2008 Season to Honor Five ND Coaches, ‘Victory March’

The 2008 football season at the University of Notre Dame will recall many of the finest moments in the program’s illustrious history. All five former head coaches who guided the Fighting Irish to consensus national championships will be honored. In addition, the school, its Band and fans will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the writing of the “Notre Dame Victory March” – considered by many “the greatest of all university fight songs.”

Each of the five coaches are members of the College Football Hall of Fame in South Bend, starting with Knute Rockne, one of the Hall’s original inductees. The other Hall of Fame coaches are Frank Leahy, Ara Parseghian, Dan Devine and Lou Holtz.

The schedule for honoring the coaches is:

• Lou Holtz – Sept. 13 vs. Michigan

• Dan Devine – Sept. 27 vs. Purdue

• Ara Parseghian – Oct. 4 vs. Stanford

• Frank Leahy – Nov. 1 vs. Pittsburgh

• Knute Rockne – Nov. 22 vs. Syracuse

The season opener, Sept. 6 vs. San Diego State, will be noted for being the 200th consecutive sellout at Notre Dame Stadium, the second-longest streak in the nation (to Nebraska’s 289 straight). In addition, the Fighting Irish have had only one non-sellout in their last 249 games coming into the 2008 season.

Holtz, who coached ND to 100 victories from 1986-96 and guided the Irish to their most recent national title in 1988, will be honored on Sept. 13 with the dedication of a sculpture in Notre Dame Stadium. The weekend will also include the 20th reunion of the 1988 team, and ceremonies at halftime honoring Holtz for his recent Hall of Fame induction.

The other living ND championship coach, Parseghian, 85, will be honored at the Oct. 4 Stanford game. Ara’s 11-year record of 95-17-4 included national titles in 1966 and 1973. Last fall, a sculpture of Parseghian being carried off the field by his players was unveiled in the Stadium.

Also on the Oct. 3-4 weekend, the Notre Dame Band will welcome alumni band members to campus and pay special tribute to brothers John F. Shea (ND 1906) and Rev. Michael Shea (ND 1905), who wrote the words and music for the Notre Dame Victory March in 1908. The ND Band is offering several commemorative items, including the CD 100 Years: The Notre Dame Victory March. The CD includes several renditions of the Victory March, including an organ version as it would have been played by Rev. Shea in its debut performance at a Holyoke, Mass., church in 1908.

Representatives of the Devine, Leahy and Rockne families will be on hand for the other weekends. They will be recognized at the Friday kickoff luncheons and pep rallies, and participate in a ceremonial pre-game coin toss. Photos of the five coaches are featured on the 2008 game tickets, schedule cards, game program covers and game program insert posters for their respective games.

Devine, to be remembered Sept. 27, coached the Irish six seasons (1975-80) including the 1977 national championship season. ND thrashed previously unbeaten Texas, 38-10, in the 1978 Cotton Bowl to cap an 11-1 season. Devine died on May 9, 2002 in Phoenix at age 77.

Leahy, who is honored Nov. 1, compiled a sterling 87-11-9 mark in 11 seasons over two stints interrupted by World War II (1941-43 and 1946-53). His four national titles – 1943, 1946, 1947 and 1949 — lead all Irish coaches. Leahy died on June 21, 1973 in Portland, Ore., at age 65.

Rockne’s .881 winning percentage ranks at the top of all major college and professional coaches in history. The Irish were 105-12-5 in his 13 years as head coach, 1918 through 1930. His 1919, 1920 and 1927 teams merited recognition from some quarters as the nation’s best, but three others – 1924, 1929 and 1930 – were undefeated, consensus national champs. At the time of his death in a plane crash on March 31, 1931, the Fighting Irish had a 19-game winning streak spanning the 1929 and 1930 seasons.

Rockne’s first consensus champion – the 10-0 team in 1924 – featured The Four Horsemen and the Seven Mules, and is profiled in the new book “LOYAL SONS.”

Forever Irish will provide in-depth coverage of the special events at Notre Dame football games in 2008.