Long-forgotten Notre Dame coach still weaves an interesting tale

Terry Brennan had one of the most unusual coaching careers in the history of college football.

His hiring at the age of 25 to take over one of the most prestigious coaching jobs in college football at Notre Dame shocked the college football world in 1954.

It was the first major decision by new president Fr. Theodore Hesburgh and showed times were changing at Notre Dame.

Brennan then pulled off another surprise, proving he was a good coach as he overcame the school’s slashing of scholarships to bounce back from a 2-8 record in 1956 and post one of the most storied victories in the school’s history – the 7-0 victory at Oklahoma that ended the Sooners’ 47 game winning streak in 1957.

And then he was fired at Christmas a year later after going 6-4, a move that was even more shocking than his hiring five years earlier, and Fr. Hesburgh never really explained why he sacked him. The move apparently even took athletic director Moose Krause by surprise.

And then he never coached again, turning down head coaching jobs at Maryland and Colorado and an offer to be an assistant to Vince Lombardi at Green Bay. It is intriguing what would have happened if he’d won those Super Bowl rings with Lombardi and what that might have led to.

But he never appeared to look back and had a good life as a TV analyst, businessman who had a law degree and family man and has mostly faded from public view.

Then his children talked him into writing a book on his career, which led to the publishing of “Though the Odds Be Great or Small” written by William Meiners.

The book not only covers Brennan’s career, but the history of Notre Dame back to such legends as Knute Rockne, George Gipp and Frank Leahy down to the present day.

What we will never know is what kind of career Brennan would have had if he’s been coached another decade or so at Notre Dame. Brennan writes that he thinks the program was an upswing because Fr. Hesburgh abandoned his scholarship restrictions and no longer made the coach wait until April when the College Entrance Board results were in to offer scholarships.

“Those changes didn’t help me much, but it did my successors,’’ he writes in the book.

As it turned out, the coach Notre Dame hired to replace Brennan, Joe Kuharich, was a disaster, but they rebounded by hiring Ara Parseghian in 1964. He was only the third coach to coach the Irish for a decade or more. The first two were Rockne and Leahy. Lou Holtz was the fourth and the current coach Brian Kelly is the fifth.

Meanwhile, the administration whiffed on some hires, notably Gerry Faust, Bob Davie and Charlie Weis.

Notre Dame will never be what it once was as a football power because Fr. Hesburgh was focused on turning it into an Ivy League type institution and he succeeded. The average SAT score of a Notre Dame student is now 1475. Fr. Hesburgh once said he wanted to be a level with Princeton and the Irish are now close because Princeton is at 1505.

But Fr. Hesburgh came to terms with football at Notre Dame, realizing it was too important for the alumni to play football on an Ivy League level.

They can recruit good enough to be competitive on a major college level but can’t bring in very many blue chip prospects and won’t be winning a national title any time soon. They’re kind of like Stanford, which is completive but hasn’t won a national title since 1940.

As Brennan wrote of Hesburgh, “Hesburgh wanted to be the “education president” and he was. I don’t think he deliberately destroyed the football program, but he certainly didn’t understand it. In my opinon he did a very clever thing I’d call “modified secularism.” He bent the school towards secularism as far as he could without removing religion entirely. It was a good move and a good sell to big corporate donors and industries who were not necessarily Catholic.”

When he took over, Notre Dame had an endowment of $9 million. It is now $13.3 billion. He doubled the enrollment and 40 buildings were put up. The ironic thing is that Brennan probably would have been the perfect coach for the kind of school Hesburgh wanted Notre Dame to be.

Meiners writes that Brennan’s legacy is his family of six children, seven grandchildren and thirty-one great grandchildren.

Brennan, now 93, has seems to come to terms with his tenure at Notre Dame and has attended Notre Dame games.

But his late wife, Kel, made sure that none of their six children went to Notre Dame.

Book by former kicker shows there is more to life than an NFL dream

What is it like chasing a dream that always seems to elude you before eventually finding success in a direction that never crossed your mind?

That question is answered in the book “The Point After” by Sean Conley with the subtitle “How One Resilient Kicker Learned There Was More to Life than the NFL.”

Conley grew up thinking there wasn’t more to life than kicking in the NFL.

Growing up in a small town in Pennsylvania, he was obsessed with becoming an NFL kicker even though at the time (1993) there were only 28 kicking jobs.

He was first intrigued with football when he tried in a Punt, Pass and Kick competition.

Even though he didn’t win, he writes, “I was eight and it was fun. That was the same outlook I would need years later. But I was hooked. That night, I began sleeping with my football.”

He felt, “There was one way to succeed and be happy and that was to play football.”

But the road was never easy for him. His high school didn’t have a team and he didn’t get to a Division I school until his senior year when he went to Pitt and won the job.

He made 16 of 19 kicks, was named to First Team All Big East Team, the First Team All-Academic Big East Team and nominated for the Lou Groza Award given to the best kicker in college football.

He wasn’t drafted but got into camps with three teams, but he couldn’t overcome the damage he’d done to his leg by overtraining.

He could kick well in the tryouts but then his leg was no longer strong enough to do it consistently. And he had to deal with a lot of pain.

He did make it through a short season in or the Scottish team in the World League of American Football. He made nine field goals in six games and got a $2,500 check for having the second-longest field goal in the league.

He is very candid about how difficult those days were when he was often broke, only spent $30 for wedding rings at a flea market and had five roast beef sandwiches at Arby’s for $5 on his one-night honeymoon.

Still, he didn’t want to give up. He contacted teams in the Arena League, which paid $500 a game.

He went to a workout with the Albany Firebirds and was offered a contract. What happened next is the most poignant scene in the book.

He told the executive he had to talk to his wife and they found a quiet spot under the stadium bleachers to talk.

