A Celebration of Dan Devine

With all due respect to the pioneer of Missouri football, Don Faurot, to many Missouri fans, they will always think of Dan Devine as the coach who brought Missouri football into the national spotlight. The Tigers were never better than they were during the Devine years. With Coach Devine currently in poor health, we wanted to celebrate the life and accomplishments of one of the all-time greats in college football history.

Coach Dan Devine

 

Born Dec. 23, 1924, at Augusta, Wisconsin

 

High school: Proctor, Minnesota

College: University of Minnesota at Duluth.  (Captained and quarterbacked football team Married homecoming queen, Joanne Brookhart). 

 

College Coaching Career 

 

Dan Devine started coaching at East Jordan high school in  Michigan.  After launching a promising coaching career there during his first four years, Devine took a risky step for a young coach with a growing family.  He accepted a lower – paying job as a graduate assistant under highly regarded coaches Biggie Munn and Duffy Daugherty at Michigan State.

 

The gamble paid off quickly.  He was promoted to a full-time assistant coach and, then after four years with the Spartans, was selected as head coach at Arizona State in 1955.

 

At ASU, Devine brought with him a multiple offense concept which combined the theories of the Wing-T, the Single Wing, the Double Wing and the new 'Flanker' offenses.  

His multiple system brought instant success to the Sun Devil program.  Devine spent three seasons at ASU and only lost three games.  In 1957, his third and final season with the Devils, he led them to a 10-0 record with the NCAA's top scoring offense.

In 1958, Missouri needed to find a replacement for the departing Frank Broyles.  They interviewed just one candidate for the job and Devine gladly accepted.  Devine found success early at Missouri.  He led the Tigers to an Orange Bowl berth in his second season there.  In 1960, the Tigers won the Big Eight title and scored an Orange Bowl win over Navy marking the school's first ever bowl victory.  Devine would spend 10 more seasons at Missouri and win three of four more bowl appearances with the Tigers. 

After a stint coaching in the NFL, Notre Dame hired Devine in 1975.  He faced the tough challenge of replacing the legendary coach Ara Parseghian at Notre Dame.  Devine embraced the role and led the Irish to a National Championship in 1977.  Devine spent six years at Notre Dame and compiled a 53-16-1 record.   

But perhaps his greatest moment at Notre Dame wasn't the 1977 National Championship.  Instead, most remember he and quarterback Joe Montana's performance in the 1979 Cotton Bowl.  The Irish trailed Houston 34-12 with 7:25 left to play before an unforgettable comeback was engineered and the Irish pulled off a 35-34 last-second victory.

Dan Devine didn't come across like your average coach.  He was normally viewed as a soft-spoken individual, lacking the fiery personality of many coaches.  But his results were also anything but average.

 

College Coaching Record:

 

Years

School

Record

1955-58

Arizona State

27-3-1

1958-70

Missouri

93-37-1

1975-80

Notre Dame

53-16-1

Total:

173-56-3

 

Dan Devine ended his college coaching career ranked 34th among major college coaches in winning percentage, and 37th in number of wins. He won 7 of the 10 bowl games in which his teams participated. In 1977, Devine was named College Coach of Year after Notre Dame won the national championship.

Pro Football Coaching Career

Dan Devine coached the Green Bay Packers from 1971 to 1974.  While there, he compiled a 25-28-1 record. He was named the NFC Coach of Year when his Packers went 10-4 and won a divisional title in 1972.

Family

Devine never received the accolades his record indicated he deserved.  One theory was that he did not have a macho façade  of those who preceded him – Vince Lombardi at Green Bay or Ara Parseghian at Notre Dame. 

The theory bugged Devine.  "Macho, macho, what does that mean," he once ranted   "I have six daughters and one son. How much more macho can you be?"

Well you can take it one more level.  Devine's offspring have presented him with 16 grand children and three great grandchildren.  

The Devine clan:

Dan"Tiger"Devine Jr. and wife Barbara of Columbia, Mo.

Jennifer and husband Dr. Arshad Husain of Columbia, Mo.

Mary Jo and husband Drew Carver of Phoenix.

Diana Yazzie Devine of Phoenix,

Sarah Devine-Avery and husband Bruce Avery of Phoenix.

Lisa and husband Jim Creagan of Decatur, Mich. .

