eye. Fred Leahy is dead on there. What a great ending line. I think that is essentially where the Malloy administration had a mis-read. Football gives ND the platform and the bully pulpit from which they can do all the other great things they do. The recent Ex Corde Ecclesiae (V-M, QFF) debate is a good example. The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post aren't writing feature stories from Marquette or Seton Hall. The nation looks to ND for the Catholic perspective. Football, for all its minor sins, gave them that prominence, and the power and ability to do so much good in so many ways.
fan of Notr Dame football than Fr. Hesburgh. He took over as president in 1952 at the age of 35 At that time we were just starting our rapid growth and the last of the veterans had graduated. We had many needs at Notre Dame and he realized that we had to grow from a football school to a great Catholic University. He had negotiated the football television packages that were a breakthrough in sports and we were starting to bring in the necessary funds to spur our growth both financially and academically. He had visions of of a Notre Dame which would be known as a great learning center which would extend its reach and knowledge throuhout the country and the world. He is a true visionary.
He did not de-emphasize football. He decided to put it in perspective. We had returned to one platoon football and there were not as many players needed. He tightened up on the entrance requirement for the general student body and the atheltic program. He felt and rightly so that both great football and great academics could coexist. He was aware that Notre Dame was caught having illegal practices in the summer of 1951 when the ncaa flew a plane over the stadium. Leahy was a great coach but he had the image of being the most important person at Notre Dame. Leahy was also suffering from health problems and had heart trouble. Fr Hesburgh knew that without Leahy we would not have achieved the greatness that we have.
The battle between academics and football at ND has existed throughout her history. Sperber quotes Frank Leahy as saying of Rock, "The priests were getting ready to come down hard on him when he died." Fr. O'Hara raised the academic standards for Layden's players, requiring an "80 average" to be eligible to play (Layden couldn't have played for himself). Fr. Hesburgh came in like a reformer (I think LEAHY's post below catches the conflict nicely) and went out like a fan, hiring Holtz so that Monk wouldn't have to take any heat for hiring a successful coach with a few nicks in his past. Malloy, of course, turned on Holtz and football, even after he'd enjoyed the benefits of a top-rated program, while Jenkins has reaffirmed Hesburgh's ultimate attitude that there's nothing wrong with excelling at both academics and football. BTW, we're the only school I can think of that constantly endures this vacillation between the extremes, and I'm not going to analyze it here.
The conflict is evident in our football history, which is a series of peaks and valleys, with dry spells in the '30s, '50s-early '60s, early '80s, and late '90s-early 2000s sandwiched between peaks that included our eleven national titles.
All I can say is enjoy things now, for we seem to be on the ascendancy again (I am as firm a Weis-supporter as you're going to find), although our history says that somewhere down the road, in who knows how many years, we'll have another dry spell as "the priests," as Frank Leahy so aptly put it, decide "to come down" on football again.
This guy thought I was nuts and just blaming the presidents. He felt that no way would a ND president jeopardize Football by purposely de-emphasizing it. I tried to explain the whole "trying to raise the academic standing at the expense of Football" thing, but he just dismissed it, saying "Why would a college president hurt something that brings in a lot of money?" (Of course, this guy is a very conservative businessman who doesn't have much contact with the people in academia).
Holtz was hired in the fall of '85. Malloy didn't take office until fall of '87. I don't think the hiring of Holtz had as much to do with protecting his successor as it was meant to rectify the HUGE mistake in hiring Faust. Holtz' was a great hire that still has effects.
I have no reason not to believe him. Did he know it would be Monk? Don't know.
Hesburgh started his tenure much like Monk did with many of the same issues, especially the view of ND as a "football factory". He tried to de-emphasize football.
Then came the crucial difference. Hesburgh realized and corrected his mistake. Monk did not.
Hesburgh recognized the fact that football had been, and always will be crucial to the financial underpinnings of the University. That without it, much of the mission of the university would be much more difficult to accomplish. He also came to understand the very public way excellence in football set the bar for everything else the university does. Not only the technical excellence wins vs losses, but the manner in which the wins are achieved and how the program comports itself.
Once he realized his mistake he corrected it, and along with Fr. Joyce, led the university through decades of incredible growth in football, all athletics, AND academics.
One of Hesburgh's greatest strengths was/is his uncanny ability to put things in proper perspective and develop priorities that stand the test of time.
Almost all analysis points to Hesburgh letting my father go.
This battle between dad & Fr. Ted has been debated and discussed over and over.
My dad did in fact blame Fr. Ted for the change in direction at ND.
