Notre Dame's All-Time 'Mount Rushmore' List
However, since the real Mount Rushmore is a tribute to some of the great leaders of our country, the Irish's version will be a tribute to the great leaders of the program.
First and undisputedly on the list is Knute Rockne. Not only is coach Rockne legendary in the Notre Dame realm, he is legendary in the college football realm. He played for the Irish from 1910-1913 and coached them from 1918-1930. As both a player and a coach, he is the main reason Notre Dame football is on the map.
As a player, he began heavily implementing the forward pass, a little used technique at that point, to lead Notre Dame in a tremendous upset of Army during the 1913 season. As a coach, he brought the first of many national championships to ND, being credited as the consensus champion in ‘24, ‘29 and ‘30. His teams also received champion honors from several media sources in ‘19, ‘20, and ‘27.
From taking the team's brand nationwide by starting the rivalry with USC, to getting the administration to build Notre Dame stadium, to his famous “win one for the Gipper” speech, many of Rockne’s contributions shaped the Irish throughout the years and into who they are presently. He had a record of 105-12-5 over 13 seasons for a .881 winning percentage. Tragically, his legend was solidified as he died at the height of his coaching success during a plane crash in 1931.
Next up is Frank Leahy, who created a Notre Dame dynasty during the ‘40s. He coached the Irish from 1941-1943, then again from 1946-1953, with a two year break to join the Navy in ’44 and ’45. His teams were consensus AP national champions in ’43, ’46, ’47 and ’49 and he coached four different Heisman winners in Angelo Bertelli, Johnny Lujack, Leon Hart, and Johnny Latner. Over 11 seasons he had a record of 87-11-9.
The third face on the mountain would be Ara Parseghian. He is the last ND coach to bring home multiple national championships, winning the title in ’66 and ’73. Parseghian coached from 1964-1974 and took over a struggling program that had gone 2-7 the year before he arrived; he revived Notre Dame football and led the team to a No. 1 ranking in his first season. John Huarte, his quarterback that year, won the Heisman. Parseghian finished with a record of 95-17-4 for a .836 winning percentage.
There are two candidates for the last spot on Notre Dame's fictitious Mount Rushmore and it was a tough decision between Dan Devine and Lou Holtz, but Holtz gets the final nod for several reasons. While each coach brought a single national title home to Notre Dame, Holtz was the most recent winner, having won a title in 1988 vs. Devine’s 1977 title. Holtz also holds an edge in tenure with 11 seasons against six seasons for Devine. Because he was the last coach to win a national championship, Irish fans regard Holtz with a fondness for glory days past and every coach since has been compared to his standard.
There is still a lot of Notre Dame history to be written and, as evidenced by Brian Kelly’s 2012 undefeated regular season, the Irish can still compete. If Kelly or any future coaches step up and bring home some more championships to South Bend, one or more of the busts could very well have to be re-chiseled.