December Calendar

December Calender

 

On this date in Notre Dame Football History:

Sources for the calender are 100 Years of Notre Dame Football by Gene Schoor, The Fighting Irish 1999 Calender, Knute Rockne by Francis Wallace, The Notre Dame Football Scrapbook by Cohen, Deutsch and Neft and The Fighting Irish Football Encyclopedia by Mike Steele, Shake Down The Thunder by Murray Sperber, One for The Gipper by Patrick Chelland, Knute Rockne by Francis Wallace.

December 1

1928: The final game of the season against USC provided the Fighting Irish with a last chance to avoid their worst season since the 5-4 record of 1905. Rockne not only worried about his football predicament but also the critical condition of his youngest son, unable to breathe properly because of a peanut lodged in his lung. The N.D. coach did not mention his son's  plight to the team, but even if he had used it in his pep talk the 1928 Trojans probably still would have beaten that year's Fighting Irish. USC triumphed 27-14 in the Coliseum. (Rockne's son subsequently recovered.)

1973: Ara Parseghian's fifth-ranked Fighting Irish crush the Hurricanes 44-0 at Miami to conclude a perfect 10-0 regular season - Notre Dame's first such record since 1949. The Irish rise to No. 3 in the fianl regular season poll and await a match against No.1 Alabama in the Sugar Bowl on New Year's Eve.

 

December 2

1933: In what turns out to be Coach Hunk Anderson's final game as head  coach, Notre Dame edges Army 13-12 before 73,594 at Yankee Stadium in New York. Anderson compiles a 16-9-2 record (.630) in the three years following Knute Rockne's tragic death and would be replaced by one of the Four Horsemen, Elmer Layden.

 

December 3

1949: Notre Dame plays it's last game of a glorious decade by beating SMU 27-20. The victory earns the Fighting Irish their third national championship in four years, and their fourth of the decade under Coach Frank Leahy. The Irish also end the decade on a thirty-eight-game unbeaten streak.

 

December 4

1926: In the first game ever between these two great intersectional rivals, Notre Dame defeats Southern Cal 13-12. Behind 12-7 with four minutes to go, Rockne calls a little used 160 pound quarterback, Art Parasien, off the bench. Art completed two straight passes and then hit Butch Niemiec with a touchdown pass and a 13-12 victory.

 

December 5

1943: On this day, Notre Dame tangled with the Great Lakes Navy team composed of enlisted men and draftees, men who had played with every major college in the land. The Great Lakes team was actually an "All-Star" team, and the Sailors, who had not allowed a single point against them in the past six games, quickly took a 13-0 lead. In the third period, ND quarterback Bertelli handed off to Cornie Clatt who raced for a sensational eight-two-yard touchdown. Bertelli missed the extra point and it was 13-6 Great Lakes. After receiving a Great Lakes punt on the ND thirty-two-yard line, Creighton Miller cracked the Sailors line and ran for a spectacular sixty-eight-yard dash and a touchdown. Johnny Cheever kicked the extra point and the game ended in a 13-13 tie. Bob Dove, Bertelli and Harry Wright were picked on a number of All-American teams as Notre Dame finished the season with a 7-2-2 record.

1953: In what turns out to be the final game in the legendary coaching career of Frank Leahy, second-ranked Notre Dame crushes Southern Methodist 40 -14 before 55,522 at Notre Dame Stadium. The Fighting Irish conclude the season with a 9-0-1 record and earn some national championship consideration. Leahy compiles a brilliant 87-11-9 record (.855) over eleven seasons.

1987: The Downtown Athletic Club of New York names Tim Brown as the 1987 Heisman Trophy winner.

 

December 6

1888: After three loses to the Michigan Wolverines, Notre Dame records its first intercollegiate victory with a 20-0 home field win over Harvard Preps, a renowned high school team from Chicago.

1930: Knute Rockne coaches his final game. The Irish shock the favored Trojans in a coaching masterpiece, 27-0.

