100 Things Notre Dame Fans Should Know & Do Before They Dieby John Heisler, Bryant Young, Frank Stams
With traditions, records, and Fighting Irish lore, this lively, detailed book explores the personalities, events, and facts every Notre Dame fan should know. It contains crucial information such as important dates, player nicknames, memorable moments, and outstanding achievements by singular players. This guide to all things Notre Dame covers the
With traditions, records, and Fighting Irish lore, this lively, detailed book explores the personalities, events, and facts every Notre Dame fan should know. It contains crucial information such as important dates, player nicknames, memorable moments, and outstanding achievements by singular players. This guide to all things Notre Dame covers the game day walk from the Basilica to the Stadium, Joe Montana's legendary comeback performance in the 1979 Cotton Bowl, and the history of the green jersey tradition.
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100 Things Notre Dame Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die
By John Heisler
Triumph BooksCopyright © 2013 John Heisler
All rights reserved.
He Could Coach — And So Much More
Knute Rockne first put his personal stamp on the Notre Dame football program back in 1913 when, as a senior end on the Irish roster, he collaborated with quarterback Gus Dorais to help beat powerful Army in a game that firmly attached Notre Dame's name to the college football map. But it was five years later, when he became the Irish head football coach in 1918, that he began a 13-year tour of duty that saw his star rise to the highest point in the Notre Dame galaxy.
In those 13 seasons, Rockne produced five Notre Dame teams that finished unbeaten and untied, plus six more with only a single loss. His Notre Dame squads produced consensus national titles in 1924, 1929, and 1930. He won 105 games against only 12 defeats — and his all-time winning percentage of .881 remains the best in the history of college football.
Along the way, Rockne coached legendary figures like the Four Horsemen and all-around superstar George Gipp. On 11 occasions, Rockne's players were selected as consensus All-Americans — and eight Notre Dame players that he coached are now in the College Football Hall of Fame.
Originally hired as a chemistry research assistant, Rockne developed a reputation as a master motivator and marketer whose flair for promotion and the creation of national rivalries against teams like USC furthered the Notre Dame football name. He also served as Notre Dame's athletics director, business manager, ticket distributor, and track coach. When the College Football Hall of Fame inducted its first class in 1951, one of the names on the list was Knute Rockne. That came 20 years after Rockne died tragically in a plane crash near Bazaar, Kansas.
Actually, Rockne had a rude introduction to football.
As a young Norwegian immigrant to the Logan Square district of Chicago, Rockne first played the game with his immigrant neighbors on the sandlots. A slender and swift ball carrier, Rockne broke away from his pursuers for a long run, a sure touchdown. But a rowdy group of fans for the opponents stepped in, stripped the ball away from his cradled arms, and mistook his body for a punching bag.
When Rockne finally arrived home, his parents took one look at his tattered body and announced that his football career was over. But a few bumps and bruises would not keep Rockne away from the game he loved for long. With his parents' blessing, he returned to the gridiron in high school and later emerged as the country's most respected, innovative, and successful college football coach of all time.
After Rockne finished high school, he worked as a mail dispatcher with the Chicago Post Office for four years and continued his athletic endeavors at the Irving Park Athletic Club, the Central YMCA, and the Illinois Athletic Club. By then he had saved enough money to continue his education and boarded the train for South Bend and Notre Dame. After a difficult first year as a scrub with the varsity, Rockne turned his attention to track where he earned a monogram and later set a school record (12–4) in the indoor pole vault. Those accomplishments gave him incentive to give football another try. This time he succeeded and eventually was named to Walter Camp's All-America football squad as a third-string end. During his senior season (1913) when he served as captain, Rockne and his roommate, quarterback Gus Dorais, stunned Army with their deadly pass combination and handed the high-ranking Cadets a 35–13 setback.
But Rockne — who also fought semi-professionally in South Bend, wrote for the student newspaper and yearbook, played flute in the school orchestra, took a major role in every student play, and reached the finals of the Notre Dame marbles tournament — considered himself primarily a student. He worked his way through school, first as a janitor and then as a chemistry research assistant to Professor Julius A. Nieuwland, whose discoveries led to synthetic rubber. Rockne graduated magna cum laude with a 90.52 (on a scale of 100) grade average.
