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Ask Lou

  • This is a thread for anyone searching for answers about Irish football lore from our resident Notre Dame football encyclopedia, senior editor Lou Somogyi.

    Just Ask Lou.

    Sapp.Jason@synthes.com - https://twitter.com/Jason_Sapp

  • Link to previous thread:

    Ask Lou...

    This is a thread for anyone searching for answers about Irish football lore from our resident Notre Dame football encyclopedia, senior edito

    http://notredame.247sports.com/Board/87/Ask-Lou-393298/1

    Sapp.Jason@synthes.com - https://twitter.com/Jason_Sapp

  • Some football questions, Lou:

    1. How many former Irish players became Notre Dame's coach?

    2. In your opinion, what is/are the reason(s) a coach can win more concensus national championships at Notre Dame than any other coach, have the second highest winning percentage of any coach in college football history, and yet still be mentioned "behind" the likes of Rockne, Parseghian, and Holtz? Obviously, I'm referring to Leahy.

    3. What year, more than any other, do you think ND deserved to be national champions, yet were not?

    4. Why was John "Jack" Marks replaced as coach after going 13-0-2 in what would be his only year?

    5. Why does the team with the biggest fanbase in the NCAA have a stadium that only seats 80+ thousand?

    * Sole Member of Loner Monkey Gang * 11-Time Winner of POTW Award * Does Not Give A Sh*t

  • IFR,

    Wow, you came with both guns blazing today. Here goes:

    1. Every "full-time" ND coach from Knute Rockne (1918-30) through Joe Kuharich (1959-62) played at Notre Dame. That also includes Hunk Anderson (1931-33), Elmer Layden (1934-40), Frank Leahy (1941-43, 1946-53) and Terry Brennan (1954-58). Charlie Weis (2005-09) graduated from ND but did not play football. Also, interim coach Hugh Devore (1945 and 1963) also was a 1934 ND grad. The one exception was 1944 interim coach Ed McKeever.

    2. I wrote about this a couple of years ago when Sporting News failed to mention Leahy among its 50 greatest coaches of all time. Here is an excerpt:

    This isn’t a rant against SN, but rather a continuation of a mystery that continues to baffle me: Why is Leahy — such an easy, obvious choice — repeatedly overlooked in these type of surveys?

    * He coached the same number of years as Rockne (13) and their records were almost identical. Rockne was 105-12-5 (.881) with three national titles, while Leahy was 107-13-9 (.864) with four national titles. They are 1-2 on the major college football all-time chart for winning percentage.

    “Leahy is the greatest coach since World War II,” said Beano Cook, the “Pope of College
    Football” for ESPN. “And you can make a case for him over Rockne as well, because Rockne didn’t have to chase ghosts. Leahy had to chase Rockne’s ghost — and he did just as well, if not better.”

    * In his 13 seasons (two at Boston College and 11 at Notre Dame), Leahy finished unbeaten seven times. Think about how difficult that is to achieve. For example, Bear Bryant, No. 3 on this list and No. 1 among college football coaches, had three unbeaten seasons in his 25 years at Alabama (1958-82). Bobby Bowden (No. 24), who had an NCAA record 14 straight top 4 finishes from 1987-2000, had one unbeaten season during that time.

    * Leahy had a 23-6-3 record against teams that finished in the final top 10 (13-6-3) or final top 20 (10-0). That .765 winning percentage is by far the greatest among any college football coach on Sporting News’ top 50 list. Leahy’s nearest rival from the list is Oklahoma’s Bud Wilkinson with a .618 percentage (20-12-2). Leahy defeated Wilkinson’s Sooners both times they met. Others on this list such as Woody Hayes, Bo Schembechler and even Parseghian finished under .500.

    * No school ever played a more difficult schedule than Leahy’s 1943 Irish. They confronted the teams that finished 2, 3, 4, 6, 9, 11 and 13. Guess what — they still won the national title!

    * Leahy’s four national titles are eclipsed only by Bryant’s six. However, Bryant is credited with national titles in 1964 and 1973. In both cases, Alabama lost its bowl game (to Texas in 1964 and Notre Dame in 1973). But because there was no voting by either the AP or UPI in 1964 after bowls, or by the UPI in 1973, they’re still counted as national title seasons.

    * Leahy led Boston College to an 11-0 record in 1940, capped with a Sugar Bowl win versus 10-0 Tennessee and its Hall of Fame head coach, R.R. Neyland. Try going unbeaten at BC. No one has done it since then.

