Notre Dame's All-Time Greatest Head Coaches

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Notre Dame's All-Time Greatest Head Coaches

A majority of the college football nation is familiar with the national championships, the Hall-of-Fame players, the Gipper and the Four Horsemen, the Leprechaun, and of course, Mr. Touchdown Jesus himself.

But how many are aware of the men who are responsible for this tradition instilled in the football program and whom Weis' is constantly compared to?

These are four reasons—and head coaches—responsible for the higher expectations given to Notre Dame head coaches.


No. 4 — Lou Holtz (1986-1966)

"You're never as good as everyone tells you when you win, and you're never as bad as they say when you lose."

With each passing year since 1988, the Notre Dame community yearns more for the most recent Irish great to once again occupy the headset on the home sidelines in South Bend. Now one of the faces of ESPN's college football coverage, he was once the reason for Notre Dame's revival after the disappointment of the Gerry Faust era, in which the Irish failed to climb higher than No. 27 in the rankings.

In his 11 seasons with the team, Holtz lead the Irish to nine major bowl games, including a national championship in the magical year of '88, a year after the Irish finished 8-4.

In 1993, a second title should have been handed to his team, but despite losing to the Irish, Florida State was dubbed No. 1 after they miraculously beat Boston College on a last-second field goal.

Holtz finished his illustrious career at Notre Dame with a 100-32-2 record.

Average rank: 10.5
Best rank: 1 (1988, 1989)
Worst rank: 29 (1986)
Average SOS: .773
First year effect in rankings: +1
Two year effect in rankings: +8


No. 3 — Ara Parseghian (1964-1974)

"Whether you like it or not, you're a national figure after five games at Notre Dame."

Parseghian's greatest achievement comes in regard's to his team's improvements each year, especially in the beginning of his reign of the football program. In the two years before he took over, the Irish were ranked 41st and 76th in the rankings. In his first two years, he lead his teams to rankings of 4th and 6th in the nation.

He may go down as Notre Dame's most consistently excellent coach, considering he never had a poor team. His worst team finished the year ranked 16th.

The reason for Parseghian's No. 3 placement on this list of Irish legends is due to the fact he was only able to bring two national championships back to South Bend during his 11 seasons in comparison to the No. 1 and No. 2 head coaches in the history of Notre Dame. However, due to the administration not letting his team's travel to bowl games up until 1969, he had fewer opportunities than these two men.

Parseghian finished his career with the Irish with a winning percentage of .836, good for a record of 95-17-4.

Average rank: 7.6
Best rank
: 1 (1966)
Worst rank: 16 (1968, 1971)
Average SOS
: .674
First year effect in rankings: +74
Two year effect in rankings: +60

 

No. 2 — Frank Leahy (1941-1943, 1946-1953)

"Give me a lead of 14-0 at halftime and I will dictate the final score."

Leahy's .864 winning percentage is the second-highest for a head coach in program history.

A former tackle for the Irish under another coaching legend, he introduced the famous "T-formation" offense into the the game, changing football forever. Not only was Leahy a coaching legend, but also one of the founding fathers of Notre Dame's tradition, the school's pride and joy.

Going down his career resume, you will find four national championships, six undefeated seasons (including four ties) and a record-setting unbeaten streak of 39 straight football games. An argument can be made that Leahy is one of the top college football coaches of all time, but one mediocre season and a short-lived career holds him back from taking that title.

Leahy finished his career at Notre Dame with a record of 87-11-9.

Average rank: 10.6
Average SOS: .696
Best rank: 1 (1943)
Worst rank: 66 (1950)
First year effect in rankings: +15
Two year effect in rankings: +16


No. 1 — Knute Rockne (1918-1930)

"Football is a game played with arms, legs and shoulders but mostly from the neck up."

Putting all statistics to the side for a moment, Rockne is the face of college football coaching. Not only was he able to bring the forward pass to the game, he served as a martyr for football due to his tragic death. To be frank, without Rockne the game of football would have struggled to escape it's Midwest roots.

With that said, Rockne also is one of—if not the—greatest coach in college football history. With a career record of 105-12-5 and a winning percentage of .881, Rockne led the Irish to a total of six national championships.

His five undefeated teams included Irish legends like the Four Horsemen, George Gipper, and Frank Leahy. He may not have deserving stats to be placed here, but his name alone places him at the top of this list.

Welcome to the House that Rockne Built, Charlie.

Average rank: 8.6
Best rank
: 1 (1924, 1929, 1930)
Worst rank: 29 (1928)
Average SOS: .632
First year effect: -8
Two year effect: -2

 

*Special thanks to Coach RNK for the ranking statistics

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