Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct 08, 2022

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

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 51 of 55

52 OCT. 8, 2022 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED IRISH ECHOES JIM LEFEBVRE BY JIM LEFEBVRE I n his first five years as head coach of football at Notre Dame from 1918-22, Knute Rockne had built a record of 39-3-3 and was developing a substan- tial reputation as a "football genius." He took the accumulated knowledge of the game developed by Walter Camp at Yale and passed on at the University of Chicago by Amos Alonzo Stagg to men like Jesse Harper, and made it his own, imbued with his unique brand of energy, humor and imagination. More and more often, he was being asked to speak to groups of football coaches and others involved in athlet- ics. At the start, many of these gather- ings were rather informal. If he were traveling to a particular area, he might be asked to stop at the local college and talk football with a few coaches, manag- ers and captains. In the summer of 1923, Rockne was invited to spend two weeks teaching football as part of the summer school program of a little-known college in Provo, Utah — Brigham Young Univer- sity. The school, known primarily as a religious seminary for the Mormon Church, was not officially recognized as a university by any accreditation or- ganization. Its recently named presi- dent, Franklin Harris, was the first BYU president with a doctoral degree, and he was intent on improving the academic standing of the university. Football was new at BYU, the school having just fielded its first intercolle- giate team in 1922. It was a rough intro- duction, with BYU dropping five of six games while getting outscored 184-10. Physical education director Eugene L. Roberts, taking his lead from President Harris, wanted to make major strides to quickly expand BYU's profile in athletics. Adding a football course to the sum- mer school program — and inviting coaches from nearby high schools, prep schools and colleges — would help build a stronger base of well-trained coaches in the area, and ultimately benefit the university. To attract them, Roberts wanted a well-known coach on the faculty, and Rockne fit the bill. To pay Rockne for his services, BYU technically hired him as a professor for the spring term. So, for a short time Rockne, the Norwegian Lutheran coaching at a very prominent Catholic university, was in fact an adjunct faculty member at the primary Mormon college. For someone who crossed the Atlantic Ocean from Norway at age 5, the trek across America's prairie lands to Utah was a snap. It's easy to imagine Rockne, on the train ride to the great salt flats, shaking his head in wonderment at the odd confluence of religious traditions, brought together by athletics. It was indicative of his adventuresome spirit, his openness to experience new people, places and projects. And Rockne came well prepared. He had started codifying his football knowledge by typing page after page of teaching notes — detailed instruc- tion on every situation encountered in a game, as well as training, treatment of injuries, and so on. He would custom- ize each appearance to match the level of coach he was instructing. At Provo, he would be more likely to stress ba- sics than at his next stop, Springfield, Mass., where he would instruct a more advanced level of eastern coach who had been at the game for a longer time. Eventually, Rockne would transition from being a faculty member at summer school programs to launching his own standalone coaching schools, which formed the blueprint for what remains today as coaching clinics across the country. Each summer, he would end up conducting as many as eight such schools, many in partnership with Wis- consin basketball coach Walter "Doc" Meanwell. The schools literally spanned the nation, from the College of William Rockne (front, sixth from right) in the summer of 1923 at BYU, where he taught football in the summer school session of the physical education department. PHOTO COURTESY OF BYU ARCHIVES New Program BYU, Aiming To Scale The Heights In Football, Turned To Knute Rockne For Direction

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of Blue and Gold Illustrated - Oct 08, 2022