Blue and Gold Illustrated

December 2019

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

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Page 43 of 47

44 DECEMBER 2019 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY LOU SOMOGYI T he 1909 Notre Dame football season is remembered for pulling the first major upset in school history, an 11-3 vic- tory at "Champions of the West" Michigan. Four years later in 1913, the small Catholic school in northern Indiana stole headlines in New York with its epic 35-13 shocker of eastern super- power Army while unveiling a pass- ing attack seldom witnessed in the game. In 1920, a second straight 9-0 sea- son by Notre Dame became even more heralded when its first Walter Camp first-team All-American, half- back George Gipp, was immortal- ized in American sports lore with his death less than one month after the season's conclusion. And in 1924, head coach Knute Rockne's charges captured what is recognized by the university as its initial consensus national title in football. Consensus, yes. Initial, no. Among all the aforementioned wa- tershed moments over a span of 15 years, the 1919 season has become maybe the most obscured team in the program's annals. While Harvard University with its 9-0-1 finish was declared the "unani- mous" champion that season by vari- ous outlets, the NCAA also honored Notre Dame, Illinois and Texas A&M as a bona fide national champion (see College Football Data Warehouse and fbs), which it would not in 1920. Under second-year head coach Rockne and the peerless Gipp, Notre Dame was recognized in 1919 by both the National Championship Founda- tion and Parke H. Davis as the best football team in the land, thanks in great part to crucial road victories over its top nemesis Nebraska (14-9) and the always-respected Army Ca- dets (12-9). Eventually in 1936, the formation of the Associated Press poll became the most recognized and agreed out- let to judge when it came to national titles. As the years progressed, three other outlets became recognized by the NCAA: first the coaches poll (known initially as the United Press, and now Amway) in 1950, the Foot- ball Writers Association of America (Grantland Rice Award) in 1954, and the National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame in 1959 with the awarding of the MacArthur Bowl. The latter was presented to Notre Dame in 1964 under first-year head coach Ara Parseghian, while the AP and UPI recognized Alabama as No. 1 in the regular season (although it would lose in the Orange Bowl), and Arkansas earned it from the FWAA. The University of Notre Dame rec- ognizes 11 consensus national titles — 1924, 1929, 1930, 1943, 1946, 1947, 1949, 1966, 1973, 1977 and 1988 — but the 1919 and 1964 editions also are acknowledged by the NCAA. QUITE THE PERSONNEL There might not be a centennial celebration of the first of 13 recog- nized national titles in the 70-sea- son span from 1919-88, but looking back on the personnel from that 1919 team, it's understandable why it was so esteemed, even beyond football. Of course, Gipp was the linchpin of a roster replete with future Col- lege Football Hall of Fame talent. As a junior, he rushed for 729 yards and 6.9 yards per carry, completed 41 of 72 passes (56.9 percent) for 727 yards, intercepted three passes on defense, and handled kicking and punting duties. • Tackle Bernie Kirk was Gipp's best friend and a fellow Michigan native. After making the "All-West- ern" team for Notre Dame in 1919, he transferred to Michigan and would earn higher esteem. Alas, like Gipp, he died far too young, in 1922 from injuries in an automobile accident. • Guards Heartley "Hunk" Ander- son and Maurice "Clipper" Smith are both enshrined in the College Foot- ball Hall of Fame. Anderson made the 1920s NFL All- Decade team with the Chicago Bears, succeeded Rockne as Notre Dame's head coach in 1931 and won the NFL The ForgoTTen Champions Notre Dame won its first NCAA- recognized national title 100 years ago The 1919 Fighting Irish were recognized by both the National Championship Foundation and Parke H. Davis as the best football team in the land, thanks in great part to crucial road victories over Nebraska (14-9) and Army (12-9). PHOTO COURTESY UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME ARCHIVES

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