Aug. 5, 2008
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Longtime University of Notre Dame defensive line coach Joe Yonto, who tutored a lengthy list of Irish All-Americans while working on the staffs of Ara Parseghian, Dan Devine, Gerry Faust and Lou Holtz, died early Monday morning in South Bend. He was 83.
An Orrville, Ohio, native, Yonto served as the Irish defensive line coach starting in Parseghian’s first season at Notre Dame in 1964 and held that role throughout Parseghian’s 11 seasons, as well as six more (1975-80) under Devine, the last four as defensive coordinator.
During that period, he was a part of three Notre Dame national championship staffs (1966, 1973 and 1977) and he coached a dozen All-America defensive linemen. That list included Alan Page, Kevin Hardy, Mike McCoy, Walt Patulski, Mike Kadish, Mike Fanning, Steve Niehaus and Ross Browner – all of whom went on to be selected in the first round of the National Football League draft. Browner won the Lombardi, Outland and Maxwell Awards, and Patulski also won the Lombardi.
On 12 occasions, Yonto’s defensive line ranked among the top 10 teams in the country in terms of rushing defense. Eight of those Irish teams gave up less than 100 rushing yards per game, and the ’74 Notre Dame ranked first nationally in both rushing defense and total defense (195.2 yards per game).
During the Faust years (1981-85), Yonto served as a special assistant to athletic director Gene Corrigan while handling administrative duties in a wide variety of football areas. Then, he returned to serve as defensive line coach in ’86 and ’87 under Holtz. He spent three more years as a special assistant to athletic director Dick Rosenthal from 1988-89 through 1990-91. After his retirement, Yonto represented the University and athletics department at a variety of events. Most recently, he served as one of the honorary coaches at the 2007 Notre Dame Blue-Gold spring football game.
Yonto played fullback for Notre Dame on the `45 squad and guard in ’46. As a senior prior to his 1948 graduation, he served as an assistant freshman team coach after a leg injury ended his playing career.
His high school coaching credits included stints at St. Mary’s in Michigan City, Ind., St. Stephen’s in Port Huron, Mich., and Mount Carmel and St. Rita’s in Chicago.
Before coming to Notre Dame in ’64, Yonto coached seven years at Notre Dame High School in Niles, Ill. His teams claimed three straight Chicago Suburban Catholic League titles form 1960-62, including a perfect 10-game season in ’61. His 16-year high school coaching record was 96-42-7.
Born Aug. 2, 1925, Yonto married the former Betty Rose of Michigan City and they were parents of six children – Mary Jo, Carol, Tony, Robert, Therese and Joey.
Viewing will be from 2:00-8:00 p.m. EDT, Wednesday at Kaniewski Funeral Home, 3545 N. Bendix Drive, South Bend, IN 46628. A funeral Mass will be held at 9:30 a.m. Thursday at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on the Notre Dame campus.
— ND —