Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 26, 2016

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

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52 SEPT. 26, 2016 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY LOU SOMOGYI O n Nov. 15, 1945, Notre Dame head coach Frank Leahy re- ceived his discharge from the United States Naval Reserve after a year and a half of active duty in World War II. About a couple of weeks later, he signed a 10-year contract to be the athletics director and football coach at his beloved alma mater. Leahy graduated from Notre Dame in 1931 after playing as a tackle on Knute Rockne's last two national title teams (1929 and 1930), and he assumed the duties as head football coach at age 33 in 1941. Upon signing the 10-year deal, Leahy established a preposterous goal: finish unbeaten all 10 years. "I think we could have done it had we not cut back on scholarships," Leahy would say years later of a late 1940s move in which Notre Dame re- duced football grants-in-aid by about 15 per year. Given what transpired from 1946-49 when the Fighting Irish never lost in those 38 games (36-0-2), won three consensus national titles and finished No. 2 in 1948, one would doubt Leahy only at his own risk. Prior to going overseas, Leahy's first three seasons at Notre Dame al- ready provided a harbinger of domi- nance. His first Fighting Irish team in 1941 finished unbeaten (8-0-1) — after he had led Boston College to a perfect 11-0 mark in 1940 — and his 1943 edition defeated the teams that finished Nos. 2, 3, 4, 9, 11 and 13 en route to the school's first national title since his senior year. W h e n t h a t 1 9 4 6 N o t re D a m e team came together 70 years ago, Leahy re-assembled a staff that in- cluded Ed "Moose" Krause, Wally Ziemba, Joe "Captain Bligh" McAr- dle, Bernie Crimmins, Marty Brill and Bill Earley — all of whom, like the majority of the players they would coach, had served in World War II. It was after the 1943 national title that Krause urged Leahy to accept a Naval commission because once the war would end, the dynamics would be different. Those who returned from the "real trenches," not merely those in football, would remind any coach that would dare to chide them, "Where were you during the war?" One of the myths during the post- war years was that Notre Dame "signed all the football talent." The reality is that approximately 2.2 mil- lion men returned from World War II and enrolled in college on the GI Bill. Excellent football talent was dis- persed at schools throughout the na- tion, but Leahy and his staff made them jell collectively better than any- one. Unlike Army in 1944-45, which hoarded the most talent while other schools had to cancel their programs temporarily or had their best play- ers go off to World War II, there was immense talent all over the post-war years signing with different schools. The 1946 Notre Dame official roster included 69 names. Among them, 48 were war veterans and 21 had not yet been called into military service. Because football was played pri- marily with 11 "starters" back then — lining up on both offense and defense — the surplus Notre Dame had was astounding. There were 42 players on the 1946 team who had previously won monograms for the Irish, about half of them who had been shipped overseas after the 1943 season. Thir- teen of them had been starters. Upon their return, only four of those 13 were able to make the first 11 in 1946: quarterback John Lujack (who would win the Heisman as a senior in 1947), fullback Jim Mello, tackle Zygmont "Ziggy" Czarobski and guard John Mastrangelo. Among the 42 returning monogram men in The 1946 Fighting Irish were more loaded than a cannon with true "veterans." From left to right: Paul Limont, Jack Zilly, George Sullivan, John Lujack, George Connor and Jim Martin. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME MEDIA RELATIONS IrIsh Dynasty Seventy years ago, Notre Dame built a juggernaut after World War II

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