|Legendary Fighting Irish Coaches
The most successful coach in college football history almost never had a football career. His parents
forbid him from playing football when, as a youth growing up in Chicago, he came home from a sandlot
game after having been used as a human punching bag.
Knute Rockne fmally returned to football, with the blessing of his parents, while in high school.
After high school, Rockne worked as a mail dispatcher in Chicago for four years, before finally saving
enough money to get on a train and head to South Bend, Ind., to pursue his college education.
Rockne played varsity football his first season, but after a tough season, he concentrated on track. He
returned to football after success in track, and earned All-American honors during his senior season
(1913), when he also served captain.
His coaching career began as an assistant to Jesse Harper. Rockne accepted a position as a graduate
assistant in chemistry at Notre Dame, with the condition that he be allowed to be an assistant football
coach. Harper resigned in 1917, and Rockne began building Notre Dame into a national power.
In Rockne's 13 seasons, Notre Dame had five unbeaten and untied season while compiling a 105-12-5
record (.881 winning percentage). Rockne also served as Notre Dame's athletic director, business
manager, ticket manager, track coach and equipment manager. He wrote a weekly newspaper column,
wrote three books and was the principle designer of Notre Dame Stadium.
In March 1931,just months after a championship season, Rockne was killed in a plane crash.
If Knute Rockne is credited with helping Notre Dame first part college football's Red Sea, then Frank
Lehay should be honored for leading the Irish to the promised land. Long before he took the Irish's
coaching reins, Lehay was a tackle (1928-30) on Rockne's last three Notre Dame teams.
Lehay's first stint as the Irish coach followed two successful years at Boston College where he guided
the Eagles to a 20-2 record and a Sugar Bowl victory. His first season in South Bend was 1941 and two
years later he coached his first national championship team.