Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Bring Back Coach Yonto

There's growing resentment towards Coach Rick Minter, despite national attention in his favor. But if Minter does go, who should replace him?

Number Crunching

I looked at points per game for both Coaches Yonto and Minter. For Coach Minter, his Notre Dame days aren't a large enough sample set, so I included some data from his time at Ball State - the job that essentially got him hired by Lou Holtz. Coach Yonto's teams gave up an average of 8 points per game below the national mean. For Coach Minter, that number is closer to 4.5. I'll avoid comparing other numbers across eras, but the number-versus-mean figures should speak for themselves.
Also, if you want my raw data to do some real statistical analysis - as opposed to my "Look at me, I just finished Stats 101 this quarter!" analysis, please let me know.

Mr. Notre Dame

The title "Mr. Notre Dame" belongs to Moose Krause, and rightfully so. Notre Dame's record of football national championships eerily matches Moose's timeline with ND. Notre Dame's second and third championships came in 1929 and 1930. Moose started school in 1930, but wasn't eligible to play with the varsity until 1931. Moose returned to ND as a coach in 1942. In 1943, ND won another championship. In 1944 and 1945, Moose and Frank Leahy went away to war. The Irish didn't win any titles that year, but in the following two years. Notre Dame celebrated Moose Krause's first year as Athletic Director, 1949, with another championship. Moose's reign as Athletic Director also brought four more consensus championships. Moose Krause passed away in 1992, and the Irish haven't been serious National Championship contenders since 1993. That's almost too much of a coincidence.
Coach Yonto, who fortunately is still with us, can make a claim for success that's nearly as impressive. Joe Yonto started school in 1944 and played with the varsity in 1945. A gruesome leg injury ended his playing career, but the school still won two national titles while he was there in 1946 and 1947. After Yonto graduated, the school earned one more championship in 1949 before falling into one of the darkest stretches of the program. Awful seasons abounded until Ara Parseghian brought Joe Yonto back in 1964. The Irish saw three more titles under Coach Yonto in 1966, 1973, and 1977. In 1981, Gerry Faust pushed Coach Yonto into a desk job, and the Irish program again faltered. Lou Holtz brought Coach Yonto back into the stadium in 1986 and 1987. Had Coach Yonto not retired after 1987, he would have seen yet another national championship the following year.


Coach Yonto was Coach Parseghian's go-to guy for east coach recruiting. There he recruited legends big and small. Fellow assistant coach Johnny Ray kidded Yonto about recruiting a 5-10, 148 lb Joe Theismann by asking Yonto if he was to be the new waterboy. Meanwhile, a 6-5, 235 lb Ken MacAfee was worried that he was too small for major college football. Coach Yonto replied, "If you're too small, we might as well quit trying to recruit."
I haven't kept up on Coach Minter's recruiting prowess, but I'm sure many of you will point out that Notre Dame was unable to land a defensive tackle recruit until just Tuesday.


After a 21-17 loss to #1 Texas in the 1970 Cotton Bowl (following the 1969 season), the Irish were set to face the Longhorns again in the 1971 Cotton Bowl - and again Texas was ranked #1. Coach Yonto developed the famed "mirror defense" to shut down Texas' more-famed wishbone option, and the Irish prevailed 24-10. In the 1978 Cotton Bowl, the Irish yet again travelled down to face a #1 Texas team. Coach Yonto's defense held Earl Campbell and the Longhorns as the #5 Irish routed Texas 38-10. The decisive victory gave Notre Dame their 10th national championship.
Coach Minter is known for his zone blitzing schemes. Perhaps they will work with the right personnel. But over the past two years, it appears that Notre Dame doesn't have the right personnel. It also appears that the Irish secondary isn't being trained to at least look like the right personnel for the job. Well, then, why is Minter stubbornly sticking to these schemes?

Words of Wisdom

All from Coach Yonto.

On his playing days: "I was a fullback who ate my way to guard."

As a high school head coach, foreshadowing Yoda: "There is no try. There is do or don’t do!"

On Rudy being carried of the field: "Of course, we carried him off the field. He was the only guy small enough for us to pick up."

On running back Jerome Heavens: "The Gipper would have approved of this himself. You don't find a football player with more class than Jerome Heavens."

On being reassigned by Gerry Faust: "Do you know what a special assistant to the athletic director does? If I told you, it wouldn't be so special."

On wearing the green jerseys against BC in 2002: "Gimmicks don't pull the train, power pulls the train."

On the 2006 Army team: "You could have picked 11 midgets off the quad to play them. Or 11 trombones."

Finally: "That's the real meaning of coaching - to see what the players do when they get out, how they help one another."

Open Petition to Bring Back Joe Yonto as Defensive Coordinator

It's your choice. Defense wins championships.
Click here.