Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 1, 2018

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 51 of 55

52 OCT. 1, 2018 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY LOU SOMOGYI A ny new college football head coach who wins only three games in his first season can take some solace. That's because Knute Rockne (1918‑30), whose .881 winning per‑ centage (105‑12‑5) in his 13 seasons at Notre Dame remains the best ever in the current Football Bowl Subdivi‑ sion, also managed only three victo‑ ries in his debut campaign 100 years ago. It's the fewest by any first‑year Notre Dame head coach since the po‑ sition became full‑time in 1913 with Jesse Harper. Tied for second with five apiece are Joe Kuharich (1959), Gerry Faust (1981) and Lou Holtz (1986). Of course, there were some extenu‑ ating circumstances 100 years ago, namely the cancellation of the entire October schedule that season because of the Spanish Influenza pandemic. Consequently, the record books show that in his inaugural season as a head coach, the 30‑year‑old Rockne was 3‑1‑2 (.667 winning percentage). A 1914 graduate of the school after serving as the football team captain and earning third‑team All‑America notice from Walter Camp as a wide receiver for the unbeaten (7‑0) 1913 unit, Rockne had already earned plaudits as a student‑athlete. During his senior year, Notre Dame shocked powerful Army (35‑13), beat Penn State (14‑7) and toppled 7‑0 Texas (30‑7) all on the road in the school's first stab at "national scheduling" to compensate for getting blackballed by the more local conference that would become known as the Big Ten. Rockne remained at his alma ma‑ ter while serving as an assistant to Harper, coaching the track team and teaching chemistry, but had wanted to run his own football team. Thus, in the winter of 1918 he excit‑ edly considered the open head coach‑ ing position at Michigan Agriculture Culture — known as Michigan State today — until fate intervened. A close relative of Harper in Kansas had passed away, prompting him to take over the family ranching business back home. Harper urged the univer‑ sity to hire Rockne as his successor. One hundred years ago, who re‑ ally knew or cared about the impact Rockne's hiring would have? DOUBLE DOSE OF HITS That 1918 debut for Rockne saw college football have two difficult setbacks. The first was thousands of young men in college were leaving the United States to engage in World War I A ROCKY DEBUT One hundred years ago, the Spanish flu canceled college football for a month in Knute Rockne's inaugural season The 1918 team was led by standout halfback George Gipp (top row, center), who would become Notre Dame's first Walter Camp All-American two seasons later. PHOTO COURTESY FIGHTING IRISH DIGITAL MEDIA

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