planning to plant mums along one side,” he said.

His 2-year-old son likes to water the sod. And the toddler is turning into a Fighting Irish fan, too. “He learned the words to the (Notre Dame) fight song two weeks ago,” his dad said.

St. Louis

Jim Blase, a 1981 Notre Dame Law School graduate who lives in St. Louis, received a roll of stadium sod as an early Father’s Day gift from his three children, who all earned Notre Dame bachelor’s degrees.

Blase installed the sod in his backyard and shared a photo.

“In the foreground is a brick which was removed from the Notre Dame Stadium locker room during the 1990s expansion,” he said in an email.

And a small golden figure of the Virgin Mary stands in the background, Blase’s nod to the Golden Dome atop Notre Dame’s Main Building.

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