October 6, 1934 - A loss to start the season under new coach Layden

By Olson

A very important year in the history of Notre Dame football. Irish Head Coach Hunk Anderson was forced out after 1933, after a 3-5-1 season in which the Irish only scored 32 points the entire year!

This led to a National search for a new head football coach. The first such search in Notre Dame history.....in previous Irish head coaching changes, the top assistant just got the job: assistant coach Rockne had gotten the job when Jesse Harper had left; and Irish assistant Hunk Anderson was immediately given the job when Rockne died.

Only ND alumni needed to apply and there were plenty of them among the coaching ranks in 1934. Most had either played with or for Rockne at Notre Dame. The press made Jim Crowley (one of the 4 Horsemen) from Fordham and Slip Madigan of St Mary's the favorites. But the good fathers of Notre Dame didn't like either choice:

Crowley (who had an assistant named Leahy and a player named Lombardi with him at Fordham) was known to drink (at least that was the reason given for the lack of interest in 'Shake Down the Thunder') and Slip Madigan was too flamboyant...plus he spent too much money. So much money in fact that little St Mary's was going bankrupt in those Depression years. It didn't help that Madigan pocketed the receipts from a Polo Ground matchup with Fordham as payment for monies that St Mary's owed him -even though St Mary's desperately needed those gate receipts. The orange shirt with pink tie (or was it the other way around) that he wore on the sidelines of that contest didn't help Slip with the good fathers either-not exactly Notre Dame HC material.

Other ND alum candidates:

  • Charlie Bachman of Michigan St....too old
  • Gus Dorais of Detroit.....too old
  • Harry Stuhldreher of Villanova....the old 4 Horsemen QB was too obnoxious
  • Harry Mehre of Georgia...coached in the sleepy South/the priests wanted a Midwestern or Eastern coach...you know- where the REAL football was played
  • Frank Thomas of Alabama...see above...so Thomas stayed South and coached ends Don Hutson and Paul 'Bear' Bryant to the Rose Bowl
  • Tom Lieb of Loyola(Cal)....an Olympic Medal hero...but too young
  • Noble Kizer of Purdue....one of the famed 7 Mules had done something to piss off the good fathers
  • Jack Chevigny of St Edward's TX....hadn't left a good impression with the Fathers when he was an Irish assistant...so Chevigny took the Texas job instead
  • Frank Reese of N. Carolina St...pushed for the ND job only to be surprised when he was replaced himself at NC St by ND's old coach Hunk Anderson

The only ND alum who didn't want the job was Rip Miller of Navy. Miller had coached the Navy to a win over Hunk and the Irish in '33. But Rip didn't want the Navy job either. In an unusual move, he stepped back from the head coaching job at Navy but stayed and became the line coach...a job he held for many years!

The good Fathers selected quiet, gentlemanly Elmer Layden of Duquense(yet another of the famed 4 Horsemen) for the job of Notre Dame head coach. Father O'Hara, V.P. of the University in charge of football affairs made Layden comfortable in his new surroundings by:

  • Cutting the salaries of the Head Coach and his assistants
  • Reducing the number of jobs available for football players
  • Increasing the eligibility requirements from an overall grade average of '70' to '77'

Oh yes, during Layden's entire stay at ND, he was prohibited from leaving campus to recruit. As Layden himself later said in his biography, this rule cost him numerous ballplayers-among them stars Marshall Goldberg and Heisman Trophy winner Tom Harmon.

In spite of the above, Layden recruited well in that '34 year. Among the recruits that had a lasting affect on Notre Dame well past their 4 years as students were:

  • Joe Kuharich, a guard from South Bend Riley who did well as a player-but not so hot as a future Irish head coach.
  • Ed Haggar, a 6'2 194 end from Dallas (St Joe's Academy). Big Ed, followed by his little brother, both later of the Haggar Slack Co., as well as many other family members to follow would have a major impact of the future of the University of Notre Dame.

Layden also inherited some good players-among them the 1932 frosh class-now Juniors in this '34 season (Wayne Millner, Bill Shakespeare, Andy Pilney, Wally Fromhart, etc). The '32 frosh were one of the best in ND history.

There was good news and bad in the preseason (as there always seemed to be). The bad was very bad. John 'Tex' Young from Houston, expected to be the starting RHB died that summer from blood poisoning. The good news was that 2 former star players were back after missing the entire 1933 season:

  • George 'Mink' Melinkovich FB from Utah had recovered from a kidney ailment...'Mink' moved from his normal FB position to RHB to replace the loss of Tex Young.
  • Jack Robinson C returned after missing '33 with an eye infection.

Notre Dame had an interesting football schedule. The first 4 games were played at home, followed by the final 5 on the road. Irish alum Jack Chevigny brought in his Longhorn squad to open the season. Both NBC and CBS radio broadcast the game Nationally, joining right after the finish of the 4th game of the World Series (St. Louis vs Detroit).

Texas kicked off to ND. ND fumbled and the Longhorns recovered at the 14. Some reports say Mekinkovich fumbled for the Irish, others say it was Fred Carideo (cousin of former Irish QB great Frank). The ND Scholastic says it was Carideo, so I'll blame him. Texas 'drove' 14 yds and scored. Then they kicked the extra point to lead 7-0 less than 2 minutes into the season. Texas was done scoring for the afternoon.

ND reached the Texas 10 but lost the ball on downs. Finally the Irish got a break when Shakespeare punted for ND. The Texas player muffed the punt, then kicked it towards the ND goal. Big John Michuta (who had won the very first Hwyt Bengal Bouts championship) fell on loose ball. "Mink' Mekinovich scored from there....but Wayne Millner missed the extra point.

Texas 7 ND 6

The Irish got to the 20 near the end of the game, but FB Don Elser fumbled. This was the first Irish loss of an opening in 38 years, the last being in the last Century in 1896, 4-0 against Chicago Physicians. It was not a good start for Layden.

It was pointed out in the press that he had played everyone on his roster in the game while Chevigny had used 15 players. If Layden had stuck with his regulars he would have won it was reasoned. Layden responded that if a player practices during the week, he is entitled to play in the game on Saturday.

A bigger sin was the fact that Layden changed his defense from Rockne's familiar 7-1-2-1 to a new 6-2-2-1. The Irish faithful were not happy with the start of Layden's regime.

Keywords: football, texas, hunk anderson, knute rockne, jesse harper, jim crowley, slip madigan, frank leahy, vince lombardi, charlie bachman, gus dorais, harry stuhldreher, harry mehre, frank thomas, tom lieb, noble kizer, jack chevigny, frank reese, rip miller, elmer layden, father ohara, joe kuharich, ed haggar, wayne millner, william shakespeare, andy pilney, wally fromhart, john young, george melinkovich, jack robinson, fred carideo, frank carideo, john michuta, bengal bouts, don elser, chicago physicians

Posted On: 2014-09-15 00:15:02 by Olson


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