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Notre Dame Football: Lou Holtz and the 6 Best Head Coaches in Program History

Connor KillorenSenior Analyst IJuly 25, 2011

Notre Dame Football: Lou Holtz and the 6 Best Head Coaches in Program History

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    Notre Dame being ranked second all time in victories is no accident. It's the result of the work of excellent head coaches.

    Each program in the nation has a legendary head coach who is considered the "godfather" of the university's football team.

    It's a different situation at Notre Dame.

    The Irish have had a few men who can be considered to have earned that title.

    Who are these men?

    Follow along as we count down the six best head coaches in Notre Dame Football history.

6. Elmer Layden (1934-40)

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    Elmer Layden began his football career at Notre Dame was he was one of the legendary "Four Horsemen."

    After graduating from Notre Dame in 1924, Elmer Layden went on to play a few years of professional football with the Hartford Blues, Brooklyn Horsemen and Rock Island Independents.

    Upon the completion of his professional playing days, Elmer Layden went on to coach at Columbia and Duquesne before landing at Notre Dame in 1934.

    The next seven seasons were a time of rampant success for the Fighting Irish as Elmer Layden led the team to a 47-13-3 record.

    He also served as Notre Dame's athletic director during his seven years as head coach.

    The final stage of Elmer Layden's working life came as the commissioner of the NFL from 1941-1946.

    He passed away on June 30, 1973 in Chicago.

5. Dan Devine (1975-80)

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    Dan Devine served as the head coach of the Fighting Irish from 1975-1980 after previous gigs at Arizona State, Missouri and with the NFL's Green Bay Packers.

    During his six seasons in South Bend, Dan Devine amassed a 53-16-1 record, good for a .764 winning percentage.

    The most memorable moment of Dan Devine's tenure was his Fighting Irish squad claiming the 1977 national championship after beating Texas 38-10 in the Cotton Bowl Classic.

    Despite the program winning that national championship under his command, Dan Devine was never fully embraced by the fanbase.

    He passed away on May 9, 2002 in Tempe, Arizona.

4. Frank Leahy (1941-43; 1946-53)

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    Not only was Frank Leahy one of the best head coaches in program history, he was also one of the greatest players.

    Frank Leahy's playing career spanned from 1928-30.

    He returned to South Bend in 1941 to take over as head coach after serving in the same capacity at Boston College.

    In his 11 seasons as head coach, Frank Leahy amassed an 87-11-9 record including four national championships.

    He passed away on June 21, 1973 in Portland, Oregon.

3. Ara Parseghian (1964-74)

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    Ara Parseghian took over as the head coach at Notre Dame in 1964 and experienced a tremendous amount of success.

    His 1966 and 1973 Fighting Irish squads claimed AP National Championships.

    In 11 seasons on the job, Ara Parseghian compiled a 95-17-4 record, good for an .836 winning percentage.

2. Lou Holtz (1986-96)

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    Perhaps one of the most iconic figures in college football, Lou Holtz realized his dream of becoming the head coach at Notre Dame when he was hired in 1986.

    Before coming to Notre Dame, Lou Holtz had previous head coaching stops at William & Mary, North Carolina State, Arkansas and Minnesota.

    He also coached the New York Jets for one season in 1976.

    Lou Holtz is remembered for guiding the Fighting Irish to the school's most recent national title in 1988.

    He compiled a 100-30-2 record during his 11 seasons on the sidelines in South Bend.

    After leaving Notre Dame in 1996, Lou Holtz took a brief hiatus from coaching before taking over at South Carolina from 1999-2004.

    He's currently working for ESPN as a college football analyst.

1. Knute Rockne (1918-30)

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    There is no question that Knute Rockne is the most polarizing figure in Notre Dame Football history.

    Notre Dame Stadium has been coined as "The House that Rockne Built."

    Knute Rockne is absolutely the godfather of Notre Dame Football.

    He was the head coach of the Fighting Irish from 1918-30, also serving as the athletic director beginning in 1920.

    In 13 seasons as head coach, Knute Rockne compiled a 105-12-5 record including an astounding five national championships.

    Knute Rockne died in a tragic plane crash on March 31, 1931.

    To this day he is revered and respected among all college football fans.

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