Dad was a giant in those days and Fr. Ted was a young new President. A clash of the Titans was inevitable.
Dad at age 45, Fr. Ted in mid thirties I believe.
I will say this: For years the relationship was extremely strained if not painful. Fr. Ted did not appreciate dads lack of support for Terry Brennan and his outspoken criticism of Notre Dame Football.
Dad would often speak about the program Rock built, and the success Layden had, and how he (dad) was honored to carry on the tradition, and now Notre Dame had handed it to a High School coach.
In the end though, as my dad was dying in Lake Oswego, Oregon Fr.Ted spent the last week & a half with us, and dad, as Wells Twombley captured it in his book "Shake Down the Thunder".
Many tears were shed by dad & Fr. Ted in the quiet moments of my dads bedroom.
Two immensly proud (yet stubborn) men who realized their mistakes many years ago.
Fr. Ted for realizing ND football could be strong and accentuate the academics and religious tone of ND, and my dad for all the negativity and bad press he brought to ND and Fr. Ted and Terry Brennan.
All of the Leahy's will always remember Fr.Ted as a leader,a man willing to say he was sorry, and mostly as a friend and admirer of dad who was willing to be with dad up until the end.
Notre Dame: It's history is rich with politics, drama, religious overtones, and leadership qualities that reach far outside of football.
In the end though it is football that casts Notre Dame in the public eye.
Love Thee Notre Dame.
My dad certainly did.
So did Fr. Ted.
Great to see you here. I've talked about this many times with ND people of the era and, of course, read the great Twombly book, but I always thought the thing that rang most true was that, yes, Fr. Hesburgh and your father somewhat butted heads, most if it having to do with Fr. Ted establishing his vision of ND as a first rate university along with a first rate football program, but that your father's health, mental and physical, had simply became too worriesome.
As it was explained to me, Fr. Hesburgh did cut the number of scholarships available to your father, which certainly made things more difficult, but it was mostly because Fr. Ted simply didn't understand how hard it is to win in football. His actions were born more out of the desire to be well within the then current rules AND to win. It was as if he just thought that at ND you rolled out the football and the rest took care of itself.
But more than anything was that your father was so obsessive that people feared for his health. There is the example of fainting during halftime of the GTech game (they gave him the last rights), which they called pancreatis or something, but appears in retrospect to have been a massive panic attack. They didn't know that then, but that's what he was having. At least that's what a guy, a QB, on his teams told me.
It just became one of those things where he seemed to be getting more and more on the edge, more unstable in a way (moose Krause makes mention of this in the video Wake Up The Echoes), and when combined with the "fainting Irish" criticism and the other controversies that seemed to be coming up more and more, it just became something that "had to be done."
My source said, "It was also very typical of Father Hesburgh at the time that he thought a 25 year old with no head coaching experience could run the program. Father Hesburgh seemed to think the football program almost ran itself."
And so it would appear that, yes, your father was fired. Yes, there was some head butting (especially after) but that the main reason was the fear that staying on the job would kill him - or that he'd lose it.
Curious as to your thoughts on that....
My wife's grandparents lived directly across the street from your home in Long Beach, so my wife spent a lot of time there as a kid. Looks like your home there was a great place (and still is). Email me if you like.
Now my wife's parents have a condo a number of stops down in Michigan City...only condo tower there, right on the beach. They were members of LBCC for years.
click on: (click here to email the poster)
occasionally monitoring the board.
I never go away.
I just read and try to add when I can.
I'm a loyal fan to this site & UHND.
I bought that book for my dad for Christmas oh so many years ago. He was in high school in the mid-forties when your dad was at ND and is the one that got me started as an ND fan. I just borrowed it from him to read (when I have the time!). I remember reading Wells Twombly in the SF Chronicle I believe. He died too young.
...here it is.
I think the fact that he was willing to bury the hatchet and spend that time with Frank and his family at the bitter end demonstrates not only the inexorable connection Hesburgh felt with others who possessed a lifelong passion for ND but an appreciation for the critical role that Leahy and his success played in the ongoing blossoming of the university.
Thanks a million for contributing that.
It says so much about the university and about the people involved. It shows, for example, that Ted/Ned would never have allowed the Moore fiasco get so out of hand. A major part of the job involves handling the human side of difficult situations, and Ted/Ned understood that fact far more than Monk/Beauchamp ever could.
Erecting the statue of your father was long overdue.
ca. 1967. My sister (class of '83) and your niece attended the same kindergarten/pre-school in the Chicago SW burbs, and my mother and your sister split the driving. My mother recalls stories about your father's drivenness that you have already recounted here.