1947: The Irish attack was simply too good for Southern California in a game that would decide the national Championship. But for the first half of the game it was a battle, and the Irish left the field leading by the slim margin of 10-7. The second half saw Notre Dame pull away, with Sitko blazing seventy-six yards and Bob Livingstone dashing for ninety-two yards, both men scoring, and then Panelli scored and it was all over for USC. The Irish ran up a 38-7 victory. 

"I have never seen a better intercollegiate team than my boys who beat Southern Cal," Leahy uncharacteristically boasts afterwords.

 

December 7

1940: Coach Elmer Layden exits Notre Dame on a winning note, as his Fighting Irish defeat Southern California 10-6 before 85,808 at the Coliseum in Los Angeles. Layden wins 77 percent of his games over seven seasons (47-13-3) but exits without having won a national title.

 

December 8

1906: Christie Flanagan, famed halfback from Rockne's 1925-26-27 teams is born.

1927: Frank Tripuka, great quarterback from the 1945-46-47-48 teams is born.

1934: Coach Layden's father, who would drop in on Notre Dame's practice session, was always free with advice for his son. One of his best tips was, "Elmer, if you want a winning team, play your ten best players...and your brother." That's just what he did against USC, and Mike Layden scored a touchdown to seal the victory, 14-0.

 

December 9

1924: Rockne receives a letter from Psychology Professor Coleman Griffith asking him about pre game pep talks:

    Dear Coach Rockne: I have been interested for some years in many of the problems of psychology and athletics.... I have heard it     said that you do not key your men up to their games.

    Dear Mr. Griffith: I do not make any effort to key them [my players] up, except on rare, exceptional occasions.

1977: Ken McAfee, a tight end with Notre Dame from 1974-1977, enters the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame. McAfee earned consensus All-American honors in 1976 and 1977, and even received some first team All-American recognition as a sophomore in 1975. The native of Brockton, Massachussetts, finished third in the Heisman Trophy balloting as a senior after catching fifty-four passes for 797 yards and six touchdowns.

 

December 10

1925: In letter to Father George Finigan, vice president of Notre Dame, Father H. Ryder of Lowell, Indiana, states: 

    "It afforded much relief to my Irish feelin's to read that athletic relations with Nebraska have been severed.

    I witnessed the Thanksgiving Day game at Lincoln. I have been wondering ever since if you men over there [at Notre Dame] would     suffer in despicable silence the dirty insult that was offered to the Irish between the halves."

The "insult" occured when the student pep organization, presumably with university approval, put on  halftime stunt....in which four boys, each carrying a brickmason's hod and astride make-believe horses, sought to perpetrate a little fun at the expense of the famous "Four Horsemen of Notre Dame." The "stunt" outraged Notre Dame supporters. One eyewitness, the publisher of the South Bend News-Times, said sharply, "The performance was a ridicule of the Irish, of Rockne and of Notre Dame."

The 1925 game against Nebraska would be the last until 1947.

1934: Hunk Anderson resigns and Elmer Layden is named Notre Dame head coach. Along with Jesse Harper, Elmer Layden is one of the most underrated of Notre Dame coaches.

1970: Although he had a name that would have made him a perfect fit, quarterback Joe Theismann never did win the Heisman Trophy. But he came razor-close. In 1970, he finished second in the balloting to Stanford's Jim Plunkett. If ND had pulled out the 38-28 loss to USC in the rain in '70, it's probable that Joe would have won the award...

 

December 11

1925: In the front pages of sports sections across the country, there was a story to the effect that Knute Rockne had signed a contract to coach at Columbia University. The contract was actually signed but it will never be known if Rock actually considered making a change or if this was one of the coaches' ploys to get something he wanted from the ND administration. (Like a new stadium).         

There was a clause in Rockne's Notre Dame contract that stated that he would have to get a written release from the school  before he could take a post at another school. Also, as Rockne confided to sportswriter Grantland Rice, he felt a debt to Notre Dame for taking in a poor boy, giving him an education and then the opportunity to make good in the coaching field. "I am indebted to the university as long as I live, and nothing will ever tear me away, no matter what the inducements. When I quit coaching Notre Dame, I am through with football."

