University of Notre Dame

The Story of Notre Dame
Notre Dame -- One Hundred Years / by Arthur J. Hope, C.S.C.

Chapter XXVII

BETWEEN the years 1922 and 1928, nearly all big colleges were slightly daffy over athletics. We do not wish to create the impression that sports are a bad thing to be daffy about; still less, do we deny that Notre Dame shared in that craze. Notre Dame had a great coach, perhaps the greatest in the country. His name had become a household word. Certainly, he was better known than any college professor or intellectual genius of the time. There were thousands of youngsters throughout the land who could correctly identify Rockne but who could not have told you who Thomas Alva Edison was.

Rockne's flat Scandinavian face was an effective screen for all the planning and scheming that went on inside his inventive mind. Football, of course, was his constant mental diet. He had a knack of finding the surprise, the sparkle, the dramatic, although constantly he emphasized the fundamentals of expert blocking and decisive tackling. His methods were so successful that Notre Dame had no trouble in attracting big, clever boys who wanted to play big, clever football. Each year, the squad grew larger, the schedule tougher, the crowds bigger. In fact, as we have mentioned, Notre Dame fans grew so numerous that it was only with difficulty that Father Walsh postponed their demand for an immense stadium.

It is not difficult to understand the position of some who scoff at a college engaged in the big business of football. Rightly, they say that the foremost object of a school is scholarship. And when athletics of any kind absorb a great part of the energies of a university, that university is false to its primary end. With this we can all agree. But it may be questioned whether, at Notre Dame, to take an example, football really did or does usurp the primacy of interest. And if, at times, it may have done so, some case might be made out for Notre Dame by showing that nearly all the schools in the country suffer from the same misfortune. Perhaps, if football were not the exciting game it is, if it were not so magnificent a spectacle and so thrilling a contest, the evil might be cured. But it would be a poor policy to squelch utterly the game as long as collegians love it so dearly. Although it may be overdone, it is, without doubt, one of the fine distractions and splendid diversions of college life. There are so many worse things with which students might entertain themselves in this era of mass education that we think football is well worth whatever small inroads it makes on the intellectual life.

Rockne's fame was such as to make most men lose their perspective. That he was able and efficient there is no doubt. But there are few who realize that, behind the scenes, Father Walsh's level head and good judgment were an important factor in the wise conduct of Rockne's athletic system. Those close to the situation saw Father Walsh's hand in every important move. He was Rockne's best guide and surest mentor. In Rockne's speeches and writings, which became more numerous and widely read with the passing years, it was the President's good judgment that prevailed throughout.

Especially in one aspect of the sport -- the forward pass -- Rockne seemed to excel. Modestly, he gave credit to Jesse Harper, Notre Dame's former coach, for developing the forward pass, particularly the spot pass which had proved itself so effective in the offensive game.[1]

After each football season, the "coach" was in great demand as a public speaker. After the 1923 season, he talked to eleven different gatherings in the midwest, and all his addresses were full of "wit, humor and good common sense." In his clipped, businesslike sentences, he gave evidence of the great qualities that marked him as a leader and trainer of American boys.[2]

In the fall of 1923 over 188,000 persons saw Notre Dame play in a season that brought only one defeat, at the hands of Nebraska. Of all these only 53,000 saw the games at home. Over 135,000 saw the games on foreign fields.[3] Meanwhile there was great talk of Rockne's resigning in favor of some other school. He himself signed the following statement:

For "Homecoming" in the fall of 1924, Notre Dame cordially invited the still living members of its first football team, the team of 1887. Ten of them came back to the campus on November 1st, from such widely separated points as Spokane, Washington; Bermuda, Louisiana; El Paso, Texas; and Detroit. In public print, their photographs appeared as the team of 1887, and, by contrast, their appearance in 1924.[5] The reunion was a very happy one not only because it brought together that first Notre Dame team, but also because these veterans were privileged to see Notre Dame's most famous team in action, the team of 1924.

This team, by reason of its brilliant backfield, was given more publicity than any Notre Dame team had ever received. Grantland Rice gave it a name that has gone down in all the sports records of the country, "The Four Horsemen." Writing of the game played with the Army in New York that year, he said:

We cannot say with certainty that the team of 1924 has been the greatest of Notre Dame's teams, but it certainly caught the popular fancy to an extraordinary degree. It embodied not only power, but extraordinary speed and versatility. Rockne came in for his share of credit, which was only just. The alumni and old students testified their admiration by presenting the coach with a fine Studebaker sedan, which was driven on the playing field just before game time on November 15th. The grateful Rockne said that he and his wife and all the little "Rocks" would have something lovely wherewith to remember the donors.[7]

