Dublin Trip A ‘Once in a Lifetime’ Experience

In a Chicago apartment earlier this week, a group of young Notre Dame alums gathered to “send off” a lucky few among them who were headed to Dublin for Saturday’s Emerald Isle Classic between ND and Navy.

In the streets of London, Paris and Rome walked more senior Notre Dame alums fortunate enough to be able to tack on some extra days of European sight-seeing to their time in Dublin.

And for one couple from southern California, Tom and Pamela Lieb, the trip includes four days in Dublin and another four at the fabulous Dromoland Castle golf resort and country estate.  “It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity,” says Tom.

The Liebs have a special connection to the Fighting Irish. Tom is Tom Jr. – his father was a lineman for the Irish in 1921 and ’22, then an assistant coach to Knute Rockne in the national championship seasons of 1924 and 1929.

When Rockne suffered from debilitating phlebitis in ’29, it was Tom Lieb who took over the reins and guided the Irish to several of their victories in their perfect 9-0 season.

Tom Lieb Sr. grew up in Faribault, Minnesota, pitching rocks in his family’s quarry. The strength he developed there would help him become one of the world’s best discus throwers.  Lieb held the world record for a time and earned the bronze medal in the 1924 Paris Olympics before returning to campus to help coach the Irish that fall.  He guided the Seven Mules, the line in front of the legendary Four Horsemen.

Tom Lieb Sr. as coach of the Loyola University Lions of Los Angeles in the 1930s.

His coaching career included a stint as head coach of the Florida Gators and a successful run as head coach at Loyola University in Los Angeles, where Tom Jr. was raised.

Tom Lieb was also a player and coach on some of the earliest ND hockey teams.

“Dad’s time at Notre Dame was over 80 ago,” Tom Jr. says.  “I’m surprised at the people who seem to know about it.  It keeps coming up.  It’s amazing. When I go places, when I do business, someone will have ‘googled’ my name and they introduce me as ‘his father coached at Notre Dame with Knute Rockne.’”

Tom’s son, Tom Lieb III, is a 1998 Notre Dame graduate working in finance in Pasadena, and he has a six-year-old son, Tom IV, so the memory of the rock-pitching patriarch will go on.

On Saturday, the current-day Irish will try to make history, with a living link to the Rockne era looking on.