How the Fighting Irish used their 1913 game against favored Army to become a national football power.
Debut author Maggio begins his history by describing the origins of Notre Dame University and of football in America. The sport began as an activity more similar to soccer than to rugby, with prohibitions against using anything but the feet or head to advance the ball. As it evolved into a more violent contact game, its popularity rose—and so did the controversy surrounding it. In the early years, players did not wear padding or helmets, they could not tackle below the waist and the forward pass was not used as a means of advancing the ball. As a result, the sport became notorious for terrible, sometimes fatal injuries. From 1880 to 1905, more than 325 deaths were reported in college football, a figure that prompted the intervention of President Theodore Roosevelt, himself an admirer of the game. To curb fatalities and injuries, new rules were instituted, including the legalization of the forward pass. The use of this new offensive weapon as a winning strategy came in 1913. Coached by legend Jesse Harper and led by star Knute Rockne, Notre Dame defeated the heavily favored Army team 35-13. This victory revolutionized how football was played and elevated Notre Dame to the college football elite, proving Harper was both a brilliant innovator and a dynamic coach. Unfortunately, Maggio completes his recounting of the historic 1913 game before the text’s midpoint. The remaining pages describe the mostly successful seasons that followed under Harper, Rockne’s ascendance as coach and Harper’s eventual return after Rockne’s death. They often read like an extended box score and are anticlimactic in the extreme.
A fascinating event in the history of football, told in a humdrum style.