Today marks the 125th birthday of Knute Rockne, a name that may be just a bit familiar to readers of this space.
Born in Voss, Norway, the paths of Rockne and the early days of Notre Dame football coincided with one another. He went 20-0-2 in his three years at the school before going 105-12-5 during a 13-year coaching stint that helped establish the program as a national power.
Unofficial Notre Dame football historian and Blue and Gold Illustrated senior editor Lou Somogyi has a lengthy piece today on Rockne's legacy.
Rockne became a national institution and Notre Dame became the national school. “Subway Alumni” were born in every section of the country, from the steelworker in Pittsburgh to the executive in California. In Rockne and Notre Dame, an identity of struggle, hope and triumph could be found — as was the glamour and popularity of sport.
“Football and all athletics should be a part of culture, the culture that makes the whole man, not a part-time thinker,” wrote Rockne. “Ancient Greece was a cradle of culture, and Ancient Greece was a nation of athletes… Boys must have an outlet for animal spirits. Their education must contain a training in clean contests, otherwise they’ll be lost in a world that thrives on competition and in which those who cannot compete cannot hope to thrive.
“Four years of football are calculated to breed in the average man more of the ingredients of success in life than most any academic course he takes…(Athletics) stirs the pulse, captures the imagination and, at the same time, builds character without which culture is valueless.
“Sportsmanship means fair play. It means an application of the Golden Rule. Bragging and gloating or any form of dishonesty have no place in it.”
The Observer's Andrew Owens also had a lengthy piece during bowl season from Bazaar, Kan., that I would recommend.