The short version was that he had been alerted to some correspondence that seemed to indicate Knute Rockne had committed to coming to Northwestern from Notre Dame. I thought “with my antenna for NU athletics how the heck had I never heard about this?” It wasn’t even in the urban legend discussions. Well, it’s true. And today, Shane is going to take the helm and fill you in on this true gem of a find. With all of the Big Ten expansion talk in full bloom and Notre Dame a hot-button topic team, I figured it would be fun to reveal how one of the most iconic coaches in sports history was THIS close to being lured to Evanston for one dominating reason – the want to compete in the Big Ten conference. Shane….all yours:
Big Ten “Big Lure” for Rockne
Coming off a highly successful 10-1 campaign in 1921, Notre Dame head football coach Knute Rockne decided that Notre Dame wasn’t paying him adequately. He was also intrigued about the challenge of competing in a conference like the Big Ten. Either he approached Northwestern
University or Northwestern approached him, and the two sides began negotiating a contract.
When the press got wind of Rockne’s flirtation, the New York Herald confronted Rockne about it in New York, December 1921. E.J. Ridgway of the Herald wrote a letter dated December 30th to Northwestern University President Walter Dill Scott to share what his reporter gleaned from the conversation. Rockne told the Herald that Notre Dame “would not let him go” and had offered him $15,000 to stay in South Bend. Rockne also expressed concerns about coaching at a co-ed school but that otherwise Northwestern was attractive because he wanted, as
Ridgway put it, “a chance to show what he could do in the Conference.”
On January 6, 1922 President Scott responded to Ridgway’s letter to explain Northwestern’s side of the story. According to Scott, Rockne was set to sign a contract with Northwestern but had to visit New York first. Scott said Rockne “appeared to take up the matter of finding a
house in Evanston” and had started working on the 1922 football schedule. On January 4th, Rockne made an appointment to meet with Scott and others. A day later, however, Rockne wired that he had re-signed with Notre Dame. Rockne’s behavior seemed to puzzle Scott.
This story about Rockne and Northwestern is reminiscent of the 20-year-old “will they or won’t they” saga of the Big Ten wooing Notre Dame. While Rockne viewed being the Conference as attractive, Notre Dame values its independence. Twice or three times in 1990s, Notre
Dame said no to Big Ten overtures. The most recent “no” wasn’t a hard refusal; Notre Dame said it would study the offer. In the end, Notre Dame, like Rockne, left the bride at the altar. Nonetheless, it seems money was at the heart of Rockne’s final decision. If the same holds
true for Notre Dame in 2010 when the Big Ten opens its wallet, the school might say “I do.”
Special thanks to Richard Topp for the idea and to Kevin Leonard of
Northwestern Archives for locating and scanning the letters.
LTP Ticket Counter
So, since I failed to meet the $50K goal in new ticket sales last year, I’m keeping the ticker up until we get there this year. Re-setting the counter seemed to be empty, as $50K in new ticket sales is well, $50K better than none regardless of how long it takes. So, be sure to email me once you’ve convinced someone NEW to purchase season tickets. Renewals don’t count. If you want I can start a separate one for Wrigley, but since the goal is to pack Ryan Field, that’s the way I’m keeping it. You know the drill – send me the info and you get a shout-out. Here is the first one of the year – let’s get it going.
Jessica S. convinced her co-worker and the co-worker’s boyfriend to pony up for a pair of season tickets. Well done Jessica!
Wootton Draft Back(or Neck)story
I’m not sure if you caught this, but Chicago Sun-Times Bears’ columnist Mike Mulligan offered up this insight in to the reason Corey Wootton fell in the NFL Draft. According to Mulligan’s sources,Wootton’s status was affected not by the knee, but rather a neck injury he suffered his freshman year.