March 26, 2004
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The Kansas Turnpike Authority will honor legendary former Notre Dame football coach Knute Rockne with the unveiling of a new memorial at 10 a.m. CST Wednesday at the Matfield Green Service Area, not far from where Rockne died.
The dedication comes exactly 73 years after Rockne’s death when his plane crashed in inclement weather in a Kansas cornfield about halfway between Wichita and Topeka, Kan. On the morning of March 31, 1931, Rockne boarded a plane in Kansas City with plans to attend a business meeting in California. The plane was scheduled to make three stops for mail delivery and pick-up before reaching its California destination. Before it could make even the first of those stops, however, the plane crashed in a field outside of Cottonwood Falls, Kan., killing all eight aboard.
The new memorial occupies 175 square feet inside the new facility at the Matfield Green Service Area at milepost 97 on the Kansas Turnpike. The Greteman Group of Wichita, Kan., designed the memorial, which features large photographic panels describing various aspects of Rockne’s life. Another feature of the memorial is a life-sized cutout of Rockne, created by Pannier Graphics, and audio clips from some of his famous motivational speeches.
The unveiling will include a welcome by Turnpike president/CEO Michael Johnston, an address by College Football Hall of Fame executive director Bernie Kish, and a tour through the new memorial led by members of the Rockne family. The College Football Hall of Fame also will have Rockne memorabilia on display in its state-of-the-art RV Road Show traveling museum.
Attending from the University will be assistant registrar David Kil, along with members of Notre Dame alumni clubs from Wichita and Topeka, among others.
The public is invited to attend the unveiling. Those wishing to attend can call 316-682-4537 ext. 2272 for more information.
Rockne served as head football coach at Notre Dame from 1918 through 1930, finishing with a 105-12-5 (.881) career record that ranks as the best winning percentage in the history of college football. His Irish teams won consensus national championships in 1924, 1929 and 1930 – and he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame with the inaugural class in 1951.