Knute Rockne: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Knute Rockne

Title Head Coach
College Notre Dame
Sport American football
Born March 4, 1888(1888-03-04)
Place of birth Voss, Norway
Died March 31, 1931 (aged 43)
Place of death Bazaar, Kansas
Career highlights
Overall 105-12-5 (88.1%)
Bowls 1-0
Coaching stats
College Football DataWarehouse
National Championship
(1919, 1920, 1924, 1927, 1929, 1930)
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1918-1930 Notre Dame
College Football Hall of Fame, 1951 (Bio)

Knute[1] Kenneth Rockne (March 4, 1888 – March 31, 1931) was an American football player and is regarded as one of the greatest coaches in college football history.[2] His biography at the College Football Hall of Fame (South Bend, IN) calls him "American football's most-renowned coach." He was a native Norwegian, and was trained as a chemist at Notre Dame. He is credited with popularizing the use of the forward pass.


Early life

Knute Rockne was born Knute Kenneth Rockne in Voss, Norway, and emigrated with his parents at five years old to Chicago.[3] He grew up in the Logan Square area of Chicago, on the northwest side of the city. Rockne learned to play football in his neighborhood and later played end in a local group called the Logan Square Tigers. He attended North West Division High School in Chicago playing football and also running track.

After Rockne dropped out of high school, he took a job as a mail dispatcher with the Chicago Post Office for four years. When he was 22, he had saved enough money to continue his education. After passing an entrance examination, since there was no GED at the time, Knute Rockne headed to South Bend, Indiana, to finish his schooling. He was the laboratory assistant to noted polymer chemist Julius Arthur Nieuwland at Notre Dame, but rejected further work in chemistry after receiving an offer to coach football.

Notre Dame coach

Portions of this section are adapted from Murray Sperber's book Shake Down The Thunder: The Creation of Notre Dame Football

As head coach of the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana from 1918 to 1930, he achieved an all-time winning percentage of 88.2%, the highest percentage in Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly known as Division I-A) history. During 13 years as head coach, he oversaw 105 victories, 12 losses, five ties, and six national championships, including five undefeated seasons without a tie. His players included George 'Gipper' Gipp the "Four Horsemen" (Harry Stuhldreher, Don Miller, Jim Crowley, and Elmer Layden), Frank Leahy, and Curly Lambeau.

Rockne introduced the "shift", with the backfield lining up in a T formation and then quickly shifting into a box to the left or right just as the ball was snapped. Rockne was also shrewd enough to recognize that intercollegiate sports had a show-business aspect. Thus he worked hard promoting Notre Dame football so as to make it financially successful. He used his considerable charm to court favor from the media, which then consisted of newspapers, wire services and radio stations and networks, to obtain free advertising for his Notre Dame football product. He was very successful as an advertising pitchman, for South Bend based Studebaker and other products.

For all his success, Rockne made what an Associated Press writer called "one of the greatest coaching blunders in history."[4] Instead of coaching his 1926 team against Carnegie Tech, Rockne traveled to Chicago for the Army–Navy Game in order to "write newspaper articles about it, as well as select an All-America football team."[4] Carnegie Tech used the coach's absence as motivation for a 19–0 win; the upset likely cost the Irish a shot at the national title.[4]

Head coaching record

Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl
Notre Dame Fighting Irish (Independent) (1918–1930)
1918 Notre Dame 3–1–2
1919 Notre Dame 9–0
1920 Notre Dame 9–0
1921 Notre Dame 10–1
1922 Notre Dame 8–1–1
1923 Notre Dame 9–1
1924 Notre Dame 10–0 W Rose
1925 Notre Dame 7–2–1
1926 Notre Dame 9–1
1927 Notre Dame 7–1–1
1928 Notre Dame 5–4
1929 Notre Dame 9–0
1930 Notre Dame 10–0
Total: 105–12–5
      National Championship         Conference Title         Conference Division Title

Plane crash

The wreckage of the Fokker F10A Trimotor in which Knute Rockne was killed.

Rockne died in a plane crash in Kansas on March 31, 1931, while en route to participate in the production of the film The Spirit of Notre Dame. Shortly after taking off from Kansas City, where he had stopped to visit his two sons, Bill and Knute Jr., who were in boarding school there at the Pembroke-Country Day School, one of the Fokker Trimotor aircraft's wings separated in flight. The plane crashed into a wheat field near Bazaar, Kansas, killing eight people, including Rockne.[5] President Herbert Hoover called Rockne's death "a national loss."[6]

Knute Rockne memorial on the Kansas Turnpike.

On the spot where the plane crashed, a memorial dedicated to the victims stands surrounded by a wire fence with wooden posts; it was maintained for many years by James Easter Heathman, who, at age thirteen in 1931, was one of the first people to arrive at the site of the tragedy.[6]

Rockne was buried in Highland Cemetery in South Bend, and a student gymnasium building on campus is named in his honor, as well as a street in South Bend and another in Stevensville, Michigan (where Rockne had a summer home on Lake Michigan), and a travel plaza on the Indiana Toll Road. In addition to these tributes, the town of Rockne, Texas was named to honor him. The Matfield Green travel plaza on the Kansas Turnpike, near Bazaar, contains a memorial to him.


Knute Rockne bronze sculpture in Voss, Norway.

Actor Pat O'Brien portrayed Rockne in the 1940 Warner Brothers film Knute Rockne, All American.

