By: Phil Houk of Fighting Irish Preview
After the 1924 season Knute Rockne convinced Notre Dame officials that a trip out West to play in a Bowl would be lucrative for the University and proceeds could be invested in campus expansion projects. Rockne, always the promoter, had another thought in mind: he knew that a trip to California would expand ND football’s media footprint beyond the Midwest and Northeast.
Both thoughts won out and a 9-0 Fighting Irish team traveled to play the 7-0-1 Stanford Indians in the Rose Bowl.
A three-week trip by train to Las Angeles was conducted like a Presidential election whistle stop tour. Rockne stopped frequently along the way for practice, to acclimate his players to warmer weather, and to spread the gospel of Notre Dame Football.
The game matched Rockne with another great football mind, Pop Warner and featured the final game played together by the Four Horseman: Stuhlderher, Miller, Crowley and Layden. Stanford featured triple threat fullback Ernie Nevers who had suffered a broken ankle during the season but he was cleared to play in the game, just 5 days after having a cast removed.
The game was hard fought and Nevers carried the ball 34 times for 114 yards. But he also threw 2 interceptions, both picked off by Elmer Layden and returned for touchdowns. Layden also added a rushing TD and The Irish prevailed 27-10.
Soon after, the Irish were awarded their first ever National Championship.
And indeed, the trip out west, increased the University’s fame and was lucrative for Notre Dame. The proof is visible on the Notre Dame campus today: a major dormitory, Dillion Hall was constructed with the proceeds received for playing in the game.
And the game had one other long-lasting impact on the Notre Dame football program. Bonnie Rockne, the wife of Knute was so taken by the Southern California weather during the visit, that she convinced Notre Dame that they should make regular appearances in Los Angeles.
In 1926, the annual series with Southern Cal commenced, but it would be 45 years before Notre Dame would appear in another Bowl game.