What is probably most fascinating about your father's career is that, as the line coach at Fordham under Jim Crowley, he coached a guard who proved to be just as driven as a coach as your father was.
Possibly the three greatest coaches ever.
I read Twombley's book a number of years ago (10 or 15) and I recall him being very critical of Notre Dame throughout the book. He seemed to insinuate that your father's devotion to Notre Dame was somehow Notre Dame's fault and a negative situation for your family. I also recall that he stated that Notre Dame didn't send any spokespeople of significance to your father's funeral. True? I've always believed (my own interpretation) that your father's love of Notre Dame was part of his paying homage to Rockne who he loved like a father. To me, Rockne, Leahy and Parseghian stand above all other coaches and even Holtz and Devine weren't in their league. I was born a little too late to experience any of the Leahy era but there was always something special about his name. It was always spoken with reverence. Bud Wilkinson was always extremely respectful of Notre Dame and it stemmed specifically, I thought, from his experiences playing against Frank Leahy.
Twombley was a bit strange in his perceptions of ND.
Tried to convey images that didn't hit the mark.
As for Dads funeral it was a bit ugly.
Notre Dame Nation wanted dad buried in South Bend.
My mom said no. She stated that Notre Dame had Frank Leahy for all those years and she wanted him to herself now. She wanted him buried in Portland so she and all of us could visit his grave etc.
This created a real split with players, alumni, and in general lots of the ND nation.
With this said there were two ceremonies for dad. The funeral in Portland and services in S.Bend.
Al Davis in the opening of the book really scorched many of the players and dads friends, asking "where were they"?
As one reflects on dad and ND. It never was and never will be an easy place to coach or be a part of.
All I know is that dad absolutely worshiped Rockne, and ND and the alumni but more importantly, What ND stood for as it related to educating the future leaders of America. He adored the students at ND. Past and present.
in the past. My Dad had great memories of him in the Pacific during WWII.
I thought that Twombly missed the mark repeatedly as well and it sounds like he omitted some critical information. Your dad's deep affection for Rockne has always been evident to me and what's really special is that his players had the same adoration for him, though not always during their careers. My son is a high school football coach (an assistant and a very good one, I believe). Whenever he gets really frustrated I'll throw out a line that I've heard quoted of Frank Leahy, "Have you suffered enough for success?!" And, as Johnny Lujack said, "Leahy knew the meaning of the word 'sacrifice'". As far as I'm concerned, they couldn't make statues big enough for Rockne or Leahy.
and some great insights and rational, objective views which most of us would probably have difficulty posting in similar circumstances....
First, let me say that is an honor to see you posting here. Thank you.
I recall during my freshman year in Breen-Phillips walking past the ND Fire House, and hearing a classmate talk about your father, and how, during the season, he spent so much time on campus that he often slept in a room in the Fire House.
Is that true? If so, how often did he bunk there?
My father was a workaholic.
He viewed time spent driving home as wasted time.
He did indeed spend nights in the firehouse and his offices.
Prepare, prepare, prepare was dads driving force.
That's why if he was alive today he would tell you he missed his number one goal he set for himself.
To go 10 years without a defeat.
I kid you not.
He truly was an amazing coach.
I wish I had had a chance to see him in action.
That photo of him with the team behind him, his face a picture of worry and concentration, is classic.
including an appraisal of your father's frailties that was likely much more candid than many of us would offer about our own fathers.
The fact that so many of your father's former players speak so highly of him and the role he played in their lives -- far beyond the football field -- speaks even more to his greatness than his incomparable (to anyone other than Rockne) football accomplishments.
played baseball at ND. He tells the story with such pride about walking on campus one day when he ran into Leahy. He was utterly shocked when he called my colleague by his name and asked how things were going.
...it doesn't alter the fact that your father was arguably the greatest college football coach in American history, with only one legitimate contender for that spot (and he also a Notre Dame coach). Of course, I was only old enough to follow one of those unbeaten teams, the 1953 unit, which remains my favorite ND team. Coached to a merciless (for its opponents) near perfection. It would have mopped the field with Maryland had they met in a bowl game.
I well remember the shock of F.L.'s departure among ND fans, whom I had just recently joined as a child member. I even recall some of his "interventions" in the press, during 1956. As I recall, they were usually identified as attempts to needle the team into performing better than they had been doing that miserable year.
it's hard to believe the degree to which ND changed during his tenure. Football put ND on the map during the first half of the century. Hesburgh understood how to harness that engine to bring up the academic profile of the place. He did make some mistakes in perhaps assuming that ND would eventually let football go as a relic of the past, but if he ever thought these things he changed his mind. He famously once said that "Texas has oil and ND has football."
