Rockne’s Coaching Tree
Rockne proteges who became head coaches...
Player ND Years Wins College(s)
Lambeau, Curly FB 1918 226^ Green Bay Packers
Anderson, Eddie RE 1918-21c 201-A/H H. Cross, Iowa, DePaul, Loras
Dorais, Gus QB 1910-13 169^-A Detroit, Gonzaga, Loras
Shaw, Buck RT 1919-21 153^-H Santa Clara, Air Force, Cal
Phelan, Jimmy QB 1915-17 142^-H UW, Purdue, St. Mary’s, MO
Thomas, Frank QB 1920-22 141-H Alabama, Chattanooga
Bachman, Charlie LG 1914/16 137-H Michigan State, Kansas State
Baujan, Harry RE 1913-16 124-H Dayton
Madigan, Slip C 1916-19 118-H St. Mary’s
Stuhldreher, Harry QB 1922-24 110-A/H Villanova, Wisconsin
Smith, M. Clipper RG 1917-20 108 Villanova, S. Clara, Gonzaga
Leahy, Frank RT 1928-30 107-H Notre Dame, Boston College
Layden, Elmer FB 1922-24 103-A/H Duquesne, Notre Dame, Loras
Mehre, Harry C 1919-21 98 Georgia, Mississippi
Meagher, Jack LE 1916 96 Auburn, Rice
Crowley, Jim LH 1922-24 78-A/H Fordham, Michigan State
Enright, Rex FB 1923-25 64 South Carolina
Bergman, Arthur RH 1915/19 64^ Catholic
Lieb, Tom RT* 1921-22 59 Loyola
Crowe, Clem LE 1923-25c 56 Xavier, Iowa
Kizer, Noble RG 1922-24 42 Purdue
Wynne, Chet FB 1918-21 42 Auburn, Kentucky
Collins, Chuck LE 1922-24 38 North Carolina
Mullins, Moon FB 1927-30 38 St. Benedict’s
^Includes NFL wins c=Captain A=All American H=College Football Hall of Fame
Baujan, Backman, Phelan, and Meagher played for Rockne when he was an Assistant Coach. Dorais was a teammate as was Baujan.
Rockne (.881/1st); Leahy (.864/2nd); Thomas (.795); Layden (.733)
The Knute Rockne influence in College Coaching
The standard path to a college head coaching position has been well established during the past five decades. Young men interested in the profession should start by being marginal college players, preferably with a little versatility. They must be good enough in the classroom to graduate. They might also exhibit the type of hustle and desire that makes them good special teams players. They will play one of the “brainy” positions, but probably not quarterback. They should be a student of coaching. After graduation they must pursue graduate work and get hired as a grad assistant. They will then embark on a 15-20 year odyssey as a college assistant, working for up to a half a dozen programs, being mentored by many coaches along the way. Tey should also expect to lose their job a couple times because their mentor gets fired. It’s also a good idea to work on both sides of the ball and special teams and most likely they will be work their way up to being either an Offensive or Defensive Coordinator. Finally, as the head coaching aspirant is beginning to gray at the temples and is starting to need reading glasses, he is in prime position to get his shot at the brass ring.
Things were not always this way. In the early days of the game of college football, the selection of a Head Coach was a much simpler process. A college needing a Head Coach would merely contact one of the 4-5 top programs in the country and ask their Head Coach for one of his assistants or former players. If it were a small college doing the looking, they would often ask for a graduating senior. It was through this means that many men who had come under the influence of Knute Rockne became head coaches across the land.
Gus Dorais is the first Rockne man to succeed as a college head coach. During the Summer of 1913, while working with his college roomie as a lifeguard at Cedar Point, Ohio, quarterback Dorais and end Rockne perfected the forward pass. The primary innovation that they brought to the evolution of the pass was throwing the ball ahead of the receiver so he could run to it in stride. Prior to that time, in the half dozen years the forward pass rules had been liberalized, most passes were short tosses thrown to a stationary receiver, facing the thrower, just a few yards downfield. This play was no more effective than most running plays so it was seldom used.
Dorais became a long-time fixture and head coach of the University of Detroit, winning 149 games there and at Gonzaga and Loras, his prior stops. Dorais later was less successful (20-31) as the head coach of the Detroit Lions during the mid-40’s.
Harry Baujan was a back-up at the end spot opposite Rock during his frosh year while Rockne and Dorais were seniors. Baujan later was coached by Knute for the next three years. Baujan’s entire head coaching career was spent at the University of Dayton, where the football field is named in his honor.
Charlie Backman and Jack Meagher were line mates of Baujan on the 1916 Notre Dame team. Rockne was the assistant coach, just three years out of school and two years away from being named head coach. Backman would go on to win 137 games as the head coach at Michigan Agricultural College (Michigan State) and Kansas.
Jimmy Phelan quarterbacked the Irish from 1915 through 1917 and served as team captain in his senior year. He served as head coach at Washington, Purdue, and St. Mary’s, winning 130 games in the college ranks. Phelan coached in the NFL-rival All American Football Conference for Los Angeles, in 1948 and 49. Incidentally, the AAFC was founded by Arch Ward, the Notre Dame who also created the Golden Gloves, the Major League All Star Game, and the College Football All Star Game. Phelan coached in the National Football Conference in 1952.
Earl Curley Lambeau was the starting fullback on Knute’s debut team in 1918. Lambeau was later an NFL pioneer with the Green Bay Packers, coaching for 33 years and winning 229 games. He was named to the NFL Hall of Fame in 1963.
Arthur “Little Dutch” Bergman and Edward “Slip” Madigan were the next N.D. men to become head coaches. Bergman, the third brother from Peru, Indiana, to play running back for the Irish, won 58 games for Catholic University. He later coached the Washington Redskins of the NFL. Madigan won 118 games for the Running Gaels of St. Mary’s College (CA). He’s in the College Football Hall of Fame.
Maurice “Clipper” Smith was a three year starter (1918-20) at right guard for Rockne’s first three teams before becoming the head coach at Villanova, Santa Clara, and Gonzaga, winning 108 games as a head coach.
The 1921 Notre Dame team went 10-1, losing only to Iowa, by a 10-7 score. Seniors on that team included Hunk Anderson, who was Rockne’s hand picked successor, but, alas, not as gifted a college coach as his mentor. Hunk was on the NFL’s all decade team for the 1920’s. He had a successful stint as the Bears Coach, 1942-45, going 24-12.
Lawrence “Buck Shaw” was the next Rockne player to star on the sidelines. He won the NFL Championship with the Eagles and is the only man to defeat Vince Lombardi in a championship game. The football stadium at Santa Clara is named after him.
Dr. Eddie Anderson would be a legitimate Hall of Famer for his playing ability (All American and Captain in 1921); Coaching ability (led the resurgence of Iowa Football and coached Heisman Trophy Winner Nile Kinnick); and post-football career as a medical doctor.