It was this 1924 team that was acclaimed throughout the country as the All-American champions. The title was undisputed. The Bonniwell trophy that year came to Notre Dame as a permanent possession. A condition of the gift required that its award should be voted unanimously. It was the first year that the award had been made to any school, for the six previous years in which the trophy had been offered, the board making the award had not been unanimous in its decisions.[8]

All this athletic success brought with it some inevitable headaches. Still ill advised and unauthenticated stories seemed to imply that Notre Dame was lax regarding the eligibility rules. This unfavorable publicity was counteracted by Father (later Bishop) George Finnigan who, as Vice-President of the University, was also chairman of the Athletic Board of Control. He pointed out that, although Notre Dame was not a member of the Western Conference, it kept the Conference rules. The Board, he said, determines the amateur standing of all athletes, and does not interfere with the disciplinary authorities in any action they may take against an athlete who has violated the rules of the University. The Board, moreover, disqualifies any member of the University teams who has been guilty of ungentlemanly conduct or who has been found delinquent in studies.[9]

Father Finnigan published the eligibility rules. They are models of athletic purity. There is in them, even, a tendency to lean backwards to satisfy certain critics who didn't want to be satisfied. They were the ones who would say: "The rules are fine on paper. But there must be some way you get around them!"[10] Particular emphasis was laid on the question of delinquency in studies. On this point, the coach was to furnish a list of the players he intended to use in an y contest. This list was gone over the day before a game, and if a player were down in any of his studies, his name was eliminated from the list.

The largest crowd ever to see a Notre Dame football game turned out in Chicago on November 26, 1927, to witness the game with Southern California. 114,000 fans crowded the seats at Soldier Field. During the season, over 250,000 persons saw the Notre Dame team in action. It was estimated that of those who applied for tickets, over a quarter of a million could not be satisfied.[11]

Elmer Davis, who had some acquaintance with Notre Dame, wrote: "Incidentally, students of the Catholic schools of the state won about one half the prizes, which ought to reassure the Klansmen that Catholic Hoosiers are after all Hoosiers of purest ray serene. Perhaps it will, for Hoosier Catholicism contains one notable institution which never seems to have incurred the hostility that frowns upon the Pope and his other works -- The Notre Dame football team."[12]

* * *

It will be remembered that after his term as President, Father Burns was out in search of endowment. Naturally, of course, his first points of contact would have been with and through the alumni of Notre Dame. "It is a regrettable fact that there has been comparatively little contact between the school and the alumni during past years," wrote Father Walsh.[13] "This condition, I believe, is about to disappear." He alluded to the contacts being made by Father Burns and Father McGinn, as well as to the publication of The Notre Dame Alumnus, through whose pages the alumni were to be kept informed of happenings at the school, news of old students, and alumni, and an exposition of Notre Dame's needs.

Thomas T. Cavanaugh, '97, prodded the alumni a bit by saying that the topic of loyalty was usually discussed from the viewpoint of the old student -- he ought to be loyal to his Alma Mater, and, as he said, this was usually the prelude to a touch, which was orthodox enough. But there was another aspect of this question, the loyalty of Alma Mater to the alumni. And in this respect, the University had done more than her share.

What sort of response did Father Burns get from the Alumni in his search for endowment? Father Burns made two observations: first, the money he had raised, he said, came mostly through the interest and cooperation of the alumni. In the light of subsequent reckoning, this statement must be considerably modified. Actually, men who were not alumni, who had even no connection with the University, contributed such a sum that the alumni suffer badly by comparison. The second thing observed by Father Burns was that a very large proportion of the alumni and old students were wholly uninterested and maintained a passive attitude. This lack of interest, felt Father Burns, was due to the lack of understanding among the old students of the present conditions at Notre Dame.[15]

Albert R. Erskine, chairman of the Board of Lay Trustees, whose generosity toward Notre Dame was remarkable, declared that at that time, Notre Dame had need of a ten million dollar endowment fund. Mr. Erskine had given $50,000 personally to the fund; the Studebaker Corporation, of which he was the head, had contributed $100,000. And it was largely through Mr. Erskine's exertions and directive effort, that $350,000 was raised in and around South Bend.[16]

In the earlier days, it was Father William Moloney who had organized the alumni as a helpful ally of the University. Father Moloney was a gentleman of consummate integrity. His duties as Secretary of the University, charged with all student accounts, brought him the name of a "hard man." Discerning students, and all the alumni, knew him, however, as a man whose judgment might be trusted. He revived the "Alumni Association" and made it more active and vocal. His work was passed on to Al Ryan, '20, who did a splendid job as editor of The Notre Dame Alumnus until January, 1926, when James Armstrong, '25, took over. Armstrong has been at that post since that time, and has done much to create a genuine interest among the alumni. Credit for the reorganization of the Alumni Association at Notre Dame, however, belongs to Ryan. Before the National Catholic Alumni Federation, Ryan stated his views. His suggestions were practical: keep before the alumni the resolution to maintain the high moral and intellectual ideals of their college days; formulate a program whereby the alumni may learn, not only of the athletics of the institution, but also of its primary work -- its policies on education and scholarship; employ a full-time secretary who shall have no other duties than those of the alumni office; keep a complete record of alumni, with correct addresses and business occupations, and publish an alumni directory.[17]

