FORMER SUBWAY ALUMNI LEADER REFLECTS ON HIS "NOTRE DAME ODYSSEY"


Herb Juliano
(1922-1998)

Herb's Archive features an article called "Irish Lore -- and Leahy," by Ray Fitzgerald from the September 14, 1975 edition of the Boston Globe.

Navy Lt. Frank Leahy, left, meets his former star player Angelo Bertelli, a Marines 2nd Lieutenant on a Central Pacific Island in 1945. Leahy spent 1944 and 1945 in service before returning to Notre Dame as head coach in 1946.

Navy Lt. Frank Leahy, left, meets his former star player Angelo Bertelli, a Marines 2nd Lieutenant on a Central Pacific Island in 1945. Leahy spent 1944 and 1945 in service before returning to Notre Dame as head coach in 1946.

 

Notre Dame equals college football. It's as much a fact of American life as Sonny plus Cher equals plate-throwing or Nelson Rockefeller equals money.The good fathers who run the university have never wanted it this way. They prefer that the school be mentioned once in awhile for its academic achievements, which are considerable.

But Notre Dame, and football have been synonymous almost from the day it was decided pigs could be used for something besides bacon.

Because of this, no university is more surrounded by football legend. Think about it. From Rockne through the Sugar Bowl victory over Alabama a couple of years ago, the history of college football is sprinkled with Notre Dame stories bigger than life.

They are cornball stories-an injured player leaping off the bench to score the winnng touchdown, a secret play is scratched in the sand and then used to beat USC, a locker room speech inspires exhausted players -sure fire stuff to enhance the legend.

When adverse stories surface, such as the firing of Terry Brennan on Christmas week, or faking an injury to gain a "tie" with Iowa, or playing it safe to gain a tie with Michigan State, it's as though Mary Poppins had just smacked the kids of England across the face with her broom. It is out of character, unbecoming.

This Notre Dame "Everyman's University" concept probably aggravates the hell out of fans from Alabama to Zinzinnati, but so it goes.

"Outlined against a blue gray November sky, the, Four Horsemen Rode Again."

"When the goin' gets tough, and the team is up against it, win one for the Gipper ."

"What though the odds be great or small, old Notre Dame will win over all." The Notre Dame Victory March, written long ago by the Shea boys of Holyoke, is the most copied, most parodied college tune in America.

The most talked-about single game in college history is Notre Dame's 18-13 victory over Ohio State in 1935, when the Irish scored all their points in the last quarter, with the final touchdown coming on a pass from Bill Shakespeare to Wayne Millner with 40 seconds to play. Both boys, it was pointed out in those peaceful days, were non-Catholics.

And the names, the put-them-up-in-neon names. The Horsemen. Rock. Gipp. Carideo. Bertelli. Lujack. Hart. Sitko. Brennan. Hornung. Lattner. Lynch. Page. Patulski. Theisman.

And, of course, Frank Leahy, the coach whose memory they will honor on Monday before the Notre Dame-Boston College game at Schaefer Stadium.

Leahy's life was in two sections-Before Football and After Football. Nobody, not even Rockne, was more successful as a coach, but when the tumult and the shouting had died, much of the fun and meaning left his life.

The twin dogs of controversy and illness were forever yapping at his heels, as a coach and afterwards.

At the same time his teams were crushing everybody in sight, Leahy was defending his methods. In 1949, Notre Dame was penalized 135 yards against Washington after officials who had watched movies of the 1948 game said his team's method's of blocking was illegal.

Coaches spoke of the Leahy Clutch, meaning the way Notre Dame linemen protected the passer by allegedly grabbing rival jersies.He was accused of being a bad sport in 1952 because of the so-called "sucker shift." The fake injuries of Frank Varrichione in the Iowa game of '54 got him more bad publicity.

Over the years he had pancreatitis, an ulcer, a nervous collapse, leukemia, major abdominal surgery and spinal arthritis. Leahy was involved in a stock swindle, and other business ventures were less than successful.

But when he coached, he was a man with a mission, which was to win for Notre Dame. He came up with no football innovations, such as the T formation or the quarterback option, but he turned out teams so well prepared in how to play the game that rival coaches were embarrassed to the point of jealousy.

There'll be many Leahy stories passed around on Monday, when his old players from Boston College and Notre Dame gather. And you can bet there'll be general agreement on one thing.

Frank Leahy's football genius will far outlast the controversies and the jealousies.

Although he was only 45 when he retired, Frank Leahy has a worried, haggard look along the sidelines during the 1953 season.

Although he was only 45 when he retired, Frank Leahy has a worried, haggard look along the sidelines during the 1953 season.

 

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