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Beano Cook: Devine truly was at Notre Dame

Devine's coaching record


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Daniel "Rudy" Ruettiger played at Notre Dame under Dan Devine in 1975.
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Monday, May 20, 2002
Devine led Notre Dame to national title
Associated Press

PHOENIX -- Dan Devine groomed Joe Montana for greatness and won a national championship at Notre Dame.

Thurs., May 9
My brother, Bob, was in Dan Devine's recruiting class at Notre Dame. By the time I came to South Bend, Devine had just left. Instead, I had the distinction of being Gerry Faust's first recruit.

However, I got to know Dan. I had more than few encounters with him while Bob was playing and then when I played there. My brother always had good things to say about Devine.

He stepped into a difficult situation, having to follow Ara Parseghian, who left on his own accord. People loved him in South Bend. Devine faced a tremendous amount of pressure. Then his first season, Notre Dame didn't go to a bowl game. But two years later he won a national championship, and the Irish were ranked in the top 10 in three of his six seasons.

At times Notre Dame has gotten caught up in hiring someone who is both a good coach and a strong public-relations person, someone who could relate well to the media. But Devine was not a gregarious personality. He was not going to give the media a great quote all the time. He was a football coach first -- and a great one.

A master motivator and stickler for details, he sometimes angered his players but usually brought out their best.

When he died at his home in Tempe, Ariz., on Thursday at age 77 after a long illness, he left the legacy of a winner.

"Dan Devine was a leader of men," said Arizona Cardinals assistant coach Johnny Roland, who played for Devine and later coached with him. "All the programs he undertook were better for it. He was my mentor. He recruited me to play at Missouri and he recruited me into the coaching profession.

"He had a way with people of making them believe in themselves."

Devine went 172-57-9 (a .742 winning percentage) over 22 seasons at Notre Dame, Missouri and Arizona State. As a college head coach, he had just one losing season.

He also coached the Green Bay Packers for four seasons, going 25-27-4.

Devine was elected to the National Football Foundation's college Hall of Fame in 1985.

Arizona State hired Devine as head coach at age 31 in 1955. After three seasons and a 27-3-1 record, he moved to Missouri, where he was 93-37-7 in 13 seasons, with two Big Eight championships and six bowl appearances.

He went to Green Bay in 1971. After going 4-8-2 in his first season, the Packers won the NFC Central at 10-4 the next season. But they fell back to 5-7-2 in 1973 and 6-8 the next year.

By then fans had grown disenchanted and ran Devine out of town. So angry were some, that Devine's dog was shot to death.

His final and greatest coaching tenure occurred at Notre Dame, where he replaced Hall of Fame coach Ara Parseghian in 1975. In five seasons under Devine, the Fighting Irish were 53-16-1 and won three bowl games.

In 1977, Notre Dame, quarterbacked by Montana and with Bob Golic anchoring a tough defense, won the national championship. The Irish (11-1) beat previously undefeated Texas, led by running back Earl Campbell, 38-10 in the '78 Cotton Bowl.

The Irish returned to the Cotton Bowl the next season and pulled off one of the greatest comebacks in bowl history. Behind an ill Montana, they rallied from a 34-12 deficit in the final 7:37 to beat Houston 35-34 in the freezing rain.

"I have nothing but the kindest thoughts for him," said Rev. Edmund Joyce, the man who hired Devine and now serves as Notre Dame's executive vice president emeritus. "He was a true gentleman and a wonderful coach. ... He did not have Ara's charisma but his record was as good. I respected him as a man and a coach."

Dan Devine
Dan Devine led the Irish to four bowl games.

Former Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz, now at South Carolina, called Devine "a true gentleman and a tribute to the college game."

Devine was a self-described "fussbudget" who required shoes to be shined and pants pressed daily.

He brought the first black players to Arizona State and to Missouri, but never considered himself a pioneer in integration.

Devine left coaching in 1980 and returned to Arizona State as executive director of the Sun Angel Foundation, a fundraising group. In 1987, he moved to job directing an Arizona State program to fight substance abuse.

In 1992, he returned to Missouri as athletic director and served in the job until his retirement in 1994.

Devine was born on Dec. 23, 1924, in Augusta, Wis. He earned a bachelor's degree in history from the University of Minnesota at Duluth in 1948 and a master's degree in guidance and counseling from Michigan State.

Devine underwent quintuple bypass surgery last February in Mesa, Ariz., and had post-surgery complications and did not recover well, his family said at the time.

He spent 14 months in the hospital before being sent home last month.

His son, Dan Jr., is football coach at Jefferson Junior High in Columbia, Mo. Devine's wife, Joanne, died, Dec. 19, 2000.

The funeral will be Friday, May 17, at 10 a.m. at Corpus Christi Catholic Church in Phoenix.

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