    Prior to becoming a head coach at Boston College, Leahy was the line coach for Fordham’s legendary “Seven Blocks of Granite,” which included Lombardi, who would later embrace Leahy’s painstaking deal to fundamentals.

    I keep racking my head trying to find an answer for why Leahy repeatedly is omitted and overshadowed.

    During a CBS countdown several years ago of college football’s 10 greatest coaches of all time, Leahy wasn’t even mentioned. Three years ago when Notre Dame students unveiled “The Shirt” for a new football season, Charlie Weis was featured with his image next to school icons Rockne, Parseghian, Lou Holtz — with Leahy a conspicuous omission again.

    Rockne was inducted posthumously into the College Football Hall of Fame in its inaugural year (1951). Parseghian and Dan Devine were both inducted within six years of coaching their final games. Holtz was inducted four years after his final game.

    It took an unbelievable 17 years before Leahy received the same honor.

    Why is this man repeatedly slighted?

    My first thought is he coached only 13 years. Yet, Lombardi coached merely nine years at Green Bay (plus one with the Washington Redskins after taking a year off), and he’s No. 2 on this list.

    My next thought was I often compared Leahy to Phil Jackson in that people thought Leahy always had all the talent — yet Jackson is No. 4 on the list. Plus, according to Cook, “almost all teams had a lot of material with everyone coming back from the war.”

    I also wondered whether Leahy getting criticized for using fake injuries in the 1953 Iowa game tainted his reputation. But Wooden was No. 1 even though booster Sam Gilbert often is mentioned with illegally aiding UCLA’s recruiting. Again, this is in no way slighting people on the list, but rather trying to find a link as to what it is that makes Leahy so overlooked

    Then I thought, “Well, with Rockne and Parseghian already on the list, they didn’t think it would be politically correct to have three Notre Dame coaches on it.” Yet the New York Yankees featured three managers (Casey Stengel, Joe McCarthy and Joe Torre). The Yankees and Notre Dame are America’s two most famous, and polarizing, sports teams.

    Try as I did, I couldn’t find one legitimate, consistent reason to omit Leahy.

    God rest his soul … but how does Schembechler make it with zero national titles in 21 years at a tradition-rich program, never mind a 4-11 record in the bowls he coached? Is that better than what Leahy achieved? It doesn’t even compare with Parseghian, Devine and Holtz, never mind Leahy.

    I have postulated two main reasons why Leahy is probably so overlooked.

    One is the way he exited. Rockne’s legend was elevated because of the way he tragically perished in a plane crash at age 43. Conversely, Leahy left unceremoniously on Jan. 31, 1954. The intimation is he was forced out with two years left on his contract and was no longer wanted while Notre Dame attempted to elevate its academic reputation under new president Rev. Theodore Hesburgh.

    Second is what I refer to as “middle-child syndrome.” Rockne was the first, while Parseghian and Holtz revived the program after extremely lean cycles. Meanwhile, Leahy was still not yet a decade removed from Rockne’s tragic death, and predecessor Elmer Layden won 77 percent of his games at Notre Dame. He was neither the “first” like Rockne or the “saviors” such as Parseghian and Holtz.

    The “middle man” often gets lost — sort of like unheralded quarterback Kevin McDougal was in between Golden Boy recruits Rick Mirer and Ron Powlus.

    Think Jan Brady. Rockne was “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia,” while Parseghian and Holtz were the latest and greatest whose prosperity occurred in the age of television. Meanwhile, Leahy was too good for his own good during his era.

    But that’s no reason for him to be consistently ignored on these type of lists. Every time he is omitted, we will make a point of noting his achievements.

    Maybe, just maybe, others might too some day.

    3. Definitely 1993. I believe ND should have at least won a share of the title that year with FSU, who they beat in November. Like I said, that was strictly a "lifetime achievement" award for the popular and folksy Bobby Bowden. I'm not saying FSU wasn't worthy, but that should have been at least a split the same way 1990 was with Colorado and Georgia Tech and 1991 with Miami and Washington.

    4. John Marks may have been 13-0-2, but the schedules under him were abysmal, partly because Big 10 schools were blackballing Notre Dame. In 1911, for example, the home schedule Ohio Northern, St. Viator, Butler, Loyola of Chicago and St. Bonaventure. The program lost $2,367 that year, which was a lot in those days. The coaching position at ND also was only a part-time gig. In 1913, Jesse Harper was hired as ND's first full-time coach and, more importantly, as an administrator (AD). He had very good business acumen, and his mandate was to beef up the Irish schedules whatever way he could to start generating a profit. While the Big Ten still was not an option, in 1913 Harper set up games out East with Army and Penn State, and also had trips to St. Louis and Texas. It was Harper who spearheaded what would become Notre Dame's national brand.

