The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, September 08, 2021 9:30 pm

Former Irish halfback, coach Brennan passes away

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

Former Notre Dame coach Terry Brennan, who led the Irish for five seasons in the 1950s and also played for Notre Dame in the 1940s, has passed away at the age of 93, according to a release from the university.

Brennan coached the Irish from 1954 to 1958, compiling a 32-18 record, including a 9-1 campaign and No. 4 final ranking in his inaugural season. In his later years leading the program, Notre Dame imposed restrictions on scholarships in order to emphasize academics at the university and his teams did not achieve quite the same success, though the Irish did finish in the top 15 in three of the Milwaukee native's final four seasons as coach.

The only season in which that was not true was 1956, when Notre Dame went 2-8, still the worst winning percentage in program history (the team also went 2-8 in 1960, under Brennan's successor, Joe Kuharich). In '56, do-everything star Paul Hornung was so good that he won the Heisman Trophy despite the team's record. 

In 1957, the Irish went 7-3 and earned one of the most memorable victories in program history, beating Oklahoma 7-0 to snap the Sooners' Division I record 47-game winning streak. 

Brennan was also with the Irish for another iconic moment in the team's annals. As a halfback in 1946, he was on the field for Notre Dame's 0-0 tie with Army, a game that propelled the Irish to the first of back-to-back national championships. Brennan, who played for Notre Dame from 1945 to 1948, was around for both of those titles. In his career, he ran for more than 1,200 yards (4.4 per carry) and also caught 31 passes for close to 450 yards. During his four seasons on campus, the Irish went 33-2-3. They did not lose a game his final three seasons in South Bend as a player.

Brennan was the 51st overall pick in the 1949 NFL Draft, but chose to become a coach instead, taking a job at Mount Carmel High School in Chicago. He led the Caravan to three city titles before joining the Notre Dame staff. After one season as an assistant under coach Frank Leahy, Leahy retired and Brennan, still only 25 years old, was named the head coach of the Irish, the youngest coach in program history.

Brennan is survived by six children, 25 grandchildren and 32 great grandchildren.

Subscribe to our newsletters

* indicates required