…Knute Rockne was a Norwegian-born former end for Notre Dame, who helped his school to a head-turning upset of Army as a player and then took over as coach in 1918. He was media savvy, and intent on turning the football program into a national power. Part of his strategy: turning recent immigrants to the States, many of them Catholic, into Notre Dame fans.
“They had trouble getting opponents, in part because of the anti-Catholicism of the Midwest,” Sperber said.
In 1923 – an era so long ago the nickname “Ramblers” competed with fan favorite “Fighting Irish” in press reports – Notre Dame won two landmark victories that help cement its place as America’s team.
First, it beat Army, 13-0, at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn as its rivalry with the Cadets blossomed into one of the fiercest in sports. The next week, the Fighting Irish won at Princeton, 25-2.
“This became one of the great moments for the fans,” Sperber said. “It was Yankee, snooty Princeton against working class Notre Dame. Notre Dame had a lot of first generation-American players.
“This was played up by the press and the press loved it.”
Notre Dame was the college football team for the people who didn’t go to college. Rockne became an American hero, with his “Win One For the Gipper” speech (to inspire a 1928 victory over, you guessed it, Army). His death in a 1931 plane crash was a national tragedy, prompting statements of sympathy from President Herbert Hoover and the king of Norway.
Yet for all the mythology and folklore around Notre Dame football, the biggest reason for its popularity was quite basic.
“An absolutely crucial element is winning,” Sperber said.
Few programs have won like Notre Dame. Alabama is one of them.
det-er-kaerlighed asked: How pumped are you for Monday? ND ND ND ND!!
So pumped! ND ND ND!
NOTRE DAME IS #1
NOTRE DAME IS #1