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Notre Dame's Knute Rockne is a legendary figure, but, as with many great men, the truth of his life has been obscured by the haze of time and the excesses of image-making. To distinguish the real Knute Rockne from the mythical version, Senior Writer Coles Phinizy interviewed many of the Rock's former players and contemporaries and pored over a trove of information in Notre Dame's International Sports and Game Research Collection.
INSPORT, as it is known, was founded in 1966 and is located in the basement stacks of the Notre Dame library. Phinizy spent more than two weeks perusing Rockne material with INSPORT's curator-researcher Herb Juliano and former curator Donald (Chet) Grant. The 87-year-old Grant was particularly helpful, because he was a quarterback for Rockne in 1920 and '21. Phinizy emerged from the stacks with the makings of the revealing two-part story on Rockne that begins on page 98.
INSPORT may be the most comprehensive collection of sports research materials in the country. It contains half a million books, periodicals, tapes and artifacts, many of them from the early 1800s. Among the most interesting to Phinizy was a recording of a fiery Rockne locker-room peptalk. He also sifted through countless biographies, periodicals and letters dating back to Rockne's undergraduate days (1910-14).
Despite its vast size, INSPORT is virtually a one-man show. Juliano, a former minor league third baseman, handles all contributions and requests for information, which pour in from all over the world. On his desk recently was a pile of queries, including one from Rio de Janeiro, where a Ph.D. candidate is researching the psychology of sport, and Kilmarnock, Scotland, where a local judge is interested in the history of curling. In the same batch was a request from Father Joe McGinnity of Oak Lawn, Ill. requesting data on his cousin, the remarkably durable major league pitcher of the early 1900s, Iron Man Joe McGinnity.
When Juliano became curator in July of 1975, INSPORT was not as comprehensive as it is today. He improved it considerably by flying to Los Angeles and purchasing the million-volume Goodwin Goldfaden-ADCO Sports Book Exchange collection. A month later Juliano and six Notre Dame students returned to L.A. to load the 56-ton library into 2,300 crates and then onto three 40-foot semi-trailers. "It took us two years to make sense out of it," says Juliano. "After sorting out and selling duplicate copies we retained only about a third of the original collection. But the acquisition put us in a different ball park."
Juliano emphasizes that "the key words in our title are 'international' and 'research.' We are not a museum or a sight-seeing stop. We're a research facility dedicated to developing the study of sport in the context of the dominant themes and issues of our society and as a genuinely international branch of scholarship. I am here because I believe in the importance of sport."
What dusty volume or ancient artifact might make Juliano's prized collection even better? "More than anything else," he says, "I'd love to have a full-time assistant."