BYU and Notre Dame, fireside and Knute Rockne

Oct 22, 2012 - Posted by Kenny Cox on October 22, 2012 at 6:07 pm | Updated: October 22, 2012 8:58 pm

As usual, the BYU football team held a fireside the night before the game between the Cougars and Notre Dame. A local newspaper, Michigan City News Dispatch, covered the event and featured the fireside in detail. You can read about it by selecting the link below. 

Read the article

BYU Athletics personnel also spoke at a special Notre Dame function on campus Friday night before the game, BYU associate athletic director Duff Tittle, who oversees athletic communications, spoke to the Notre Dame Smokers, a Knights of Columbus council that supports the Fighting Irish. Tittle spoke on the history of BYU and talked about unique connections between BYU and Notre Dame over the years.

One story was of particular interest:

When BYU played its first season of football in 1922, the sport was relatively new to the western United States. In 1923, physical education director Eugene L. Roberts invited legendary Notre Dame coach Knute Rockne to Utah to run a football coaches clinic. Rockne led the Fighting Irish to back-to-back national championships in 1919 and 1920 and was considered one of the country’s great football minds.

Rockne accepted the invitation and traveled to Provo in the summer of 1923 to conduct the first football coaches clinic in the state of Utah. In order to pay Rockne for his services, BYU hired him as a professor for spring term, which means the legendary coach was actually an adjunct faculty member at BYU for a short time.

On July 16, 1923, Rockne sent a letter to Roberts thanking him for his hospitality during his stay in Utah and letting him know he would grade the final papers for the class “just as soon as I get a few minutes to myself.”

Two years later, while searching for a new head football coach, Roberts communicated with Rockne again, this time to get his opinion about C.J. Hart who he was considering for the job.

On July 12, 1925, Rockne sent a reply letter to Roberts saying that Hart “impresses me very favorably.” Rockne also invited Hart and Roberts to “come down to Notre Dame on August 15 for two weeks,” which of course they accepted.

Of that trip to South Bend, Hart related the following, “Coach Roberts and I went east to attend a coaching clinic. We studied two weeks under the famed coach of Notre Dame, Knute Rockne.” Upon returning to Provo, the two BYU coaches introduced a new style of play so distinct to the conference that it became known as the “Roberts-Hart system.”

Photo caption:
On the steps of the old BYU Academy building, Knute Rockne, famous coach of Notre Dame, was a teacher at the first football coaches school in the state of Utah, organized by Eugene L. Roberts (front row, far left) during the summer of 1923. Rockne is in the center (front row, fourth from right).