The 1901 football season (8-1-1) was a fascinating one for the Irish for several reasons...

Dear John (Heisler, SID):

We opened the season by tying the South Bend Athletic Club, 0-0.  We ended the season defeating them, 22-6.

Perhaps our Head Coach was able to learn something from the first game to the last.  Perhaps he was helped by the fact that the star player on the SB Athletic Club was Pat O’Dea, one the greatest college football players of the first 30 years of college football………and it was that same Pat O’Dea who was ND’s head coach!  It is not often that a team defeats a team whose best player is the Head Coach of the winning team!  Talk about a conflict of interest!

The second best player on the SBAC might have been John McWeeney, who was ND’s Head Coach in 1899 and served as Pat’s Assistant the next year.  When McWeeney graduated from Notre Dame Law School, he joined the SB Police Department and later became Chief. 

In the second game that year, there are two Koehler’s playing for the SB Athletic Club.  I will be checking to see if one of them was Ben Koehler.  If he played in that game, it would add another fascinating dimension to this game.  Ben Koehler was born in Germany.  He played Major League Baseball.  He later became one of at least three former Major League Baseball Players to become employees of Notre Dame (other than as Coaches).  Ben was a night watchman for Notre Dame, long before we had a police department.  I knew the other two former Major Leaguers who were employed by Notre Dame.  Ollie Bejma, once famously featured in a Peanuts comic strip, was a security officer at ND when I was a student and former Cubs Pitcher Gene Fodge worked at the Morris Inn.

O’Dea, a native of Australia, was known as the Kangaroo Kicker.  He was the top punter and place kicker of his day, making punts and drop kicks of legendary lengths.  He played at Wisconsin.  The football used in those days was shaped like a rugby ball, which may have helped the kicking, but several limited the passing.  O’Dea is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.

We defeated three medical schools in 1901, one fewer than the number we defeated in 1903.  1901 also featured an odd score……….we lost to Northwestern 2-0.  In 1906, we defeated Purdue, 2-0.  Those are baseball scores not often seen on the gridiron.

Incidentally, there is an error in our media guide about the location of the November 28, 1901 game.  It was not a “home” game for the Irish.  The game was played in Springbrook Park, in South Bend.  This area is now part of the southern expansion of the IUSB campus.


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