Welcome to this ongoing look at the 1920 Notre Dame campaign. Knute Rockne is in his third year as head coach, and his star player is senior back George Gipp. Our host is Scoop O’Toole, a composite character representing the sports scribes of the era. He’ll present completely factual reports based on a variety of reliable sources.
By Scoop O’Toole
Hey, folks! Glad to be your guide to college football in 1920. While Coach Rockne makes the call for candidates to gather on Cartier Field, let’s take a quick look back at how things went in 1919, and who’s back in South Bend this fall.
The fall of 1919 brought a return to normalcy on campus after two years disrupted by the Great War and the Spanish Flu. Here’s how the boys over at the Scholastic put it: “We are better for having experienced (the war and flu) and we know now something we did not realized before – the vast advantages that are ours. With the beginning of 1919, we start a new era in our school and in our lives.”
The 1919 football season went as follows:
Oct. 4 ND 14, Kalamazoo 0
Oct. 11 ND 60, Mount Union 7
Oct. 18 ND 14, Nebraska 9
Oct. 25 ND 53, Western State Normal 0
Nov. 1 ND 16, Indiana 3
Nov. 8 ND 12, Army 9
Nov. 15 ND 13, Michigan Aggies 0
Nov. 22 ND 33, Purdue 13
Nov. 27 ND 14, Morningside 6
The feature game was the trip to West Point, where Army held a 9-6 lead late in the third quarter. But George Gipp rose to the occasion, hitting Eddie Anderson on the dead run with a perfect pass for 26 yards to the Army 7. Walter Miller drove over two plays later for the winning score. “The Notre Dame timing is uncanny,” wrote one observer. “And their new coach is obviously a master in the small details that spell the difference between success and failure in a play.”
Gipp finished the season with staggering numbers -- 729 yards rushing and 727 yards passing, and gained deserved recognition by several All-American teams, yet not those from the East, such as Walter Camp’s.
The biggest victory for 1920 might have already been secured – when Gipp returned to campus last week. What a few months it has been! His billiards championships and all-night poker games took a toll on his schoolwork, and he was asked to leave ND last spring. But the businessmen around town made a smart, well-written petition to the school to give the star one more chance, and he was re-admitted.
Still, there was no sign of him up until Sept. 25. There were reports of him playing in a factory baseball league in Detroit and preparing to play football in the fall for the U. of Detroit. That’s when what might be the most important road trip of 1920 took place. Rockne dispatched assistant Gus Dorais to Michigan to assure Gipp that he would be welcomed back to ND.
Gipp won’t be the captain of the Varsity, however. In the team vote last December, Gipp edged out the behemoth tackle Frank Coughlin (6-foot-3, 215 pounds) for the honor. In Gipp’s absence, Coughlin was elevated to the captaincy, and Rock says that’s where he will stay.
Other key men returning include Gipp’s right-hand man from Upper Michigan, Heartley (Hunk) Anderson at one guard; Maurice (Clipper) Smith at the other guard; and end Eddie Anderson.
Little Joe Brandy (5-8, 147) takes over at quarterback from last year’s captain Bahan, and strong reserves Norm Barry and Chet Wynne step up to first-string roles astride Gipp. We’ll meet each of these fellows in the coming weeks.
Here’s how the 1920 campaign rolls out:
Oct. 2 Kalamazoo
Oct. 9 Western State Normal
Oct. 16 at Nebraska
Oct. 23 Valparaiso
Oct. 30 at Army
Nov. 6 Purdue
Nov. 13 Indiana (at Indianapolis)
Nov. 20 at Northwestern
Nov. 25 at Michigan Aggies
Westward Ho. We bid a fond farewell to a fine ND fellow, Dorais, as he heads west to become the top athletic man at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington. “Gus” has already proven himself as a fine leader in his five seasons at Dubuque, before returning to assist Rock here last year.
The new aide to Rockne is Walter Halas, a former standout performer in football, basketball and baseball at the University of Illinois. Studying football under Zuppke put Halas in a good position to go into coaching. A stint in minor league baseball took him to the Quad Cities, where he pitched for the Davenport Blue Sox and Rock Island Islanders.
And that’s where Halas also displayed his coaching skills most admirably at Davenport Central High. He will assist Rockne in football and lead the ND basketball and baseball teams.
Professional Football? Walter Halas has a brother, George, three years his younger, who is involved in an interesting enterprise. George followed Walter to Champaign and played the same three sports. He joined the Navy for the war and played football for the Great Lakes Naval Training Station team, which you’ll remember came here on Nov. 9, 1918, and tied Rock’s men, 7-7, in an epic clash.
Today, the younger Halas works in sales for the A.E. Staley manufacturing company in Decatur, Illinois. He’s an outfielder on the company baseball team and player-coach of the company football squad.
Two weeks ago, at the Jordan and Hupmobile auto showroom in Canton, Ohio, Halas represented the Staleys and joined with nine other football clubs to form the American Professional Football Association. The group elected the former Carlisle Indian star Jim Thorpe as president.
Representing the Cleveland team at the meeting was Stan Cofall, who fans here will remember for his three stellar seasons before the war. He was ND captain in ’16, when Harper’s team posted an 8-1 slate, losing only to the Army.
We’ll keep an eye on this attempt to maintain organized football outside of a college campus. Many are skeptical.