1932:  Rosiland Shaffer, wire service fashion reporter, writes:

        "The biggest outpouring  of furs and fur-belows and outdoor fashions of the season. That was moviedom's contribution to the             biennial Notre Dame - Southern California football game in the Los Angeles Stadium today."

        (Not that if mattered, but USC shut out the Irish 13-0)

 

December 12

1964: Quarterback John Huarte hardly played at all as a junior under coach Hugh Devore in 1963. A year later, however, he was chosen by new coach Ara Parseghian to start, and he guided the Irish to a 9-1 season, completed 114 of 205 passes for 2,062 yards and sixteen touchdowns, earned consensus All-American honors, and won the Heisman Trophy.

 

December 13

Angelo Bertelli of Springfield, Massachussetts, was far down on the depth chart as a sophmore single-wing tailback under new coach Frank Leahy. But the next year, Leahy would install the "T-formation" - essentially the modern offense, featuring a throwing quarterback who takes the snap under center. Bertelli would thrive as a quarterback in this system, leading Notre Dame to the national title in 1943 and becoming the first Fighting Irish player to win the Heisman Trophy.

 

December 14

1920: "The Gipper" - star Notre Dame halfback George Gipp - dies early in the morning of a severe strep throat infection at age twenty-five in South Bend. He had lapsed into a coma the day before. In his last conversation with Coach Knute Rockne, he evidently made a plea that Rockne one day ask the team to "win one for the Gipper."  Eight years later against Army, Rockne did, and the squad responded with a victory, upsetting Army 12-6 at Yankee Stadium.

1974: The football world is stunned to learn that Ara Parseghian has resigned as head coach at Notre Dame. Although he would coach one more game, the Orange Bowl against Alabama, Parseghian would site poor health - notably, high blood pressure - and an eroding rosy outlook for his main reasons for stepping down.

 

December 15

1920: Classes are suspended at Notre Dame in order to permit students to pay their last respects to their celebrated classmate, George Gipp. A requiem high mass in Sacred Heart Church at 8:15am preceeded a solemn procession, which escorted the body on its last trip from the school George had grown to love.

1940: Nick Buanicaonti is born. Was a gritty, dependable, overachieving lineman and linebacker, who was an exellent tackler and good blocker. Made All-American in 1961

1943: Pete Durnako is born. Pete was an All-American defensive tackle for the 1966 National Champions.

 

December 16

1953: Johnny Lattner of Chicago, Illinois is the fourth player to win the Heisman Trophy. Lattner was selected as a consensus All-American in both 1952 and 1953 for his all-around outstanding play. He was a nifty runner, sure-handed receiver, prolific punter, dangerous kick returner, and an outstanding defensive halfback who intercepted thirteen passes in his career.

 

December 17

1988: On Saturday morning, Notre Dame starts its first practice in preparation for the 1989 Fiesta Bowl against West Virginia, for the National Championship. According to Lou Holtz: "The practice was very similar to spring practice. It was fundamentals all over again, and they were very physical practices. We utilized basically the same schedule we employed during two-a-days in August. The players get up at seven, have breakfast, practice, meet, have lunch, take two hours off while the coaches meet, have a kicking game meeting, practice again, then meet after dinner. The day ends about ten P.M. with lights out. I don't think it is much different than a Marine bootcamp. One thing is for certain, when lights are turned out, they stay out. If they don't go to bed at that time, they are sending us a message that they aren't tired and we need to work them harder."

 

December 18

1912: Jesse Harper wrote the Army manager of athletics regarding a game between Notre Dame and Army for November 1913. The Army manager telegraphed back his acceptance of the game. History in the making...

1920: George Gipp is laid to rest in the Calumet. Michigan cemetary. The casket was brought to its final resting place in a horse- drawn sleigh, during a swirling snow storm.

1978: Jabari Holloway, outstanding tight end is born.

