SI Vault
Paul Zimmerman
November 24, 1997
After World War II, Notre Dame fielded the greatest college football team in history, but which unbeaten lrish juggernaut was it: the '46 or the '47 squad?
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November 24, 1997

The Golden Boys

After World War II, Notre Dame fielded the greatest college football team in history, but which unbeaten lrish juggernaut was it: the '46 or the '47 squad?

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One time Leahy found Ziggy taking a shower before practice. "Zygmont Czarobski, what in the world are you doing?" he asked.

"Coach, it just gets too crowded afterward," Ziggy said.

When Ziggy, who tended to put on weight, got married, Terry Brennan wired the father of the bride: "You are not losing a daughter, you are gaining a ton."

As Ziggy led the revelry in the club car after the 1946 Tulane game, in walked Leahy. "Ziggy hollered, 'Hey, Coach, I want you to meet a friend of mine," Fischer says, "and he turned to the girl on his lap and said, 'What the hell's your name again?' Leahy turned and started walking out the door, and some of the guys booed him.

"Oh, boy, now this was a dilemma. He couldn't ignore it. He couldn't beat up the whole first team in practice that week, not with Southern Cal coming up and a shot at the national title. And that's when he got a gastrointestinal attack and checked into the hospital. Thank god he put Moose Krause in charge. We had a great week of practice."

The Irish rushed for 517 yards in a 26-6 victory over the Trojans, and McGee, who'd always been a favorite of Krause's, broke two dazzling runs and wound up with 146 yards on six carries. Southern Cal had one consolation. It scored the only touchdown against Notre Dame's first unit all season.

The Irish were national champions. They had terrorized the college football world—well, all of it except second-ranked Army, whose unbeaten streak now stretched through three seasons. But Notre Dame would have one more shot at the Cadets, in South Bend the following year. That game would be the last in a 34-year Notre Dame-Army series, whose cancellation by West Point would become a sore point with the Irish.

Only three Notre Dame starters would graduate in the spring of 1947, and Leahy sounded a rare note of optimism when he told the Chicago Sun-Times in March, "We should be in very good shape next season." By September he was back in form: "Army will come out here undefeated on November 8," he said. "As for us, who knows? No telling how many games we'll have lost."

The preseason forecasters, unfazed by the pessimism, were saying that this Irish squad might be the greatest collegiate team ever assembled. "Intercollegiate football will be divided into two groups in 1947, Notre Dame and The Rest," Tom Siler wrote in Pic Magazine. "The best games will be the intrasquad scrimmages at South Bend."

When the Eastern sportswriters visited South Bend in the preseason, the first thing Leahy complained about was a lack of size and speed in his backfield. "Instead of halfbacks, we have nine small fullbacks," he said. How about Brennan, a gifted, versatile back who would often line up as a flanker and had led the Irish in scoring and receiving in '46?

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