Monday, July 9, 2012
Numbers don't tell story of Knute Rockne
By Matt Fortuna
Knute Rockne compiled a 105-12-5 record during his 13 seasons as head coach of Notre Dame. His teams have accounted for 12.3 percent of the wins in the program's history, the most of any man to coach the Irish.
Knute Rockne laid the foundation for generations of Irish football.
Other coaches have put bigger dents in their schools' history books, notably:
Bobby Bowden, who has accounted 64 percent of Florida State's wins.
Joe Paterno, who has accounted for 49.5 percent of Penn State's wins.
Lavell Edwards, who has accounted for 49.2 percent of BYU's wins.
Chris Ault, who has coached 44.3 percent of the Nevada's wins (and is still going.)
Like other coaching greats, those four are, in many ways, the faces of their programs. Predecessors and successors dull in comparison, and their schools' football teams would not be the same without them.
Rockne's .881 career winning percentage remains the best among FBS coaches, and his six national titles and five unbeaten and untied seasons are not too shabby, either.
It is easy to brush aside Rockne's numbers when considering the other greats who roamed the Notre Dame sideline after him -- notably, Dan Devine, Ara Parseghian, Frank Leahy and Lou Holtz. Each, after all, has his own statue outside Notre Dame Stadium.
But the numbers don't tell the story of Rockne's impact at Notre Dame. His motivational tactics became renowned. His aerial attack was instrumental in growing the game. And he was a master showman, taking his team to bigger stages in faraway places.
On the surface, removing 105 wins from a program with 853 of them would do little damage to Notre Dame's eventful football history. But without Rockne to lay the foundation for what have become so many Irish traditions, it is impossible to imagine what the South Bend, Ind., school would look like some 80-plus years later.