First Year Record: 8-3 (1975)
Second Year Record: 9-3
Year Two Highlight: A 20-9 victory over Penn State in the Gator Bowl
Year Two Lowlight: A 31-10 drubbing at the hands of Pitt in the opening game.
Dan Devine had the unenviable task of taking over for the legendary Ara Parseghian. He was not well received by alumni or players, and through two seasons, it appeared he was destined to fail. In his first campaign, Notre Dame was eligible for a bowl and had received an invitation for the Cotton Bowl, but the players voted not to participate out of spite for Devine.
Year two was almost a mirror image of the first one. After another 8-3 regular season, the Irish headed to the Gator Bowl and whipped Penn State 20-9. Devine hadn’t done a lot to win over the fans, but the bowl victory combined with the fact that the Irish would be returning 18 starters—including four All-Americans—in 1977 meant there was plenty of hope for the future.
Buy or Sell the Devine Era after Year Two? Buy…but a hesitant buy
Devine was a fine football coach, but from the get-go, it seemed like a “square peg, round hole” relationship bound to fail. After two years, there were signs of life, but not enough to prevent the “DUMP DEVINE” bumper stickers from popping up on campus during the fall of ’77.
Things changed dramatically that next season though. With all that returning talent, Devine led Notre Dame to an 11-1 record and won the national title by stomping the top-ranked Texas Longhorns 38-10 in the Cotton Bowl. Just like every great Irish coach in Notre Dame’s illustrious history, Devine delivered a championship in his third season as head coach.
He was never fully appreciated until long after his tenure at Notre Dame and the biggest reason for that was he was following one of the most beloved figures in Irish History, Ara Parseghian. The statistics don’t lie though: a .764 winning percentage, one national title and three bowl victories mean he was very successful in sports’ most pressure-packed job.