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The Observer’s “Finding Rockne”

Dec 12, 2012, 2:57 PM EDT

Knute Rockne in the locker room. Knute Rockne in the locker room.

Though he is regarded as one of the best coaches in football history, the life and death of Knute Rockne remains a bit of a mystery to many Notre Dame fans.

Rockne passed away in a tragic plane accident on March 31, 1931, on his way west to help in the production of The Spirit of Notre Dame. With 105 wins, just 12 losses and five ties, he is the winningest coach in 125 years of Fighting Irish football.

Andrew Owens, assistant managing editor of The Observer, recently set out to learn more about the legendary head coach for an article called “Finding Rockne.” The senior’s journey included a visit to Highland Cemetery in South Bend, as well as a stop in Bazaar, Kan., the town near where Transcontinental and Western Air Flight 599 went down.

Owens writes:

With Notre Dame’s 12-0 season and impending national championship berth, I’ve grown increasingly inquisitive about who the man who got the ball rolling for the nation’s most storied program. I, like so many others, didn’t choose to attend Notre Dame because of football, but the sport is what put Notre Dame on the map. If it weren’t for Rockne, how many of the 8,452 undergraduate students currently attending the University would actually be here?

I realized just how little I know about the man who started it all. Rockne is forever immortalized in bronze form outside the tunnel on the north side of Notre Dame Stadium. Realizing Irish coach Brian Kelly is one win away from getting his own statue someday, I considered what parallels, if any, exist between the two men.

Check out the full article on The Observer website.

Photographer and sports writer Kevin Noonan, who joined Owens on the trip, also wrote a day-by-day recap of the experience.

While you’re at it, I’d also highly recommend checking out the rest of the newspaper’s national championship edition of Irish Insider.