This is Fr. Ted Hesburgh responding to media criticism after the Terry Brennan firing (1958), to the "Notre Dame has sold its soul for football glory" line that critics love to hurl whenever Notre Dame makes a bold move to better the football program. Either way, his response nicely sums up ND's stated goal that it strives for academic excellence AND the pursuit of championship football.
Several years ago Sports Illustrated kindly invited me to express some convictions regarding intercollegiate athletics. In a recent (1958) article entitled "Surrender at Notre Dame," you say that I have found it impossible to live with these convictions at Notre Dame and have reversed myself, or allowed myself to be reversed, albeit reluctantly. If I read the article correctly, and separated the fact from the fiction, your conclusion is derived from the single fact of our having changed football coaches. Here are a few more facts and convictions that may suggest an alternate, although perhaps less colorful, interpretation of that single fact.
"My primary conviction has been, and is, that whatever else a university may be, it must first of all be a place dedicated to excellence. Most of my waking hours are directed to the achievement of that excellence here in the academic order. As long as we, like most American universities, are engaged in intercollegiate athletics, we will strive for excellence of performance in this area too, but never at the expense of the primary order of academic excellence."
He (the ND head coach) understands what we stand for and he has our confidence. Despite any syndicated surmises to the contrary, he is not expected to be Rockne, but only himself; he is not to be measured by any nostalgic calculus of wins, losses and national championships but only by the excellence of his coaching and the spirit of his teams.�."
"A university could make broad and significant changes in academic personnel to achieve greater excellence, and attract only a ripple of attention. But let the same university make a well-considered change in athletics for the same reason, and it sparks the ill-considered charge that it is no longer a first rate academic institution and must henceforth be considered a football factory. It seems to me a little more thought is in order regarding what makes and institution academically first rate. What the University does athletically, assuming it to be in the proper framework, neither adds to nor subtracts anything from relevant and all-important academic facts.
There is no academic virtue in playing mediocre football and no academic vice in winning a game that by all odds one should lose.. . There has been a surrender at Notre Dame, but it is a surrender to excellence on all fronts, and in this we hope to rise above ourselves with the help of God.