May (we) have your attention please? ND Stadium legend Tim McCarthy dies at 89
Notre Dame Stadium has had its share of legends through the years — coaches like Knute Rockne, Frank Leahy, Ara Parseghian and Lou Holtz; players like Johnny Lujack, Paul Hornung, Joe Montana and Tim Brown.
And Tim McCarthy.
“May I have your attention please? This is Tim McCarthy with the Indiana State Police,” intoned McCarthy for 55 seasons between the end of the third and the beginning of the fourth quarter to give the capacity crowd a safe-driving message to take into the parking lot. And the message always ended with a quip or a pun.
McCarthy, who was a sergeant for the Indiana State Police and later the two-term Porter County Sheriff from 1979 to 1987, died Thursday at the age of 89 in his Westville, Ind., home.
McCarthy, whose wife of 63 years Carole passed away last December, is survived by a son Timothy II, daughter Colleen and two granddaughters. Visitation will be 3-5 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 8 at the Newhard Funeral Home in Westville (www.newhardfuneralhome.com). The funeral, scheduled Friday for St. Mary Catholic Church in Otis, Ind., will be private because of COVID-19 concerns.
McCarthy’s friends remembered him as a down-to-earth gentleman who never wanted to bring attention to himself but wanted to make sure his safety announcements left the proper message, especially not to celebrate too much afterward and to drive safely and soberly home.
“Tim was a very humble guy,” said John Heisler, a senior associate athletic director in charge of athletic communications at the University of Central Florida who spent more than 40 years on the athletic staff at Notre Dame in a similar capacity. “He never wanted any celebrity status — it just happened. He would come to games, sit in the press box and nobody would know who he was.”
But at every home game from late 1960 through the 2015 season, most often dressed in his blue State Police uniform and later in a sports coat and tie, McCarthy would make his way up to the public address booth and deliver his safety announcement, reminding his listeners to drive home safely and always ending them with a line that left fans either laughing, booing or moaning with good-natured pain.
Among his best, through the years:
“Remember, the reason we hammer about safety is to keep you from getting nailed!”
“If you drive like lightning, you might crash like thunder!”
“The automobile replaced the horse, but the driver should stay on the wagon!”
“Remember, driving like a turkey is a fowl way to drive!”
“Remember, if you have coffee instead, there’s always grounds for safety.”
“Always remember, never drive faster than your guardian angel can fly!”
McCarthy was surprised by how much attention his announcements received.
“I’ll tell you one thing, it’s very humbling,” McCarthy told Brian Plamondon of Sports Illustrated during his final season in 2015. “I never believed it would last this long and never believed it would have the impact in the stadium that it had.”
McCarthy already was a fixture doing his announcements when current Notre Dame Stadium public address announcer Mike Collins, who is retiring after this season, came on board in 1982. The two became fast friends away from the gridiron and shared breakfasts monthly until recently.
“Tim loved the Notre Dame students more than anything,” said Collins, who collaborated with him on a 2009 book, “May I Have Your Attention Please … Wit & Wisdom from the Notre Dame Press Box.” “He was a regular blue-collar kid — he never forgot his (Fort Wayne) roots.”
Nor his roots as a state policeman. Like most who sat in the press box, McCarthy brought along binoculars to watch and sometimes do his work. One game, McCarthy’s binoculars weren’t focused on the game but rather a nearby parking lot where he noticed cars being vandalized.
“I pointed this out to longtime South Bend Tribune photographer Dutch Henning,” McCarthy recalled. “I had him take a close-up photo. Dutch developed it and gave it to the sheriff’s department who used it to identify and arrest the youths.”
For his work, the school honored him with a Notre Dame monogram in 2013.
“Tim was very personable, always had a smile on his face,” said Roger Valdiserri, Notre Dame’s longtime sports information director and assistant athletic director from 1966 to 1995. “He was very much at home in our press box and we loved what he did for us with his safety messages.”