Mrs Bear and I made a pact with her sister, battling cancer far too many times, that we would go helihiking in the Canadian Rockies the following summer. And though she finally lost her battle, we decided to continue on with the plan. So just before July 4th, we loaded our car, ”The Sloop,” and started our drive west and north.
As our age has risen into retirement numbers, we find ourselves flying less and driving more. But we don’t rush to arrive in break-neck speed either. So we drive slower and plan stopovers along the way.
Our first day of driving ended in South Bend, Indiana, on the campus of Notre Dame. Notre Dame is one of the most well known colleges in the USA. It’s Golden Dome is recognizable to most Americans,
But it is their longstanding fame as a football power that really allows Notre Dame to stand out. In a sport dominated by state universities with 40,000+ student attendance and throngs of fevered alumni who donate millions of dollars to their schools’ athletic departments, Notre Dame is a small private university with 15,000 students. And yet, it has its own television contract and fans all over the world. Only Notre Dame can take their game outside the USA successfully … They have a game scheduled in Ireland next season.
So how did Notre Dame become such a famous and powerful football school? It all started in the 1910s when a son of Norwegian immigrants saved up enough money and enrolled at Notre Dame. At the time, Notre Dame was a small school with a mediocre football program. But Knute Rockne, playing the end position, helped revolutionize the use of the forward pass. While the pass was a part of the game, it had never been utilized seriously. Teams simply tried to ram the ball down the throat of the opposing team, popularizing the term ” smashmouth football.” Notre Dame visited Army, the best team in the country in 1913, and using the forward pass as a major part of their offense, beat the Cadets 35-13 in a major upset. The pic above shows us at the Knute Rockne Gate to their football stadium.
Knute was a science major at Notre Dame with the background to become a pharmacist. Setting the stage for Jack Nicklaus a few decades later, Knute gave up his pharmacist path to return to football, initially . as a professional player and later as a coach. He continued to demonstrate the creativity with offensive formations and play calling, and the result was 105 wins in 12 years, and three national championships. His halftime speech to “ win one for the Gipper,” is still legendary. If you are not familiar with it, please look it up on Google.
Knute was killed in a plane crash, and I had heard that he was buried under the Dome. This turned out to be untrue as he is buried in a cemetery not far from campus.
This first stop let me see where football legends are made … Tomorrow, it is “ On Wisconsin.”