ND made some bad coaching hires under his watch, but he also made the greatest coaching hire in the school's history in the form of Ara. While we can debate where Ara belongs relative to Rockne and Leahy, Ara took over a much worse situation. Ara took over after literally the worst stretch in ND football history for several years. Leahy, however, followed Layden who was 47-13-3 (.770) and Rockne followed Marks who was 13-0-2 (.933) and Harper who was 34-5-1 (.863). Although it's hard to believe now, back in the early 1960's the idea of ND hiring a Protestant was alien to a lot of people (even though Rockne converted etc., it still was a big deal). And unlike Monk, Ted didn't do it to make a political statement, he did it because Ara could coach football.
of Fr. Joyce as his second in command. To the extent that Hesburgh was either openly or covertly hostile to football and sports, it seems that Joyce was a clear counterbalance. Monk problem (among others) was that he didn't have a Joyce to keep his administration in balance.
"if it weren't for Ned Joyce, I might have bankrupted the place" (paraphrased, but not by much).
that it's hard to know where one began and the other ended. Fr. Joyce was a heck of a guy.
that Malloy would entrust such a capable and confident man with so much direct authority and influence.
One more reason to grade Fr. Hesburgh very highly on the leadership scale.
I think Fr. Hesburgh was worried about the tail wagging the dog, and the perception that the tail was wagging the dog.
One of Leahy's former players told me that when Eisenhower came to campus, he sought a meeting with Leahy, but not Fr. Hesburgh, the president of the University.
Maintaining the "proper" balance, a subjective target indeed, could be much more of an art than a science, and I'm more than willing to view some of Fr. Hesburgh's more unfortunate football hires as misses rather than deliberate attempts to de-emphasize.
Malloy, on the other hand, seemed truly ashamed of Notre Dame's football tradition. I'll be convinced until the day that I die that Malloy believed that an aggressive, ethical pursuit of football excellence made him a pariah among the crowd of elitist university presidents to which he aspired.
and asked to imitate a center snapping the ball. He responded: "Would you ask the prez of Yale to do that?"
The man was about 35 at the time. He obviously decided that he was going to break the mold for ND prez's, and he did so across the board (mistakenly w/ FB). I suspect that, given his lack of knowledge about the subject, he honestly thought that the program was strong enough that hiring a coach w/ no head coaching experience beyond HS would work.
The odd thing about Brennan is his 3d year, which remains the worst in school history by a wide margin. His record his first 2 years was slightly better than Parseghian's. His 4th year, w/ the big win at Norman, was decent, and the 5th year might've been tolerable under other circumstances. The 3d year is what doomed him.
The thing to truly fault Ted/Ned for occurred your sr year. Given their experience w/ Brennan, I'm not sure what made them think that someone who had NO coaching experience of ANY kind on the collegiate level could handle the job. Hesburgh was contemplating retirement about that time--I seriously doubt that the BOT considered any HS principals as his replacement.
no one was prepared to replace him, and the BOT knew it. Then they put Monk and a couple of other guys in a position to prepare for the job and Monk was selected. One other point concerning Brennan. His 2-8 season in 1956 was only slightly worse than the 2-7 season that preceded the arrival of Ara. That one might have equaled Brennan's if not for the cancellation of the Iowa game on Nov 23, 1963 as a result of the Kennedy assassination.
or '63, both of which were 2-win seasons. I don't have the scores in front of me at present, but there were 2 losses by 40 or more and another loss or 2 by 30 or more. It was kind of like 2003, only w/ a much worse W/L record.
Hesburgh certainly took us through periods of de-emphasis but only to maintain a balance he saw to be necessary. I have little doubt that if NDN existed decades ago may of us would have been very unhappy with Fr. Ted.
Make no mistake, unlike his successor, he understood better than anyone football's place and the three pillars. He even spoke of them clearly in "God, Country, Notre Dame". More importantly he was not embarrassed by it in the least. Furthermore, Hesburgh was incapable of disgracing himself by doing something such as openly talking down Notre Dame under Fr. Malloy to other university leaders.
My favorite Hesburgh quote regarding football: "Texas has oil; Notre Dame has football; Neither should apologize."
It wasn't that football needed to be deemphasized, but that it was over-emphasized at that point, and other aspects of the university needed to be brought up to par.
