Once every 10 years or so Notre Dame recoats the golden dome rising above its campus so that it glows brightly, especially during football season when the orange-and-red fire of autumn sweeps through the trees below. Last Saturday, as Notre Dame defeated Stanford 28-6 to remain unbeaten in five games, the dome on the main building seemed to be giving off beams of inspiration as it did in the days of Frank Leahy and Knute Rockne. Notre Dame is winning again.
Even before Notre Dame reached a stunning 5-0 record, its first since 1953, which was Frank Leahy's last season, there was a feeling among the students and the university's far-flung followers that this was the year and Ara Parseghian was the coach and 1964 would see a proud football tradition resurrected once more.
"It was more than a feeling, it was a fever," says Notre Dame Captain Jim Carroll, who plays linebacker. "We all caught the fever with the first words Coach Parseghian said to the squad. He said, 'We will win.' And the way he is—intense, enthusiastic, confident—you sort of felt he wouldn't allow anything else to happen. He's a wonderful coach."
Winning football games has twice before been a natural law at Notre Dame. It began under Knute Rockne in 1918. For 13 raucous years, through 1930, Rockne's teams were five times undefeated and three times national champions, winning an appalling 105 games while losing only 12. These teams were led by George Gipp and the Four Horsemen and Marchy Schwartz—all those folklore characters. "I say college football began with Rockne," says Ara Parseghian, violating the memory of the Princeton- Rutgers game of 1869.
Notre Dame's second hallowed period of success came under Frank Leahy. From 1941 through 1953 Leahy's teams were six times unbeaten and four times national champions. Leahy won 87 games, lost just 11. And these were the teams of Angelo Bertelli and Johnny Lujack and Leon Hart and Johnny Lattner, and they would have been a swell buy for CBS.
"With all of our tradition, you can just imagine how hungry our students have been during these lean years," says Athletic Director Ed Krause. "They know the history, but they've had nothing to yell about. It's easy to see why the fever has gripped them, and why Ara's enthusiasm got them from the beginning."
The fever erupted as early as one cold, snowy night last February when, spontaneously, 2,000 students on the all-male campus gathered on the slush-covered steps of Sorin Hall and chanted for Parseghian to come talk to them about a sport that was seven months away. Ara put on a muffler and talked.
"One thing about Notre Dame," says Parseghian. "It's like a service academy in a lot of ways. There is a closeness. There are no fraternities—just one big one, Notre Dame. And I tell you, it does have traditions. Knute Rockne is more alive around here today than a lot of live people somewhere else."
The more superstitious among Notre Dame's feverish followers had other reasons to be excited by Parseghian's arrival as head coach. The timeliness of it dredged up almost as many good omens as there were losses for the past few years. For one, exactly 10 seasons passed between the eras of Rockne and Leahy and now 10 have passed since Leahy retired and Parseghian asked Father Edmund Joyce, executive vice-president and athletic board chairman, for the job. For another, two men coached Notre Dame between Rockne and Leahy and only two, really—since Hugh Devore was a one-year "interim" coach—have tried to rebuild the Irish between Leahy and Ara. Parseghian is, incidentally, the first combination of non-Catholic and non-Notre Dame graduate to be coach. He is a dark-eyed Presbyterian of Armenian descent from Miami of Ohio. Finally, according to Notre Dame's publicity director and chief omen counter, Charlie Callahan, the Irish have usually done well when they have had quarterbacks whose names were unusual and un-Irish. There were Stuhldreher and Carideo under Rockne and there were Bertelli and Lujack and Guglielmi under Leahy, and now there is Johnny Huarte (see cover) under Parseghian.
Almost everyone at Notre Dame these days has an explanation for the team's surprising success—the new coach, better defense, the new substitution rules, prayer, luck, soft schedule so far—but one of the more valid ones is Quarterback Huarte, a slim, quiet, gentlemanly senior of Basque-German ancestry from Anaheim, Calif., whose name is pronounced Hugh-ert. Against Stanford, Huarte was worthy of the dozens of choruses of the familiar "Cheer, cheer for old Notre Dame, wake up the echoes..." which roared down from the packed crowd of 56,765. He completed 21 passes for 300 yards, a school record.