Terry Brennan

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Terry Brennan
Biographical details
Born (1928-06-11) June 11, 1928 (age 92)
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Playing career
1945–1948Notre Dame
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1949–1952Chicago Mount Carmel HS (IL)
1953Notre Dame (freshmen)
1954–1958Notre Dame
Head coaching record
Overall32–18 (college)

Terence Patrick Brennan (born June 11, 1928) is a former American football player and coach. He served as the head football coach at the University of Notre Dame from 1954 to 1958, compiling a record of 32–18.

Early life and playing career[edit]

A native of Milwaukee, Wisconsin and a standout multi-sport athlete at Marquette University High School, Brennan played halfback at Notre Dame from 1945 to 1948, graduating in 1949.

Coaching career[edit]

After graduating from Notre Dame, Brennan coached at Mount Carmel High School in Chicago and won three successive city championships. Brennan returned to Notre Dame in 1953 as freshman football coach and succeeded Frank Leahy as head coach the following year. When asked if he thought he was too young to be named head coach at the age of 25, Brennan replied, "Oh, I don't know. I'll be 26 in a few months."

Brennan got off to a good start with a 9–1 campaign in 1954 with players recruited by Leahy. In 1955, the Irish slipped a notch to 8–2. Then the roof fell in. Brennan was forced to play mostly sophomores in 1956 because of numerous injuries and the result was a 2–8 record, the first losing season for Notre Dame since 1933 and the worst in the history of the school. The lone bright spot was Paul Hornung, who won the Heisman Trophy. Many fans called for Brennan's ouster, but the young coach was retained.

One thing that worked against Brennan was a movement by school administrators to put more emphasis on academics and less on athletics, leading to the popular notion that Notre Dame had deemphasized football. Consequently, Brennan had to make do with players of lesser talent than in previous years, with a limit of 20 football scholarships per class, while continuing to play tough schedules. While academics had always come first at Notre Dame, Frank Leahy had carte blanche to do what he wished until the Rev. Theodore Martin Hesburgh became president in 1952. One of Hesburgh's first priorities as president was to reaffirm Notre Dame's position on academics.

One of the other major restraints was the fact that within that construct Leahy had recruited a large number of players and offered them all scholarships. These players largely proved ineffective. However, and especially given the new self-imposed scholarship restrictions, this prevented Brennan from recruiting any recruiting classes worthy of the university or himself... Brennan was essentially recruiting and coaching with his hands figuratively tied behind his back. However...

Brennan's 1957 squad earned the nickname, "Comeback Comets" after finishing 7–3. Among their victories was a 23–21 comeback over Army and a 7–0 shutout of Oklahoma, snapping the Sooners' NCAA record 47-game winning streak. While Brennan kept the Irish competitive during his tenure (the dismal 1956 season notwithstanding), his teams' performances were well short of what fans had come to expect even allowing for the reduction in scholarships.

After a 6–4 record in 1958, the movement to dismiss Brennan gained momentum, and the coach was fired along with his entire staff in mid-December; Hugh Devore was eventually retained. Notre Dame's administration was heavily criticized for the firing, since Brennan's overall 32–18 record was not bad considering the caliber of their opponents. He was succeeded as Notre Dame's head coach by Joe Kuharich.

Later life and honors[edit]

Brennan served as player conditioning coach for baseball's Cincinnati Reds during spring training in 1959 and eventually joined a Chicago investment banking firm. He has six children, 27 grandchildren, and sixteen great-grandchildren.

Brennan is a member of the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame and was elected to the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame in 1981.

Head coaching record[edit]


Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl/playoffs Coaches# AP°
Notre Dame Fighting Irish (NCAA University Division independent) (1954–1958)
1954 Notre Dame 9–1 4 4
1955 Notre Dame 8–2 10 9
1956 Notre Dame 2–8
1957 Notre Dame 7–3 9 10
1958 Notre Dame 6–4 14 17
Notre Dame: 32–18
Total: 32–18