If you have read Talking Irish, you know that it is an excellent read and a rich source of information about ND football. Leahy resigned under pressure from the Hesburgh administration. The story put out was that it was due to health reasons. Leahy's own physician states in the book that Leahy was healthy and he was shocked to learn of the resignation. Leahy's last rites was painted as a fainting episode brought on by overwork and a viral condition (flu)in that book. Hesburgh then hired a high school football coach (Terry Brennan) with limited experience (sound familiar). I believe he only had 1-2 years as a ND assistant under Leahy. Leahy never embraced the hire and was known to grumble behind the scenes about being replaced with Brennan who was one of his former players. See the Indiana Hoosiers of the current day. Hesburgh then cut football scholarships substantially. Hesburgh gets credit for hiring Ara when Joyce wanted Devine in 1964. The 10 year exodus in the wilderness in the late 50s and early 60s do resemble Davieham. The Glory of Notre Dame has two articles that are worth reading. They were "The Hiring of Terry Brennan" and "The Firing of Terry Brennan" both written by Dick Schaap. They were expertly written and presented with balance. One should also read Hesburgh's ruminations after the 1964 loss to USC late in that season. Another article worth exploring is the 1986 SI after the Michigan loss. My humble opinion is that Hesburgh could easily live without ND football but also showed understanding of it's importance to most of us ND people (without or without intellectual curiosity) and it's value of a cash cow. Hesburgh was neither saint nor sinner but somewhere in between when it came to ND football. My opinion is also that Affleck- Graves is the true champion when it comes to recent changes in emphasis about the football program. Certain members of the BOTs should get kudos too.
friend of mine who was a senior in Keenan last year that, the week before the USC game, a group of Keenan guys had dinner with Jenkins. When they asked about Willingham, Jenkins said "Let's just say this is a must-win game for him."
Really they all (Jenkins, Affleck-Graves, and the top dogs in the BOT) deserve lots of credit, both for FB and for their stands in acadmics, both in replacing Hatch and in their stand against the monologues and QFF.
heard. I can understand his desire to move on with the changes at the top, but are you suggesting that the new guys wanted him out as well? What are the objections to Hatch?
academics and academic freedom at ND was very pro-VM and the like and anti-Catholic in the theology department. The Jenkins allies and more conservative faculty members didn't like him, but they certainly didn't push him out- he simply got a great offer. The main thing I was referring to was the replacement process. How it worked was the faculty would submit candidates to Jenkins and Jenkins would approve or reject them. They proposed all sorts of people in Hatch's mold and Jenkins rejected a whole slew of them and indeed said he would act as provost unless they gave him someone more in his (that is, Jenkins') mold. Eventually he got his wish.
The old adage about "Ted the Head" reveals all:
Do you know the difference between God and Ted Hesburgh?
God is everywhere. Ted is everywhere, except Notre Dame.
in the ACC was something along the lines of "I ran into Fr. Hesburgh in O'Hare and told him I was on the way to Notre Dame. He said to give his regards to the students and faculty."
at the risk of inciting rebellion here, there is good reason to believe Hesburgh helped ease Leahy out the door and in turn had good reason to do so. Leahy had arrogated to himself a certain independence from the CSC administration that was probably unhealthy and inappropriate. There are, for example, stories which probably have some truth to them about the 35-year-old Hesburgh, new to the presidency, inviting Leahy to meetings, only to have one of Frank's assistants appear. In addition, some of Leahy's actions on the football field (e.g., the Varricheone fake injury incident) were counter-productive to the gigantic task Hesburgh had taken on of significantly improving ND's academic standing, which was in turn highly dependent on how the school was perceived by potential donors. That said, the later decisions (Brennan, Kuharich) which people have labelled as "de-emphasis" likely were not. Instead, they were just bad personnel decisions. Kuharich, for example, came from the NFL so his hiring could hardly be characterized as de-emphasizing. He just turned out to be a bad coach. Even throughout his reign, ND still was turning out a lot of NFL talent. Meanwhile, Hesburgh raised tons of money and drove ND's ascension to a much loftier academic status.
I agree that Hesburgh's decision to ease Leahy out was more personal than a decision to deemphasize football. Hesburgh enjoyed the football team and used football success to great advantage for the University as a whole. Yes, the Brennan and Kuharich hires ended up poorly, but they were made with high hopes. Hesburgh was steering the ship when Ara was brought in, and Ara could have stayed as long as he wanted. The subsequesnt hires, including Holtz, were approved by Ted the Head, and were made with the goal of football success at the highest level.
I happen to lump Hesburgh in with Sorin. I give him his due whenever and wherever possible. Nobody singlehandedly elevates a school to elite status, but TMH came closer than anybody I've ever seen to willing it himself....