 

December 19

1927: The University of Notre Dame Board of Lay Trustees appoints two special committees to investigate the possibilities of constructing a new football stadium. By May 1928, the board of lay trustees would approve the construction of fabled Notre Dame Stadium.

 

December 20

Justin Hall, a tackle for Lou Holtz's great teams of the late eighties and early nineties, is born. From Dallas, Texas.

 

December 21

1943: Through the first 110 years of Notre Dame football The only player to lead the country in rushing for a season was Creighton Miller in 1943, with 911 yards.

 

December 22

Raghib "Rocket" Ismail might have twice returned two kickoffs for touchdowns in a single game, but he couldn't break the single-game school record for most kickoff return yardage. That mark was set by Paul Castner in 1922, who on only four returns amassed 253 yards in a 46-0 win over Kalamazoo. That's an average of 64 yards per return.

 

December 23

1935: All-Time great Notre Dame player Paul Hornung is born.

1969: Notre Dame great and fondly remembered fullback Rodney Culver, is born.

1971: Pete Bercich, linebacker on the 1993 team, is born.

 

December 24

1947: From Coach Frank Leahy: "We always tell our lads that when things appear especially rough, they must rememeber that things are no easier for the opponent. Maybe the opponent will be able to keep stride with them for fifty-nine minutes. But as a rule, if your men will keep working with the thought in mind that perhaps the opponent will weaken in the last minute, then they will usually find that the competition in not quite so tough."

 

December 25

Although not a football story the following is an account of one of the most fascinating Christmas traditions at Notre Dame. This tradition, a gift exchange between the local Potawatomi Indian tribe and the University began back in the early twenties and continues to this day.

The Pokagan tribe of the Potawatomi Indians nation has a long history with Notre Dame. When Father Sorin, Notre Dame's founder, arrived at  the site of the present University in the winter of 1842, fourteen  Indians who requested to be baptized met him and his small band.  Sorin invited them to stay overnight in the lakeside log cabin of the  local missionary, Fr. Badin. The next morning, Sorin performed the  baptisms and an Indian woman, as a token of gratitude, gave the  priest seven rings. [engraving above]

John Warren, cultural coordinator of the tribe, has researched the  traditional relationship between the Indians and Notre Dame, and found  the following account of the custom in James Clifton's book , The  Pokagons, 1683-1938.  

In one section of his book Clifton describes the life of the tribe in the  early 20's. At this point in their history the Potawatomi were still  essentially rural folk working small farms, orchards and vineyards. They  would also make maple sugar, hunt for small game and engage in berry  collecting. The author then tells the story of the tribe's affiliation with  Notre Dame:  

A few traditional crafts were also actively  pursued, especially the production of large  quantities of various kinds and sizes of  utilitarian baskets. These were sold or traded  at the household where made or at nearby  rural market centers. One interesting, almost  ritualized annual encounter developed out of  this work and the Pokagon's old relationship to  the center of Catholic activities at Notre Dame  University.  

Annually, through the mid-1930's, numbers of  Catholic Potawatomi would arrive at Notre  Dame bearing wagon-loads and Model T loads  of varied basketwork. The retired Notre Dame  official long responsible for managing the  exchange remembers this event vividly as a  significant encounter, beginning with the first  meeting with the Potawatomi in 1921. "They  would exchange the baskets for food," he  recalls, "never setting any trading value - they  did this to show they were not beggars." In  these decades the Pokagons arrived at Notre  Dame several times a year - Easter,  Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Notre Dame, for  its part in the relationship, would feed the  visitors at their central kitchens and provide  each family a basket of staples - some years  serving up to 130. Often many of the  Potawatomi would arrive festively dressed in  traditional garb.  

Recalls the official, "In the 1920s it was strictly  a trade deal. No one questioned the value of  the baskets or the food. But of course, we  gave more." Modern readers may have to  remember that this was the era before mass  manufacturing and wide use of disposable  plastic and paper containers. On the  remembered account sheets of the Notre Dame  officials is the fact that for years the Pokagons  supplied the large university community with all  the containers it needed - laundry baskets,  waste baskets, grocery baskets, and so on.  Certainly, the Potawatomi were also important  contributors of containers to other institutions  and industries in the region.  