Jill Devine of Phoenix

 

Notes, quotes and Quips

 

 

In 50 years as a sports columnist, Bob Hurt covered Dan Devine and his teams for newspapers in Topeka, Kan., Oklahoma City and Phoenix.  The following anecdotes were provided by Mr. Hurt for this piece.

 

*    *    *

 

In 1985, I underwent open-heart surgery in St. Joseph's Hospital in Phoenix. Because of some problems, I was taken from surgery to intensive care.  I awoke there and standing beside me was Daniel Devine. 

 

"What the hell are you doing here?" I asked.  "They don't let anybody but family in here."

 

But face it, nobody in a Catholic hospital tells a former Notre Dame coach where he can or can't go.  But this was pure Devine.  Daniel was never the pushy, dynamic sort but he could do anything he thought necessary

 

 

*    *    *

 

The sucker shift is at best unethical and at worst illegal, none of which precluded Missouri from using the shift in a key moment in an early 1960s game with Kansas.  The sudden movement of the Tigers, in simulating a shift, caused Kansas to jump offside, giving Missouri a first down. 

 

As a Kansas-based reporter, I confronted Devine with the sucker shift charge in the dressing room. 

 

An angry Devine, denied the charge and implied the question was unfair and unreasonable.  There may have been something about yellow journalism, too.

 

Only recently did Devine confess the play was, indeed, a sucker shift.  "But I wouldn't have used it if we hadn't needed it to win," he said. 

 

*    *    *

 

Devine does a good imitation of an absent-minded professor; only sometimes it is not an imitation.

 

Once upon of time, he dressed one of his daughters, Dede, up like a boy, tucking her ponytail under a baseball cap, and took her with him to a game at Iowa State. Thus disguised she was allowed to roam the sidelines with the Missouri team.

 

At game's end, the Missouri team entered their dressing room.  Devine left his daughter on a bench near a door outside the locker room.

 

One problem: There was another door, which is where the team exited. Darkness was descending when a police officer found the little girl, afraid and weary, sitting in the empty stadium.

 

The police car raced her to the airport where she climbed aboard a chartered football plane, which was literally ready to roll out on the tarmac.

 

*    *    *

 

An Iowa sportswriter, visiting   the Devine's Phoenix home, found a scuffed-up football rotting away in the middle of the backyard. He picked I up, and on closer look found an autograph reading: "Joe Montana."

 

Devine was oblivious to what such an historic ball might go for in the memorabilia market…the grandkids just needed a ball to play with, he said.

 

*    *    *

 

After a round of golf riding in a cart with Devine, I discovered the four-iron from my new set of PING clubs was missing.  I called Devine, asking him to check his bag.  He did and called back to say the club wasn't there. I then checked fruitlessly with other two members of our foursome. 

 

I called every golf course I had played in the last month, to make inquiries.  No club found. I tried Devine again.  Nope, he said, he had not found the club.

 

I waited a month for the club to show up.  No luck.  PING, whose manufacturing plant is in Phoenix, made a duplicate for me.

 

Another month passed.  My wife and I were entering the Devine house through the garage, because it was the shortest route.  Hanging from the wall was an ancient mildewed canvas golf bag.  In it was a bunch of balls, so old they looked like walnuts.   In the bag was a broken hockey stick and --- and my lost four iron.  I took it inside to show Dan.  He was sure I set him up.  I did not.

 

*    *    *

 

In 1966, Nebraska kicked the tar out of Missouri. Each Nebraska touchdown was followed by the Husker fight song, which ends with, "There is no place like Nebraska, good ole Nebraska U."

 

That phrase grated like a squeaky piece of chalk on the Missouri fans, team and, most of all , Devine. 

 

The following year, Devine dispatched an assistant to Lincoln, Neb., to get a record of that fight song. 

 

On the week of the Nebraska game the next year, Devine put the record on the loud speaker in the locker room.  It blared at max volume from early morning until late night.  The stage was set for Devine's big scene.  All the troops came together for a Friday pep talk. 

 

"I'm sick and tired of that danged record," Devine said.  So he dispatched an assistant to bring the record to him.  He grabbed it from the assistant's hands and announced, "We're going to break this thing. 

 

The coach threw the ball to the floor and jumped on it.  It did not break.  By then, coaches and players were hiding their grins behind their hands.

 

Devine then clutched the record with two hands and slammed it over his knee.  Still it did not break. The audience was one snicker away from a genuine guffaw.

 

Frustrated, Devine threw the record out through a window. 

 

Strangely enough, Missouri won the next day. 

 

All's well, that ends well.


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