Since taking over the position of Alumni secretary and editor of The Notre Dame Alumnus, Armstrong has carried out all of Ryan's suggestions, and added a few good ones of his own. The first annual meeting of the Alumni Board was held on February 20, 1926. One of the things recommended was the Alumni Placement Bureau, whereby local alumni clubs in various localities would attempt to create positions and employment for Notre Dame men, particularly those who had lately been graduated. Also the celebration of Universal Notre Dame night was encouraged.[18]

In connection with the alumni of Notre Dame, there is an almost unanimous opinion that Warren A. Cartier, '87, deserves foremost mention. From the time of his graduation until his death in 1934, he manifested a selfless and devoted spirit. His years of service cannot be measured in terms of time or money. He was not a very wealthy man, but he gave much more than his share to his Alma Mater. Old Cartier Field is only one of his benefactions. With the exception of two years between 1908 and 1926, Mr. Cartier acted as the treasurer of the Alumni Association. Even in 1926 he was unanimously elected once more to that office, but his sincere protestations were finally acknowledged, and Walter Duncan, '12, was elected to succeed him.[19] Father Walsh had need of what was called a "Student Loan Fund." There were many deserving students who, for want of some small thing, like a suit of clothes or a set of law books, would have found it impossible to stay at Notre Dame, unless someone could furnish them with these things. it was Father Walsh's idea that from this fund, the temporary wants of such students might be satisfied, with the understanding that the money should be refunded when the student found it possible to do so. James J. Phelan of Boston, one of the lay trustees, gave Father Walsh $5,000 for this purpose; other individuals brought the sum to $7,500.

Mr. and Mrs. F. M. Rowley of San Antonio established, in 1926, a $12,000 fund for a scholarship. Their son, Edwin G. Rowley, a student at Notre Dame, was killed in an automobile accident while returning to the campus on Nov. 20th, 1925.[20]

When Frank B. Phillips, brother-in-law of William P. Breen, died in 1927, he was most generous in his remembrance of Notre Dame, carrying out, it is true, the wishes of Mr. Breen. From this endowment, the University received negotiable securities to the amount of over $230,000, and real estate appraised at over $77,000. Until the death of Mrs. Breen, his sister, Mr. Phillips wished her to receive the income from interest after the money had been safely invested by the Board of Lay Trustees. At her death, the entire sum was to go to Notre Dame. One half of the income was to be used for the education of the seminarians or priests of Holy Cross, the other half for the education of poor and deserving students at Notre Dame. Mr. Phillips did not wish the scholarship fund to be called after himself, but rather for three priests at Notre Dame for whom he had had the greatest admiration, Fathers Thomas F. Walsh, Daniel E. Hudson, and John W. Cavanaugh.[21]

Boetius Sullivan of Chicago offered to build a radio station at Notre Dame in memory of his father, Roger Sullivan. When asked if he would endow also for its maintenance, Mr. Sullivan thought he could not. It was with regret, therefore, that the University authorities felt obliged to refuse the kind offer. Later on, some scholarships were given as a substitute for the proposed radio station.[22] During Father Walsh's administration the Byron V. Kanaley Prize was established, to be awarded annually to the senior monogram athlete adjudged the most exemplary as student and leader of men; as also the William Mitchell Memorial award to the student who should write the best play of the year.[23]

Walter George Smith of Philadelphia, an attorney by profession, was awarded the Laetare Medal in 1923. He had been president of the American Bar Association in 1917; later, president of the Federation of Catholic Societies of Pennsylvania; member of the Commission for Near East Relief; and member of President Harding's advisory committee on the limitation of armaments. He had done some creditable writing, also, in the fields of history and legislation.

The following year, 1924, the Laetare Medal was given to Charles D. Maginnis, well known Boston architect. Mr. Maginnis had long been an outstanding figure in the field of ecclesiastical architecture. In 1908 he was already a member of the Municipal Art Commission of Boston; shortly thereafter, a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects; member of the Massachusetts State Art Commission since 1911; and numerous other artistic organizations.

In 1925, the award was most sincerely tendered to Albert F. Zahm, one of Notre Dame's own sons. Of his amiable character, his scholarly attainments and his inventive genius, we have spoken in an earlier chapter.[24] Certainly, at Notre Dame, no other recipient had as yet been so popular a choice.