However, the most significant feature of these annual encounters was the traditional nature  of the economic relationship. In terms used by anthropologists, this was an ancient variety of  reciprocal exchange, with the Potawatomi  producing and delivering valuable goods,  receiving other commodities in return, with no  haggling - not even a question raised about  the relative value or unit-cost on either side.  This is precisely the sort of relationship that  had dominated Potawatomi economic  exchanges for hundreds of years earlier.  

But it was a pattern that did not endure past  the 1930s. As the elders who had the skills and  disposition for the craft died out, and as more  and more Potawatomi started participating in  the wage-work economy, the exchange part of  the event disappeared. Today numerous  Potawatomi still arrive yearly at Notre Dame -  now only at Christmas, each family receiving a  box of food. But they deliver nothing tangible  in return. Instead, the event is explained as a  privileged act-of-receiving from the university,  a right belonging to the Potawatomi  consequent upon their many years ago having  donated the land on which the university sets  (which they in fact did not do: it was  purchased from the public land office.) This  relationship was invented only in the late  1960s. Thus the receipt of food at Notre Dame  continues even today, but in an era reflecting  a different set of attitudes and values from  those that patterned the event in the 1920s.  

When interviewing members of the modern Pokagan tribe I've leaned  that there has been a revival of many of the long neglected or lost  craft traditions. Judy Augusta, is the leader of the basket co-op, and  she has members in her group, many in their 70s who are starting to  weave baskets using the age old methods. These techniques were  handed down from their parents and are being taught to younger tribe  members. They are familiar with the design of the "Notre Dame  baskets" and I have requested that they re-create some of the styles  that were used by the University in the 20s and 30s.

 

December 26

Knute Rockne: "Someday there will be an exhibit in some American museum. It will be the forlorn figure of the coach who pleased nobody. And next to it will be another - and more forlorn exhibit - the preserved remains of the coach who tried to please everybody."

 

December 27

1976: Dan Devine wins his first bowl game in his first season as Notre Dame's head coach, as his Fighting Irish pound Joe Paterno's Penn State Nittany Lions 20-9 in the Gator Bowl. Al Hunter wins the MVP Award by scoring two first-half touchdowns and picking up 102 yards rushing. Notre Dame finishes the season with a 9-3 record.

 

December 28

1973: Bobby Taylor is born in Houston, Texas. He would become one of the great cornerbacks in Fighting Irish history under Lou Holtz in the early 1990s, starting twenty-eight games from 1991 to 1994. He would earn consensus All-American honors.

1997: Notre Dame loses the Independence Bowl to LSU, 27-9.

 

December 29

1983: Coach Gerry Faust picks up a win in his first bowl game, as Notre Dame upsets Boston College 19-18 in Memphis, Tennessee. Although Boston College's hotshot quarterback Doug Flutie passes for 287 yards, the Fighting Irish defense - led by MVP linebacker Tony Furjanic - contains him, especially on BC's futile last-minute drive.

 

December 30

1946: On this day, Notre Dame and Army jointly announced a temporary severance of football relations after a final game at South Bend in 1947, because it "will be good for both schools and for intercollegiate athletics as a whole." The announcement was full of good will and friendship. In essence it said that the Notre Dame - Army game had grown too big and produced too many problems and that a breather period would be welcome. The series had started in 1913, and Notre Dame led in the series of games played, 23-8-4.

 

December 31

1973: Bob Thomas kicks a 19-yard field goal with 4:26 remaining to give Notre Dame a come-from-behind, 24-23 victory over top-ranked Alabama in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans. The Fighting Irish finish the 1973 season 11-0 and are voted the national champions in Coach Ara Parseghian's second-to-last season. "This was not only a great game for Notre Dame, it was a great game for college football," Parseghian says.

 

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