Blue and Gold Illustrated

March 2020

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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82 MARCH 2020 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED M etaphorically, Gene Corri- gan finally crossed his final River of Jordan on Earth. The Notre Dame athletics direc- tor from 1981-87, who eventually became commissioner of the ACC and then president of the NCAA, died Jan. 24 at age 91 in Charlot- tesville, Va. To me, he was the Moses of Notre Dame's athletic department that underwent transition and tu- mult in the 1980s. It was Moses who led the Isra- elites through the desert and into the Promised Land — but did not join in the crossing into it. Likewise, Corrigan set the table for future Notre Dame athletics glory — but witnessed the feast from afar, albeit by choice. It can be a thankless task when suc- ceeding a legend such as Edward "Moose" Krause, Notre Dame's ath- letics director from 1949-81. Yet the Baltimore native, Duke graduate and devout Catholic Corrigan accepted it — in spite of a pay cut while also raising seven children. It becomes even more daunting when the nation's top combination of football/men's basketball from 1968-81 suddenly plummets in his first academic year. Under first-year head coach Gerry Faust, hired in November 1980, sev- eral months before Corrigan came aboard, football finished 5-6, the first losing season in 18 years. That same school year, the bas- ketball team — a perennial top-10 power since 1968 — finished 10-17. It was almost as if Corrigan was a jinx replacing the beloved Krause. During the 1960s and 1970s, how- ever, most of Notre Dame's athlet- ics underwent immense cutbacks in scholarships, practically rendering them into club-status mode — like hockey in 1983-84 (before returning to varsity status later in his tenure). Corrigan was entrusted to cre- ate an athletic endowment fund to broaden Notre Dame in that area of university life, hire full-time coaches and increase scholarship aid. Facilities became enhanced during his watch, including the construction of the Loftus Sports Center/Meyo Field (now expanded into the Gug- lielmino Athletics Complex). By the summer of 1987, Corrigan opted to return to his roots to become the commissioner of the ACC. Be- fore he did, though, look at the head coaching hires during his term: • Football — Lou Holtz Faust announced his resignation on a Tuesday before the 1985 season finale — and less than 24 hours later Corrigan secured Holtz. Corrigan was around to see only the 5-6 start in 1986, but the Hall of Famer Holtz in 1988 directed a national title and in 1989 the Fighting Irish won a school-record 23 consecutive games. • Women's basketball — Muffet McGraw Speaking of Hall of Fame members and national titles … Now in her 33rd season, she di- rected national titles in 2001 and 2018 and a half-dozen other Final Four placements from a program that had to work from the ground floor. • Fencing — Yves Auriol The first Notre Dame coach to direct a women's team (the school didn't become coed until 1972) to a national title when he did so in 1987 — and then Notre Dame won the combined NCAA title in 1994 before he retired in 2002 with a 487-31 record. • Baseball — Pat Murphy Corrigan was extremely impressed by the 29-year-old Division III coach from Claremont-Mudd Scripps when he hired him in 1987. The program had been left for dead after a 15-29 record and before Mur- phy's arrival. By year two Murphy had the Fighting Irish in an NCAA re- gional, and the meteoric ascent fea- tured numerous upsets of super- powers such as Miami and Texas. Murphy finished 318-116-1 (.732) with three more NCAA re- gional appearances before head- ing to Arizona State in 1994. • Men's tennis — Bob Bayliss Corrigan hired the 1985-87 head coach from MIT — and 26 years later he finished his career fifth on the all-time career wins list for Division I men's tennis, and even a trip to the NCAA title match in 1992. Corrigan wasn't at Notre Dame to see it all, but his legacy has spanned the decades in more ways than one. Buoyed by a renewed commit- ment via the athletic endowment, Notre Dame suddenly excelled in the spring sports traditionally domi- nated by warm-weather schools. The year after Corrigan took his new post with the ACC, son Kevin took over as the men's lacrosse coach for the Fighting Irish — a position he still holds while making the Irish a top-10 power, including three trips to the NCAA championship game. Another son, Boo, is now the athlet- ics director at NC State — after origi- nally beginning his administrative career at alma mater Notre Dame — and a third, Tim, is a senior coordinat- ing producer for the NBA on ESPN. A fourth son, David, received his law degree from Notre Dame, and three of Corrigan's grandchildren have played lacrosse for the Irish. Among so many other accomplish- ments, Corrigan was also heavily in- volved in the hosting of the 1987 In- ternational Summer Special Olympic Games at Notre Dame. "Now more than ever, college ath- letics needs leaders like Gene Cor- rigan," summarized current Notre Dame vice president and director of athletics Jack Swarbrick. A Moses-like figure in an athletic department is quite the blessing, and Corrigan played that role superbly at Notre Dame. ✦ The Moses Of Notre Dame Athletics THE FIFTH QUARTER LOU SOMOGYI Senior Editor Lou Somogyi has been at Blue & Gold Illustrated since July 1985. He can be reached at Gene Corrigan — flanked by Notre Dame leaders Rev. Ned Joyce C.S.C. (left) and Rev. Theodore Hesburgh C.S.C. (right) — directed Notre Dame athletics from 1981-87. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME MEDIA RELATIONS

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