Oct. 1, 2009
Notre Dame, Ind. – A bronze sculpture of former University of Notre Dame football coach Knute Rockne, a charter member of the College Football Hall of Fame, will be dedicated Friday (Oct. 2) at Notre Dame Stadium.
The dedication and blessing, slated for 4:45 p.m. EDT, on the afternoon prior to the Notre Dame-Washington football game, will take place on the east side of Notre Dame Stadium.
Speaking at the dedication will be Notre Dame president Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., Notre Dame athletics director Jack Swarbrick, benefactor Joe Mendelson, and Nils Rockne (grandson of Knute Rockne). Assisting with the sculpture unveiling will be four Rockne grandchildren — Anne, Erik, Knute and Nils. Notre Dame associate athletics director Jim Fraleigh will serve as master of ceremonies for the event.
The Rockne sculpture shows the former Irish coach in his coaching sweatshirt and baseball pants, with his hands on his hips. Notre Dame graduate Jerry McKenna created the sculpture. He also created the Frank Leahy and Moose Krause sculptures east of Notre Dame Stadium, the Rockne sculpture at the College Football Hall of Fame in downtown South Bend, Ind., and the Ara Parseghian and Lou Holtz sculptures at Notre Dame Stadium. In addition, he created the Four Horsemen sculpture in the lobby of the Guglielmino Athletics Complex.
Mendelson, who in 2006 established the Joseph T. Mendelson Endowment for Athletics Excellence to provide incremental and non-budgeted funding for Notre Dame’s Olympic sports programs, funded the Rockne sculpture through the Notre Dame Monogram Club. Mendelson, who lives in Santa Barbara, Calif., was a charter member and served as a chair of the advisory council for Notre Dame’s Institute for Church Life from 1980-96. He also served on the Snite Museum of Art advisory council from 1986-89 and 1991-2000.
The sculpture complements bas-relief portraits of the five Notre Dame national championship coaches – Rockne, Leahy, Parseghian, Dan Devine and Holtz – that are located at Gate D, designated the national championship coaches gate.
Rockne played end for the Irish, earning third-team All-America honors as a senior in 1913. After his 1914 graduation from Notre Dame, Rockne became an assistant football coach while primarily serving as a graduate assistant in chemistry. When Jesse Harper retired after the 1917 season, Rockne was named his successor.
During Rockne’s 13-year coaching tenure in South Bend, Notre Dame won consensus national titles in 1924, 1929 and 1930. His Irish teams defeated Stanford in the 1925 Rose Bowl, he coached both George Gipp and the legendary Four Horsemen – and he led his Notre Dame teams to five unbeaten and untied seasons.
His lifetime winning percentage of .881 (105-12-5) remains the best in the history of either college or professional football. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in its first year of inductions in 1951. Sporting News named him the 76th most influential sports figure of the 20th century – and more recently named him the 10th best sports coach of all-time.