Notre Dame’s Greatest Coaches

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

T.-Edward “Moose” Krause came to Notre Dame in 1930 as a student-athlete. He played for Knute Rockne, coached for Frank Leahy, hired Ara Parseghian and recommended Lou Holtz. From the late 1940s until 1980 he was the respected and deceptively easygoing athletic director at the school which for millions of Americans symbolizes college football. More than the stories of the four coaches named, this is his story.

This book is more of a reflection than it is, as might have been expected, a rehash of great moments in Notre Dame football or of great half-time talks or of “the spirit of Notre Dame.” Nor is it, in fact, a recounting of the careers of the four coaches. Stephen Singular weaves together three strands: the life of Ed Krause from the stockyards of Chicago to Notre Dame, the characters of the four coaches, and the victories and losses of the 1992 season. By far the most interesting are the life and reminiscences of Krause.

Two themes pervade the book. The first is the intensity and commitment of the four coaches and how the pressure and the self-driven nature of these men finally (except perhaps for Rockne) came to dominate and eventually even to destroy. Another theme running through the book is how the times have changed in college athletics—and even in the nation. Looking back from Holtz to Rockne, Krause frequently comments on the change in attitudes toward sport, money, and education.

Krause, with Singular’s help, surveys more than sixty years of college football at Notre Dame; the individual games and seasons take second place to the personalities and the anecdotes. The book provides a more low-key view of college football than usual, centering on people more than statistics.