Notre Dame Legend Terry Brennan Dead at 93

by Jonathan Howard

Legendary Notre Dame football star Terry Brennan has passed away at 93. Throughout the 1940s and 50s, Brennan helped define Notre Dame football. During his time as a player, the Fighting Irish won two national championships. From 1964-48 the team had a record of 26-0-2. He played alongside Heisman winner John Lujack and Leon Hart.

Notre Dame announced his death on Wednesday this week. Brennan passed on Tuesday. He had been living in Wilmette, Illinois. Right now, there is no confirmed cause of death.

While his time as a player was impressive, Terry Brennan also became a legend as a coach. Although he could have gone to play in the NFL, he was drafted 51st overall in the fifth round by the Philadelphia Eagles, he didn’t. Instead, he moved to Illinois, started coaching football at Mount Caramel High School, and earned his law degree from DePaul. In three straight years, his team won the Chicago city championship from 1951-1953.

His success at the high school level, made the folks at Notre Dame take notice. It was after that 1953 season that Brennan went back to South Bend to coach the freshman football team. Just one year later, he would be selected to replace Frank Leahy. He was just 25 years old. In his first two seasons as head coach, the Irish had a record of 17-3. However, in his third season, things went a little south.

Later Years of the Terry Brennan Era

After those first couple of seasons, things just didn’t go well for Terry Brennan. He finished in 1956 with a 2-8 record. There were two big losses, one to Michigan State and another to Oklahoma. The Fighting Irish lost by a combined score of 87-14. That included a 40-0 romping from the Sooners. Soon, the board was recommending that the coach be fired.

Despite that recommendation, Notre Dame would retain Brennan for two more seasons. They finished 1957 with a 7-3 record and as the No. 10 team in the country. That year they ended Oklahoma’s record-breaking 47-game win streak. However, that success wouldn’t go far. The next season Brennan was fired after a 6-4 finish.

Notre Dame fans have long debated the firing. If it was or wasn’t warranted. Who was to blame, the coach, or the school. The school had cut back on scholarships and made its academic standards more rigorous. It would be the last time he coached football. Afterward, he moved back to the Chicago suburbs and worked a life in banking and investment. A true Notre Dame Irishman through and through. He was cherished by fans for years.

Terry Brennan was preceded by his wife in death. He is survived by six children, 25 grandchildren, and 32 great-grandchildren. That is the best legacy he could possibly leave.