Rockne was not the first coach to use the forward pass, but he helped popularize it nationally. Most football historians agree that a few schools, notably Saint Louis University, Michigan, Carlisle and Minnesota, had passing attacks in place before Rockne arrived at Notre Dame. Passing attacks, however, consisted solely of short pitches and shovel passes to stationary receivers. Additionally, few of the major Eastern teams that constituted the power center of college football at the time with the greatest numbers of national championships and All-America (Walter Camp's original term) players used the pass. In the summer of 1913, while he was a life guard on the beach at Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, Rockne and his college teammate and roommate Gus Dorais worked on passing techniques. These techniques created many common features in modern passing techniques, including having the passer throw the ball overhand and having the receiver run under a football and catch the ball in-stride. That fall, Notre Dame upset heavily favored Army, 35-13, at West Point thanks to a barrage of Dorais-to-Rockne long downfield passes. The game played an important role in displaying the potency of the forward pass and "open offense" and convinced many coaches to consider adding a few pass plays to their play books. The game is dramatized in the movie, "The Long Gray Line."

Based on his fame and promotional work with the Studebaker automobile company of South Bend, the firm marketed the Rockne automobile between 1931 and 1933. It was a separate product line of Studebaker and priced in the low cost market segment. While it's generally considered a good vehicle, the depression was not a good time to launch a new automobile.

Memorial plaque to Knute Rockne in his birth town of Voss, Norway

In 1988, the United States Postal Service honored Rockne with a 22 cent postage stamp in his honor.[7] President Ronald Reagan, who played George Gipp in the movie "Knute Rockne, All American," gave an address at the Athletic & Convocation Center at the University of Notre Dame on March 9, 1988, and officially unveiled the Rockne stamp.

A biographical musical of Rockne's life premiered at the Theatre at the Center in Munster, IN, on April 3, 2008. The musical is based on a play and mini-series by Buddy Farmer.[8]

Rockne was enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame in 1951 as a charter member and in the Indiana Football Hall of Fame.

Taylorville, Illinois, dedicated the street next to the football field as "Knute Rockne Road".

Rockne, Texas Is considered the only town anywhere to be named in honor of Knute Rockne. In 1931 the children of Sacred Heart School were given the opportunity to permanently name their town. A vote was taken, with the children electing to name the town after Rockne, who had died in a plane crash earlier that year. On March 10, 1988, Rockne opened its post office for one day, during which a Knute Rockne twenty-two-cent commemorative stamp was issued. A life size bust of Rockne was unveiled on March 4, 2006 — Rockne’s 118th birthday — at the museum of Rockne, TX where it was celebrated by community members as well as fans and family of Knute Rockne.

In Allentown, Pennsylvania, Allentown Central Catholic High School dedicated its gymnasium, Rockne Hall, to Knute Rockne.

Rockne used the phrase "win one for the Gipper" in reference to the death bed request of George Gipp.


Rockne was married to Bonnie Skiles.


  1. ^ Pronounced "kah-NOOT" (/kəˈnuːt/); "noot" is the anglicized nickname.
  2. ^ Whittingham, Richard (2001). "3". Rites of autumn: the story of college football. New York: The Free Press. pp. 58–61. ISBN 0-7432-2219-9.  
  3. ^ "Death of Rockne". Time Magazine. April 6, 1931.,9171,741372,00.html. Retrieved 23 January 2009.  
  4. ^ a b c Robinson, Alan (September 9, 2007). "Rockne's gaffe remembered". The Daily Texan (Texas Student Media). Retrieved 2007-09-06.  
  5. ^ The Official Knute Rockne Web Site. URL accessed 03:54, 29 January 2006 (UTC)
  6. ^ a b Sudekum Fisher, Maria (2008-02-01). "J. E. Heathman; found crash that killed Rockne". Associated Press (Boston Globe). Retrieved 2008-02-14.  
  7. ^ Scott catalog # 2376.
  8. ^ Playbill News: Notre Dame Coach Gets Spotlight in Knute Rockne Musical in Indiana, April 3-May 11


  • Ray Robinson, Rockne of Notre Dame: The Making of a Football Legend (1999)
  • Murray Sperber, Shake Down the Thunder: The Creation of Notre Dame Football (1993)

Popular culture

External links



Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Knute Kenneth Rockne (1888-03-041931-03-31) was an American football player and coach.


  • Build up your weaknesses until they become your strong points.
  • Drink the first. Sip the second slowly. Skip the third.
  • Football is a game played with arms, legs and shoulders but mostly from the neck up.
  • Let's win one for the Gipper.
  • No star playing, just football.
  • One man practicing sportsmanship is far better than fifty preaching it.
    • Variant: One man practicing sportsmanship is better than a hundred teaching it.
  • Show me a good and gracious loser and I'll show you a failure.
  • The secret is to work less as individuals and more as a team. As a coach, I play not my eleven best, but my best eleven.
  • Win or lose, do it fairly.
  • What most people believe is thinking, is really only a different arrangement of their prejudices.

From the movie Knute Rockne All American (1940)

  • Now I'm going to tell you something I've kept to myself for years. None of you ever knew George Gipp. He was long before your time, but you all know what a tradition he is at Notre Dame. And the last thing he said to me, "Rock," he said, "sometime when the team is up against it and the breaks are beating the boys, tell them to go out there with all they've got and win just one for the Gipper. I don't know where I'll be then, Rock," he said, "but I'll know about it and I'll be happy."

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