Notre Dame offered Rockne a post at the University as a graduate assistant in chemistry upon his graduation. He accepted that position on the condition that he be allowed to help Jesse Harper coach the football team. When Harper retired after the 1917 season, Rockne became his successor.
Under Rockne's tutelage, Notre Dame skyrocketed to national prominence and became America's team. With their penchant for upsetting the stronger, more established football powers throughout the land, the Irish captured the hearts of millions of Americans who viewed Notre Dame's victories as hope for their own battles.
"The old padre running the University understood marketing. He realized that up the road in Chicago there was a newspaper or two he could use," said longtime ABC Sports college play-by-play veteran Keith Jackson.
"They were in the perfect position to capitalize because they were a private university. You have to remember, they were called the Catholics for a while. The circumstances were just right. They had a coach and an athletic director in Jess Harper who could deliver.
"Then Knute Rockne came along. He was a chemistry teacher and he might have gone to Alaska and sold refrigerators if he hadn't gone into football. He was a salesman, and he could have sold anything. Notre Dame had Chicago and New York. Columbia never captured New York City. Notre Dame has always been the dominant college football team in New York City because there are all kinds of Catholics there. Not just the Irish."
During Rockne's 13-year coaching tenure, Notre Dame beat Stanford in the 1925 Rose Bowl and put together five unbeaten and untied seasons. Rockne produced 20 first-team All-Americans. His lifetime winning percentage of .881 (105–12–5) still ranks at the top of the list for both college and professional football. Rockne won the last 19 games he coached. Rockne, who was inducted into the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame in 1951 — the first year of inductions — revolutionized the game of football with his wide-ranging ideas and innovations. Rockne qualified as the first football coach to take his team all over the country and initiate intersectional rivalries. The Irish competed in a national arena. He challenged the best football teams in the land and almost always won.
For all of his contributions to the game of football, The Sporting News recognized Rockne as the 76th most powerful person in sports for the twentieth century. In its 2008 book, The College Football Book, Sports Illustrated listed Rockne and Alabama's Bear Bryant as its all-time coaches.
The NCAA Official Football Records Book listed 12 major college dynasties from the twentieth century "because of historical significance, and all represent an outstanding record as well as at least one national championship." Notre Dame was one of three schools to place two dynasties on that list (1919–30 under Rockne; 1946–53 under Frank Leahy), with Oklahoma (1948–58; 1971–80) and Alabama (1959–67; 1971–80) also earning double distinction.
Using his medical and anatomical knowledge, Rockne designed his own equipment and uniforms. He reduced the amount of bulk and weight of the equipment, while increasing its protectiveness. He also introduced the gold satin and silk pants that cut down on wind resistance. Rockne foresaw the day of the two-platoon system and often used his "shock troops," a full team of second-stringers, at the start of games.
Inspired by the precision and timing of a chorus line, Rockne added the Notre Dame shift to his playbook. In the shift, all four backs were still in motion at the snap. Opponents were so dumfounded by the shift that they couldn't find a consistent way to handle it. The rules board finally enacted a law against the shift. Rockne also attempted to outsmart his coaching peers by downplaying his squads' talent. He never boasted about his team or its strengths; rather, he lamented his squad's lack of skill every chance he got. Rockne believed that half of football strategy was passing, while most of his counterparts kept the ball on the ground.
"Rockne is the greatest college football figure of the twentieth century, no ifs, ands, buts about it," said ESPN's Beano Cook. "People recognize his picture now. They know it's Rockne. When he died, if I recall, it was the first funeral ever broadcast nationally on radio. That's the kind of impact he had. For me, it was easy to pick Rockne as the No. 1 coach. He has been dead 70 years (now more than 80), and everybody still knows his name."
But football never proved enough for Rockne. He wrote a newspaper column once a week; he authored three books, including a volume of juvenile fiction; he was principal designer of Notre Dame Stadium; he opened a stock brokerage firm in South Bend during his last season; he was a dedicated family man to his wife Bonnie and their four children and for years raised much of the family's food in his garden. Rockne also made several public speeches a year and served as a public spokesman for Studebaker.
After the championship season of 1930, Rockne tried to get away for a much-needed rest and vacation. But he was needed in Los Angeles to make a football demonstration movie.