    5. This is harder to answer. Just think, during Holtz's glory days Notre Dame Stadium seated only 59,075. Selling out 81,000 week after week isn't as easy as it sounds with a national base. Even now, end zone tickets are available against Air Force, Navy and Boston College this year. Nobody wanted to be known as the person who tore down The House That Rockne Built, so the other option was to expand and put in as many extra seats as possible. It hasn't turned out bad, all things considered.

  • wow, Lou, great answers there. Very informative, that is why you are the man!

    Two time Poster of The Week, 2011 and 2013.

  • Lou - you are a great white in a world full of minnows. Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions.

    * Sole Member of Loner Monkey Gang * 11-Time Winner of POTW Award * Does Not Give A Sh*t

  • IFR,

    I just try to stay afloat in the ocean and not drown. Thank you for adding a lifeline from your raft.

  • Lou I have a question that comes from todays 8/611 article in the SBT. He states that only 3 QB's played their entire career at ND as QB. Clausen, Quinn and Sharpley. Eric is a good writer and Im sure he checked it just doesnt sound right. What about Mirer, Powlus and he must be just talking a certain date to date. Did I miss it?

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    2 time POTW winner on some dates I can't remember from 2yrs ago at BNG, POTW: 1/3/11- 1/9/11, 6/20/11-6/26/11

  • IrishBob,

    I looked at the story you referenced and it is accurate because he referred to "since 1997."

    The QB recruit in 1997 was Zak Kustok, and he transferred to Northwestern.

    In 1998 it was Arnaz Battle and he switched to receiver.

    There was no QB recruit in 1999 unless you count Gary Godsey, who started out at tight end, moved to QB, and then returned to tight end.

    In 2000, Matt LoVecchio transferred (Indiana), while Carlyle Holiday moved to receiver and Jared Clark to tight end.

    I don't recall a true QB recruit in 2001, and then in 2002 it was Christian Olsen, who transferred to Virginia.

    In 2003, the QB recruit was Brady Quinn, and in 2004 it was Darrin Bragg (moved to receiver) and David Wolke (moved to running back and then transferred to Western Kentucky).

    In 2005, it was Evan Sharpley and in 2006 it was Demetrius Jones, who transferred to Cincinnati and Zach Frazer, who moved on to Connecticut.

    Clausen stayed from the 2007 class and Crist from 2008.

    So he is accurate that Quinn, Sharpley and Clausen are the only QB recruits since 1997 to remain at QB at ND. He could have even gone back to 1996 with Eric Chappell, who transferred to Alabama A&M and played safety there.

  • Lou, thank you. I see that "if" I had read correctly I wouldn't have wasted your time, which I hope I didn't. Thanks again for setting me straight.

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    2 time POTW winner on some dates I can't remember from 2yrs ago at BNG, POTW: 1/3/11- 1/9/11, 6/20/11-6/26/11

  • irishyoung

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    3 time POTW, member since 2006, MLWTI: 4-3

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  • Lou,

    What resources should we utilitize to ATTEMPT to become half the ND afficianado that you are? What resources would you recommend? Thanks for sharing your wealth of knowledge

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  • Regarding Frank Leahy, I read a very good biography, "Shake Down the Thunder," the author's last name was Wells Twombly, and it was written in 1974. I have my Father's copy, I don't know how easy it would be t find. A very interesting read.

  • Tshea said... (original post)

    Regarding Frank Leahy, I read a very good biography, "Shake Down the Thunder," the author's last name was Wells Twombly, and it was written in 1974. I have my Father's copy, I don't know how easy it would be t find. A very interesting read.

    " Shake Down the Thunder" was written by Murray Sperber.
    Professor Sperber was working at Indiana University when he wrote SDT.
    He was the first author given full and unlimited access to Rockne's personal papers in the University of Notre Dame archives.

    This book is more of a very detailed look at how ND and Rockne managed to exist despite the many conflicts generated
    by the relationship. Rockne's complex personality is defined here.

    I met Murray during the mid 1990s. He did not start out as an admirer of ND , as a Purdue graduate, but became one.
    The professor always extolled the importance of academics in college athletics.

    http://www.amazon.com/Shake-Down-Thunder-Creation-Football/dp/0253215684

    This post was edited by sairish1 3 years ago

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    Lelly, stop talking or I will put you back in the trunk!

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