“You always told me it was the NFL or bust,” she said “This isn’t the NFL. You played in the NFL. You’ve done it.”

“But I’m quitting,” he said.

“What else do you have to prove,” she said. “It’s hard watching you go through the pain.”

“I looked out at the indoor arena…Is this the end? My heart felt nothing. I looked back at Karen. I placed my hands on her shoulders.”“You’re right,” I said. “It’s time.”

They left without telling the executive because he feared if he went back to his office, he would be talked into signing.

So it was over.

And he suffered another setback when his father died of colon cancer.

But the book has a happy ending. His wife had a yoga studio but she got a teaching job and would have had to close it. Sean then decided to become a yoga instructor to keep the business going.

Their shop, Amazing Yoga, now has three locations in Pittsburgh.

He found out there was more to life than football. And he has written a captivating book about his journey.

He ends the book, “I am grateful for right now.”

Bills just the latest to play NFL’s stadium extortion game

The Buffalo Bills are the latest team in the NFL to play the stadium game.

Teams have been playing this game for decades, attempting to get cities and states to build them new stadiums. If they don’t get them the threat – implied or otherwise is that they will move.

But no team has ever asked what the Bills apparently want from the city of Buffalo – a $1.1 billion stadium plus $400 million to renovate the hockey stadium. And the husband-and-wife team of Terry and Kim Pegula, who own the team, reportedly aren’t offering to kick in any money.

At least that is what the Buffalo News reported. A spokesman for the owners said the figure isn’t accurate but didn’t say if it is less. Or even more.

What happens next is a critical question that may affect stadium building for years to come.
The negotiations should be fascinating. If the Bills get anywhere near a billion dollars, other teams will likely use that as a benchmark.

Nobody knows if this is just the opening bid from the Pegulas or if they are serious about not putting some of their own money into the stadium. On the other hand, the city and/or state officials aren’t going to kick in a billion dollars. But would they go for $200 million to $300 million? Who knows?

To put what the Bills are asking in context, no city has ever put up a billion dollars to retain a team. Las Vegas put up $750 million to build a new stadium to lure the Raiders from Oakland. Total stadium cost is estimated at $1.9 billion.

There is already speculation that Austin and San Antonio would be possible future homes of Bills, but it is hard to believe Jerry Jones would allow a third team in Texas.

St. Louis, Oakland and San Diego lost teams, so it is hard to imagine they would put up a billion dollars to lure the Bills.

And the Buffalo News reported the idea of taxpayers footing all the cost was a “non-starter” in Albany, the state capital.

Still Erie County executive Mark Poloncartz suggested there could be a compromise.

“It takes compromise on both sides and my goal is to get a deal done that is fair to all parties: Bills fans, to ensure the Bills are playing in Buffalo, but also the citizens of Erie County,’’ he said. “There is no blank check. Hopefully, there will be a compromise.”

He also said the Bills have never said, “If you do not give us what you want, we are leaving town.”

But they don’t have to say it. Many teams have moved when they don’t get what they want.
Most economists also say that subsidizing stadiums is a bad deal for the taxpayers.
But there’s more than economics involved. The Bills are such an integral part of Buffalo that losing them would be a devastating blow to the city and area.

The Sports Business Journal said the team will argue that staying in town would amount to a contribution by the team, but that argument would likely to fall on deaf ears.

So this is where things stand. The Buffalo News say the Pegulas want a deal done in a couple of months. That is totally unrealistic, especially since their lease doesn’t expire until after the 2023 season.

And things are in turmoil in Albany with Governor Cuomo facing impeachment if he doesn’t resign in the wake of sexual harassment allegations.

So which side will blink first? Will the Billls stay in Buffalo?

They should put the negotiations on Pay-Per-View.

Pressure on Reid to make the most of magical Mahomes

It would seem logical for the losing team in the Super Bowl to win it the following year.

Which explains why the Chiefs are favored to win it all this year after getting routed by the Bucs 31-9 in last year’s Super Bowl.

But it is more difficult for a losing team to win the Super Bowl the following year than you might think.

It has happened only once since 1972 when the perfect Dolphins won it all after losing to Dallas at the end of the 1971 season.

That team was the Pats when Tom Brady led them to a victory over the Rams after the 2019 season after they lost to the Eagles the previous season.

Now Brady, who won his seventh ring with the Bucs last year, is trying to repeat for the second time while the Chiefs are going for their third Super Bowl appearance in a row after they beat the 49ers two years ago and lost to the Bucs last year.

The problem for the Chiefs in last year’s Super Bowl is that their offensive line was ravaged and Andy Reid, not noted a premier playoff coach, didn’t adjust and Patrick Mahomes was running for his life much of the game.

Reid is only 17-15 in the playoffs and 1-2 in the Super Bowl and also didn’t coach well when his Eagles lost to the Patriots after the 2004 season. Trailing by 10 in the fourth quarter, Reid didn’t go to the huddle late in the fourth quarter and took two much time scoring a touchdown and lost by three.

This is a pivotal year for Reid as he enters his fourth year coaching Mahomes. The Chiefs put a lot of emphasis on improving their offensive line. We’ll see if that effort will pay dividends.

Does Reid join the elite ranks of two-time Super Bowl winning coaches or does he fall short again?

The Chiefs are virtually guaranteed a spot in the playoffs but then things will get dicey for Reid.

Reid has established himself as one of the great regular season coaches but has won only one title in 21 years as a head coach with the Eagles and Chiefs.

Now he has Mahomes in his prime for several years. We’ll see if he can win more rings with him.

We live in an era when several top coaches won it only once with a premier quarterback like Sean Payton with Drew Brees and Pete Carroll with Russell Wilson and Mike Tomlin with Ben Roethlisberger.

Reid doesn’t want that to be his legacy.