An enthusiastic flier and never one to waste time, Rockne boarded Transcontinental-Western's Flight 599 from Kansas City to Los Angeles on March 31, 1931. Shortly after takeoff, the plane flew into a storm, became covered with ice, and fell into a wheat field near Bazaar, Kansas. There were no survivors.
Rockne became the first athletic coach at any level to be featured on a United States postage stamp on March 9, 1988, when a commemorative stamp in his honor was dedicated at Notre Dame. The stamp honored the 100 anniversary of Rockne's birth. Approximately 160 million Rockne stamps were printed, with the first-day issue originating from the University of Notre Dame Post Office. Highlighting the unveiling of the stamp was an appearance and speech at the Joyce Center by President Ronald Reagan, who played George Gipp in the 1940 Warner Brothers movie Knute Rockne, All-American.
There's a bronze sculpture of Rockne outside the north end of Notre Dame Stadium, adjacent to the tunnel entrance. When it was dedicated in October 2009 it was located on the east side of the Stadium near the ticket windows, but prior to the 2010 season all the sculptures of the former Irish head coaches were relocated outside the various Stadium gates.
The Rockne sculpture shows the former Irish coach in his coaching sweatshirt and baseball pants, with his hands on his hips. Notre Dame graduate Jerry McKenna created the sculpture.
Benefactor Joe Mendelson, who in 2006 established the Joseph T. Mendelson Endowment for Athletics Excellence to provide incremental and non-budgeted funding for Notre Dame's Olympic sports programs, funded the Rockne sculpture through the Notre Dame Monogram Club. Mendelson, who lives in Santa Barbara, California, was a charter member and served as a chair of the advisory council for Notre Dame's Institute for Church Life from 1980 to 1996. He also served on the Snite Museum of Art advisory council from 1986 to 1989 and 1991 to 2000.CHAPTER 2
Revisit Old Notre Dame Stadium
Legendary History for Irish Grid Facility
For all the legendary players and memorable moments it has hosted on its bluegrass turf over the past 431 games (through 2012), Notre Dame Stadium has unquestionably developed a lore all its own. In service to Irish football since 1930, the stadium continues to be one of the most recognizable and revered structures in the world of sports.
But the Notre Dame Stadium that Irish fans have visited and viewed since 1997 underwent the most involved expansion and remodeling since the facility was first built. More than 21,000 new seats are now available, bringing capacity to 80,795. And, there may be more changes to come based on a recent announcement by the University.
Notre Dame said on May 2, 2013, that it is exploring an innovative approach to campus planning that would take advantage of the central location of the football stadium to make it a hub for, among other possibilities, a student center, media center, and classroom and conference center.
"Inspired by the University's campus master plan, we will study the possibility of accomplishing multiple objectives — namely, preserve the campus' pedestrian character by taking advantage of a central location for needed facilities, retain the integrity of a legendary stadium, improve the visual attractiveness of the exterior stadium wall, and enhance the game-day experience for our football fans," Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., the University's president, said after presenting an outline of the initiative to members of the Board of Trustees at its spring meeting.
Potential areas of examination include constructing additions to the stadium to provide:
Space for classrooms, conferences, speakers, meetings, receptions, and other events
A student center for assembly and activity areas
Resources for media, including facilities for the University's expanding video and digital initiatives for academic purposes and external relations, as well as a press box
A location for various hospitality functions for community and campus patrons
Enhancements to the fan experience, including premium seating options.
The study will include representatives from the offices of the provost, student affairs, executive vice president, University relations and architect, Notre Dame athletics, and other departments, as well as outside consultants.
Costs and other details related to possible projects will be unknown until specific plans — if any — are put in place. Under all circumstances, however, the University will keep the original stadium intact.
It was the success of Hall of Fame coach Knute Rockne's Notre Dame football teams — plus the legendary coach's own personal building blueprint — that prompted the addition of the original Notre Dame Stadium to the University's athletic plant back in 1930.
Excerpted from 100 Things Notre Dame Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die by John Heisler. Copyright © 2013 John Heisler. Excerpted by permission of Triumph Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
John Heisler joined the University of Notre Dame sports information staff in 1978, was named sports information director in 1988, and currently serves as senior associate athletics director for media and broadcast relations. He is a native of South Bend, Indiana, and has been following Notre Dame football since 1964, when he first started regularly attending Fighting Irish games.
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