Edward Nash Hurley (LL.D. '18) was the Laetare Medalist of 1926. The son of poor parents, he had come up the hard way, but by his industry and genius for administration, had become not only wealthy but immensely respected. His Catholicity was deep and profound. His patriotism, too, led him into a field where his leadership helped immeasurably in winning World War I. In 1914 he had been appointed a member of the Federal Trade Commission. In April, 1917, Woodrow Wilson made him a member of the Red Cross War Council, later, a member of the War Trade Board; and on July 28, 1917, Wilson appointed him chairman of the United States Shipping Board, in which capacity he was able to show a remarkable return for the four billion dollars which he had had to expend. President Coolidge was so impressed by Mr. Hurley's achievements that he made him, first, a member of the World War Foreign Debt Commission, and then a member of the committee which adjusted the Belgian, Italian and other war debts.[25]

An outstanding Catholic actress, Margaret Anglin, was selected as the recipient in 1927. Besides being an exemplary Catholic, Miss Anglin had for years been an accomplished artist on the dramatic stage. The award was very timely, for it brought to the attention of Catholic actors and audiences the fact that the stage was not necessarily, as so many had supposed, a place where Catholic faith and Catholic morals had little place.[26]

Jack J. Spalding of Atlanta, Georgia, received the Laetare Medal in 1928. By profession a lawyer, Mr. Spalding had received not only the esteem but even the veneration of his chosen locale. His Catholic life and his indisputable moral character had done much to elevate, in a non-Catholic atmosphere, the reputation of the Church. Of his counsel and money, he had been more than generous with the Church. He was a daily attendant at Mass, and a weekly communicant. When he received the Medal, it was at one of the most brilliant social functions ever held in that southern city.[27]

* * *

Under Father Walsh's administration there was a new impetus toward student publications. The Knights of Columbus, who, years before, had established on the campus the first university council of that organization, published the Santa Maria, a quarterly largely devoted not only to news of the national organization, but especially to the happenings of the local council.[28]

In April of 1923 there was a general clamor for a daily newspaper at Notre Dame. There was, on the part of the administration, a great deal of skepticism as to its success, particularly from a financial point of view. However, under a faculty board of control, it was launched on May 20, 1923. Really, it was not a daily. It appeared only three or four times a week. The Daily, from the journalistic point of view, was fairly well taken care of, but it had a stormy financial history.

In the meantime, the Scholastic, deserting its traditional program of news for the campus, had, under the able direction of George Shuster, become largely a literary organ. Instead of a weekly, it became a monthly magazine, and continued to publish stories and articles of more than passing interest.

The Notre Dame Daily appeared for the last time on June 15, 1924. Father Walsh had asked his Board of Publications about the advisability of continuing the Daily. In a report, dated August 1, 1924, that Board eyed the paper with a gangrenous eye. It said, first, that it had not achieved its objective in becoming a bulletin for the students, particularly the day students; second, that it had brought about discord rather than harmony between different groups; that the circulation department had been negligent in its distribution of the paper; that no one would assume the editorial responsibility for more than a few weeks; and finally, that it was horribly in debt, a debt which the University was finally forced to assume.[29]

The department of Chemistry published the first number of The Catalyzer in 1923. It was only a mimeographed sheet, but it bore the imprint of Father Nieuwland's influence. It was truly a credit to the department and, as time went on, received favorable notice beyond the bounds of the campus.[30]

The Law Department began the Notre Dame Lawyer in November of 1925. In the very first number the contributions set a high standard. Nicholas Murray Butler among others, blessed the venture.[31] In these later years publication had grown in size and merit. Since the fall of 1932 it has been issued quarterly.

In the summer of 1928 Father Walsh's second term as President and superior expired. For six years, the maximum period of office permitted by Canon Law, Father Walsh had given his best to Notre Dame. Through his prudent judgment, his unselfish zeal, his remarkable foresight, his limitless tact, and his striking courage, he not only saved all the academic ground gained by Father Burns, but also began the building of the "greater Notre Dame." It had been gruelling labor, and often thankless. A less calm and patient president might have become a bit restive, but Father Walsh's native good humor as well as his trust in God's providence, helped him round out a most useful administration. Relieved of power and authority, he was tremendously rejoiced. Responsibility was never of his choosing. He returned to the class-room, and joyfully taught -- still teaches -- his courses in history. With more leisure to read and study, he augmented, if possible, his reputation as a teacher.

In the midst of the Chapter in which his successor, Father Charles O'Donnell, was chosen, there was a fierce electrical storm on June 29th. Lightning struck the old engineering buildings. The loss was a severe one, not only because of the resulting damage to the buildings, but also because the personal records of Professors Caparo and Benitz were destroyed. Although Father O'Donnell's election had not yet been announced, Father Walsh felt, with some satisfaction: "The problem of a new engineering building will be someone else's headache."[32]

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