I have been looking at ND men who served as Head Coaches at other colleges. It has been fun blundering into some “finds”.
Here’s a trivia question:
Name three Notre Dame men who served as the Head Football Coach at East Alabama Male College (later named Agricultural and Mechanical College of Alabama; later named Alabama Polytechnic Institute*)
*Since 1960, we know it as Auburn
Answer: Chet Wynne, Jack Meagher, and Earl Brown, all of whom served during the Auburn down times of the 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s.
Chet Wynne played fullback for Knute Rockne in his first four seasons as Head Coach, backing up Earl “Curly” Lambeau in 1918; and three others the next year, before becoming the starter for his final two seasons. George Gipp was the star of those first three teams. During Rockne’s tenure it was very common for colleges to contact him asking for recommendations for coaching hires, hoping to get a Rockne pupil who could bring along his system and secrets of success. Wynne played one year in the fledgling NFL, with the Rochester Jeffersons, before beginning his college head coaching career at Creighton. After a 7-year tenure, Chet was hired by Auburn for the 1930 season. During his four years at the helm, Wynne compiled a record of 22-15-2, with his high point being a Southern Conference Championship in 1932. His 9-0-1 record was marred only by a final game 20-20 tie with the University of South Carolina. Chet was the head coach when Auburn became one of the founding members of the Southeastern Conference, in 1933. Chet then moved over to the University of Kentucky as Head Coach and later Athletic Director.
Wynne was succeeded at Auburn by Jack Meagher, who was a second team end, in 1916, under Head Coach Jesse Harper and Assistant Coach Rockne. Meagher started his coaching career at Rice Institute, where he was the head man for five years. At Auburn, his 48-37-6 record still ranks 5th in coaching victories for the Tigers. Meagher led Auburn to their very first bowl game, after the 1936 season. They played in Havana, in the Bacardi Bowl, tying Villanova, 7-7. The following year, Meagher coached the Tigers to their first bowl win, defeating Michigan State, in the Orange Bowl. Meagher coached Iowa Pre-Flight to a sixth place national ranking for the 1944 season.
Meagher then became the first Head Coach of the Miami Seahawks, the first major league sports team in Miami and Florida’s first pro football team. The Seahawks were in the All American Football Conference, the rival league to the NFL, founded by ND man Arch Ward. The Commissioner of the league was Sleepy Jim Crowley, of the Four Horseman. The Seahawks folded after the season and Miami did not have another pro football team until the Dolphins of the American Football League, in 1966. Incidentally, the Miami franchise was purchased by an ownership group which moved the team to Baltimore and created the first version of the Colts.
Because of the success of these two ND men, Auburn again turned to the Fighting Irish to direct their football fortunes. Earl Brown coached Auburn during the 1948-1950 seasons. He was a three year end for the Irish (1936-38) under former Four Horseman Elmer Layden. Brown also played basketball for the Irish. His first college coaching job was as the coach of ends at Brown. Coach Brown of Brown. He moved over to Harvard as ends coach and Head Basketball Coach, before becoming Head Football and Basketball Coach at Dartmouth, the Merchant Marine Academy, and Canisius, before Auburn nabbed him. Alas, Earl did not continue the Notre Dame magic at Auburn. His records were 1-8-1, 2-4-3, and 0-10. Despite this awful record, Brown had a major highlight. In 1948, Auburn met Alabama for the first time since 1907. The Tide won 55-0. The following year, Auburn ventured down to Birmingham, on December 3rd, and pulled off a huge upset, 14-13. Alas, that was the last time Brown won a game for Auburn. For the 1950 season, the Tigers hired Ralph “Shug” Jordan, who remains as their greatest head coach to this day.
By the way, Alabama was a national power during the 30’s and 40’s. Their great coach from 1931 through 1946 was Frank Thomas (115–24–7). Among the players he coached and influenced was Paul “Bear” Bryant. Thomas ranks second only to Bryant for Alabama coaching victories. Nick Saban is going to need at least five more years to pass Thomas. At Notre Dame, Frank Thomas was a three-year QB for Rockne, being the starter in 1922, ahead of future Four Horseman, Harry Stuhldreher.