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A Devine Gate

Five down, one to go.

Members of Dan Devine's family admire his sculpture unveiled this past weekend.

There are six gates at Notre Dame Stadium, and five of them honor each of the national title coaches the Irish have had in football. Dan Devine (1975-80) joined the hallowed club of Knute Rockne (1918-30), Frank Leahy (1941-43, 1946-53), Ara Parseghian (1964-74) and Lou Holtz (1986-96) in a Friday afternoon ceremony outside Notre Dame Stadium in 81-degree weather.

The 50-minute ceremony was attended by more than 50 members of the Devine family, among them five of his seven children. The Notre Dame glee opened and closed the ceremony, which featured school president Rev. John I. Jenkins blessing the statue.

Notre Dame athletics director Jack Swarbrick, who was a senior at Notre Dame during Devine’s debut season in 1975, noted that Devine was able to prosper in one of the most difficult positions any coach ever has to undertake — following a legend such as Ara Parseghian.

He didn’t go into names, but all one has to do is realize that in succeeding Rockne, Leahy and Holtz, coaches such Hunk Anderson, Terry Brennan and Bob Davie were fired after three to five seasons.

“Every Catholic university ought to have a Devine gate,” joked Swarbrick during his speech.

In closing, Swarbrick said, “You’ll note we've got one gate we can still name, so we're working on it.”

About two-dozen former Devine players were in attendance. Alphabetically, they included: Ed Bauer, Luther Bradley, Nick DeCicco, Tom DeSiato, Marty Detmer, Mike Favorite, Vagas Ferguson, John Flood, Tom Gibbons, Bob Golic, Kris Haines, Steve Hartwig, Jerome Heavens, Ted Horansky, Larry Hufford, David Meadows, David Mitchell, Lou Pagley, Joe Restic, John Sweeney, Bob Tull and Mike Whittington.
Former Irish assistant Brian Boulac also was on hand. Much of the staff from that era is deceased, including the entire defense with Irish alumni Joe Yonto (line), George Kelly (linebackers) and Jim Johnson (secondary), a former Devine player who became one of the top coordinators in the NFL.

Restic, an All-American free safety who also was the starting punter from 1975-78, represented the former Irish players while giving his speech. Restic noted how Devine had an impeccable sense of timing or seizing the moment, most notably how he was able to keep the “Green Jersey Game” victory against USC en route to the 1977 national title a secret. Restic said it is “one of the top 10 motivational ploys in the history of college football.”

Devine finished 53-16-1 at Notre Dame while playing against some of the top schedules in Notre Dame history. His 1977 national champs were the only team in the country that year to defeat four teams that finished in the top 20.

The 1978 squad that finished No. 7 in the AP poll played a schedule where the opponents won 70.9 percent of their games — the highest in NCAA annals since it began the strength of schedule stats in 1977. The following year, Notre Dame’s strength of schedule was ranked No. 4 in the country.

The 1980 team had impressive victories against top-10 ranked Purdue, Rose Bowl champ Michigan, top-20 foe Miami, at Arizona and, most notably, a 7-0 shutout at Alabama, which was vying for its third straight national title and later won the Cotton Bowl. That Irish team ended up playing No. 1 Georgia in the Sugar Bowl, where it lost, 17-10.

Overall, Devine was 12-6 against teams that finished in the AP Top 20, 5-4 versus the Top 10 and 7-2 against opponents who placed 11 to 20.

Devine’s brother, Deacon Jerry Devine, spoke on behalf of the family and noted the Dan Devine phrase at the base of the sculpture: “Leave the field a better player. Leave Notre Dame a better person.”

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