Notre Dame and the Game that Changed Football: How Jesse Harper Made the Forward Pass a Weapon and Knute Rockne a Legend

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9780786720149: Notre Dame and the Game that Changed Football: How Jesse Harper Made the Forward Pass a Weapon and Knute Rockne a Legend

Between 1880 and 1905, more than 325 deaths were reported in college football, and several major football schools, including Princeton, Harvard, Columbia, and Penn, threatened to drop the sport. President Theodore Roosevelt even called a White House conference to eliminate football's violence. One result was the development of the forward pass, which reduced the frequency of dangerous collisions between helmetless players. Enter Jesse Harper, head football coach at Notre Dame. Harper recognized the potential of the forward pass, and, by the summer of 1913, along with star players Knute Rockne and Gus Dorais, had perfected an efficient, overhand throwing motion. With this new offensive weapon, the Fighting Irish marched into West Point that fall to face the Eastern powerhouse Army, and routed the Black Knights 35–13. This victory not only changed the way football would be played, it also established Notre Dame as a football power. This is the story of Jesse Harper and his tremendous impact on the game we know today. Drawing from years of original research, Frank P. Maggio brings the classic victory to life and recounts Jesse Harper's role in Notre Dame's evolution into college football's most successful and storied program, and an elite university.

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About the Author:

Frank P. Maggio, a lifelong Notre Dame football fan, is an attorney with an active commercial law practice in northern Illinois. He graduated from Regis College in Denver, Colorado, in 1960 with a B.A. in Philosophy and from the University of Notre Dame School of Law with a J.D. in 1963. He has practiced law in South Bend, Indiana, and with the legal department of the Dupont chemical company in Wilmington, Delaware, and returned in 1968 to his hometown of Rockford, Illinois, where he still lives. Maggio is the father of 4 and the grandfather of 6. He has known and worked with Jim Harper, the son of Jesse Harper, since 1985.

From Publishers Weekly:

On November 1, 1913, Notre Dame's 29-year-old football coach, Jesse Harper, defeated Navy by having his team rely heavily—and successfully—on the forward pass, which had been legalized only seven years earlier. Notre Dame's surprising victory was the start of its football program becoming a sports powerhouse, Maggio believes, and it forever changed how the game was played. The book's first half is excellent, as Notre Dame alum Maggio (he graduated from the law school in 1963) offers a well-researched, insightful look at football's beginnings and the school's early struggles, highlighting just how important that victory was for the survival of two future American institutions. Bafflingly, after the historical game, Maggio devotes countless pages to summarizing every game associated with Harper, who was also Notre Dame's athletic director from 1931 to 1933. Without interviews from players and coaches to offer new insights into these games, the rest of the book reads like eight years' worth of box scores punctuated by letters between Harper and Rockne: his friend, former player and coaching protégé. Even die-hard Fighting Irish fans will have trouble enduring Maggio's lack of narrative flair and focus. Photos not seen by PW. (Sept.)
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