Reflections from the Dome

Frank is in the middle row, with the ball marked "96."

 

This months Reflections is an excerpt from Out of Bounds by Larry Weaver and Mike Bonifer.

Why did you annually spend one May day of your adolescence buying your mother satin-wrapped coat hangers and perfumed guest soap? For Mother's Day, of course. And whom do you blame for that? Why, Francis E. Hering, Notre Dame's first full-time football coach. Of course.

On February 7, 1904, six years after he had resigned as the Notre Dame coach, Hering addressed the national convention of the Fraternal Order of Eagles at the English Opera House in Indianapolis. Hering's harangue, "Our Mothers and Their Importance in Our Lives," was the opening salvo in his campaign to institute Mother's Day. Ten years later, a brief interlude by government standards, Congress took action and Hering had his wish. Florists and candy makers all over America should have his picture hanging on their walls.

Back to Hering's remarkable football career. After quarterbacking the University of Chicago squad in 1893 and 1894, Hering surfaced as coach of the Bucknell Bisons; he probably played for the Bisons as well, under an assumed name. By 1896, Hering had landed the Notre Dame coaching job. Following accepted practice under the era's hazy eligibility rules, Hering was also team captain, starring at a number of positions. Besides all that, he found time to teach English and study law; and he actually collected part of his pay in cuts of beef from the Notre Dame farm.

Hering brought the team its first regional recognition. Schools such as Indiana, Purdue, Illinois and Michigan State were coaxed into the schedule for the first time, while Chicago and Michigan returned from a few years' absence. Despite the tougher opponents, the Blue and Gold managed to win two-thirds of its games. People were beginning to get the idea that the boys from South Bend could play football with the best of them.

Coaching was a young man's game in those days. Hering left after the 1898 season and a three year record of 12-6- 1. He continued bumping heads in pro ball for years, worked as a magazine editor, and in later life published a volume of poetry. Nor did he neglect his pet project: staking a spot on the calendar for mom. Notre Dame soon had the rare distinction of being coached by the Father of Mother's Day.

Now, when's the last time you gave your mom an autographed football?


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