Dan Devine is one of the most successful coaches in college football and he directs perhaps the most prestigious and tradition-laden team in America Notre Dame.
In 19 seasons as a college head coach - three at Arizona State, 13 at Missouri and the last four at Notre Dame - Devine has won 153 games, making him the fifth most successful active coach in the country, both in number of victories and in winning percentage.
The 53-year-old Devise who coached the Green Bay Packers of the National Football League from 1971 until 1974, directing them to an NFC Central Division championship in 1972.
Tomorrow, the Irish, defending national champions and winners of five straight games since losing their first two this season, will play undefeated Navy in Cleveland.
In a 45-minute interview yesterday with staff writer David DuPree, Devine discussed a number of topics. Following are excerpts from that discussion:
Q. One of the things about Notre Dame is that most people assume there must be a great deal of pressure on any coach here because of the tradition, the schedule and everything else associated with the school. Is there more pressure here than you feel there would be at another school?
A. That's what people want to read and that's what they want to believe - that there's tremendous pressure on the Notre Dame coach. I work for two people, Father Hesburgh and Father Joyce. They're my bosses and they don't put any pressure on me whatsover. As a matter of fact, they keep it off me. I've never had anybody try harder to keep pressure off a guy than what they do for me. Other people may expect a great deal and try to exert pressure, but I don't feel it. Father Hesburgh and Father Joyce are the ones who control my destiny.
I'm not a wealthy man, but I gave up the best financial deal my coach ever had when I left Missouri. I had a 10-year contract, academic tenure as a full professor, a huge life insurance policy and I was athletic director. I already gave up the best financial job in the country so I don't feel any pressure here. If I did, I just wouldn't want to be here. The only real pressure is pressure I put on myself trying to work 16 to 18 hours a day. I'm tired.
Q. Do you still have hopes that Notre Dame will go to a major bowl this season?
A. We took a position, the squad and myself, that we would take one game at a time, just like we did last year. If something nice happens to us, then we'll appreciate it.
Q. Is Navy really that good or, is it succeeding because of a solf schedule?
A: I think Navy is a great team. The only really good Navy team since 1963 was the 1975 team, so it's tough to convince some people that Navy isn't still a 2-8 or 1-9 team. That has just stuck in people's minds.
I think people are going to look back at their game with Pitt and say, "My goodness, they held Pittsburgh to minus 28 yards rushing." Pittsburgh is going to play Penn State, the No. 2 team in the nation, and I guarantee you that they will make more than 28 yards rushing against Penn State.
Navy has good athletes. You could recognize this thing building up over the years. In 1975, they had a good team but slacked off a bit in 1976 and 1977, but they weren't 2-8 any of those years. Their people were steadily getting better and better and now they have put it all together. They always had a great nose guard and they always had a great defensive halfback.
Now Navy has people who can play any place and they're all well-coached. Two of them even wrote me after the 1976 season and wanted to transfer here.If we had taken transfers, I would have taken them. They were that good.
Q: Are you in favor of a playoff structure to decide the national championship?
A: I'm definitely in favor of a playoff and I know it can work. Just get everybody together and appoint a committee and put the responsibility on the committee to make up the playoff structure. Then just put it to a vote and if it is voted yes and some team doesn't want to get into it, they don't have to and they can't win a national championship, either. It's done in basketball, track and swimming. Do it the same way. Come up with a plan.
Q. Is recruiting the toughest expect about being a college coach, because you are dealing with 17- and 18-year-old youngsters?
A: Yes, but sometimes they are as bad as their parents, so you can't put it into an age group. The thing that bothers you and its kind of frustrating to any coach is that when the youngster comes in to visit and you talk with him and he's all goggle-eyed and excited and sold on Notre Dame and then you visit him three months later after all this fussing and now his sense of values has been distorted. And we as coaches did it to him. We're creating monsters out of some good kids.
You need to be able to buy him a dinner and he appreciated a 10-ounce steak and he had never had a shrimp cocktail. Then, three months later when you took him out he ordered two shrimp cocktails and a 16-ounce steak. Now, these kids come in with a distorted sense of values and they find out on the first day of classes that they aren't so cool after all. Their assignment isn't to read 10 pages but to read an entire book. You have to spoil them to get them and then unspoil them once they are yours. Thankfully, this year, we've been able to unspoil our entire freshman team.
Q: What is the basic difference between coaching professional and college players?
A: When I first came here, I said there were two basic differences. One was the procurement of players, recruiting versus the draft, trades, etc. Second was the amount of time you have to prepare each week. We get our kids on the field sometimes at 4:30. We have an hour and a half. In pro bail, if you wanted to, you could have been meeting this morning at seven o'clock.
The longer I'm here I realize that I really enjoy a 17-year-old kid coming in and maybe my having some influence over his life and being able to help him along.
Q: What is your basic offensive philosophy?
A: I try to do what my personnel can do best. In my career. I've had a guy who holds an NCAA passing record. I also had one who has a rushing record. The key is just going with what you've got and having the guts to do it without worrying about what the alumni thinks. This I will say, though: there has never been a great football coach who at some time in his life hasn't been branded conservative.