Book wakes up echoes of former Notre Dame coach Terry Brennan ouster in 1958

SOUTH BEND, Ind. – Some wounds never heal completely, even after more than six decades.

For Terry Brennan, 93, from Wilmette, Ill., His Christmas 1958 sacking after five seasons as Notre Dame football coach seems to fall into that category. Former Fighting Irish football star, hired at 25 to replace legendary coach Frank Leahy, reflects on the astonishing end of his doomed tenure in “Though The Odds Be Great Or Small,” published this week by Loyola Press.

“I really think there is a bit of bitterness in there,” co-author William Meiners said in a phone interview. “He was hurt enough by this thing.”

While the book focuses primarily on 1957 and Notre Dame’s quick turnaround after an injury-plagued 2-8 season, the somewhat reluctant Brennan, along with Terry Brennan Jr., delved into some of the circumstances surrounding his controversial dismissal. .

After a 6-4 season finale that took her career mark to 32-18 (0.640), Brennan had just received a vote of public confidence in Chicago from Notre Dame athletic director Moose Krause.

Despite scholarships imposed by the university and recruitment limitations during his tenure, Brennan was quickly dumped in favor of Joe Kuharich, a longtime friend and former Notre Dame classmate of Reverend Edmund “Ned” Joyce, executive vice-president of Notre Dame.

After coaching the powerful Mount Carmel High School football team while completing law school at DePaul, “Dependable Terry” had the late Reverend Theodore “Ted” Hesburgh, the young president of Notre Dame, to thank for his incredible opportunity. and the end of a promising training. career.

Despite several coaching offers elsewhere, at the college level and in the NFL with Vince Lombardi’s Green Bay Packers, Brennan would limit his football contributions to some work on national television in the 1960s. He instead turned to a career as an investment banker.

In about six hours of face-to-face interviews over three days, just before COVID-19 arrived in the spring of 2020, Brennan proved to be a mostly useful but reluctant book subject. He called his departure “ancient history,” but still made clear his reservations about Notre Dame’s attempt to limit damage, both then and in the decades since. regular.

“This generation isn’t like ‘lying on the couch’ guys telling you all their feelings,” Meiners said. “I haven’t had a ton of that. It’s just his temper. He’s not a boastful guy. Never been. I would suspect that we should talk to him [the book project]. “

Meiners, founder and publisher of Sport Literate since 1995, had access to Brennan’s detailed autopsy of the 1956 debacle, as well as 40 handwritten pages from the mid-1990s that reflected her abortive coaching career.

In addition to new interviews with numerous eyewitnesses of Brennan’s time in Notre Dame, on and off the field, Meiners skillfully interweaves published accounts of a fledgling Sports Illustrated and many other outlets from this transitional period.

In one of her interviews after the dismissal, Brennan told Sports Illustrated that Notre Dame followers “who hope for a return to the good old days are very unrealistic.” He used the expression “strange and strange affair” to describe the profession he left behind.

Four Notre Dame national titles later – the last in 1988 – Brennan’s prediction doesn’t hold up as well as her solid reputation for honor and dignity.

“They wanted [Brennan] to resign, which he wouldn’t do, ”Meiners said. “It would have sounded like he was resigning. He didn’t want to do that.

A certain air of mystery remains about Brennan’s dismissal, its timeline, and the rationale behind it. While Brennan has another chance to beat some of what he sees as revisionist history, Fathers Hesburgh and Joyce, the power combo that has made Notre Dame an academic and athletic juggernaut during their long tenures. simultaneous, died in 2015 and 2004, respectively.

“Ten years ago it would probably have been even better to [write] that, ”Meiners said. “So you might be able to contact Hesburgh at this point.” … More than one thing can be true at the same time.

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