Cover image for Return to glory : inside Tyrone Willingham's amazing first season at Notre Dame
Return to glory : inside Tyrone Willingham's amazing first season at Notre Dame
Grant, Alan (Alan H.)
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
Boston : Little, Brown and Co., [2003]

Physical Description:
292 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 24 cm
General Note:
Includes index.
Personal Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
GV939.W555 G73 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
GV939.W555 G73 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Notre Dame's Football Program, for decades the most celebrated in the nation, was in disarray. After a lamentable five wins in 2001, the team was dispirited and desperately in need of leadership. Facing one of their toughest schedules ever in 2002, the players had little to look forward to -- until Tyrone Willingham showed up. This stoic and mysterious new coach, who shunned the glare of media attention, wasted no time reclaiming the national spotlight for his team. Set on recapturing the glory of earlier eras in his very first season at Notre Dame, Willingham proved from the very first game that he had transformed a struggling group of players into the most exciting team in the country. By the season's end, he had doubled the team's victories from the year before and earned himself the distinction of winning more games in his first year than any other coach in Irish history. And it wasn't just the Notre Dame record books that took note. As one of only four black coaches in all of Division I-A football, and Notre Dame's first black coach in any sport, Willingham caught the attention of fans nationwide. Earning the titles "Coach of the Year" from ESPN and "Sportsman of the Year" from Sporting News, he staked his claim as one of the major forces in college football. In Return to Glory, Alan Grant takes readers inside Notre Dame's program as no one has seen it before. Given exclusive access to the players and coaching staff, he masterfully re-creates, week by week, the drama of a team playing above all expectations and the maneuverings of a master strategist facing the biggest challenge of his life. Most of all, he takes readers behind the famously stone-faced persona of Ty Willingham, revealing the warmth, intelligence, and originality that inspired the players and fans. From sweltering summer practices to tense coaches' meetings to the sidelines of the Gator Bowl, Grant shows how a single season transformed one of the nation's most renowned sports programs -- and how an unlikely pairing of coach and university proved to be the beginning of something huge. Book jacket.

Author Notes

Alan Grant played football under Tyrone Willingham at Stanford in the late eighties, was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts, and played five seasons as a defensive back for the 49ers, Bengals, and Redskins. He spent the 2002 football season with Notre Dame, attending practices, team meetings, strategy sessions, and games. He writes for ESPN's Web site and ESPN The Magazine

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

The football team at Notre Dame, once among the best in the country, has had a rough couple of decades. After slipping lower and lower in the standings, the team was badly in need of a boost. Enter Tyrone Willingham, the school's first black football coach. Against heavy odds and the preconceptions of a lot of people, Willingham led the team to 10 victories in 2002 and an appearance in a major bowl game. If the Fighting Irish haven't quite been restored to their Rockne-era glory, they have certainly made remarkable strides in just one season. Written by a sportswriter and former footballer who played under Willingham in the late 1980s, this account follows the Irish through the 2002 season. The game-by-game reports are standard sports fare, but the portrait of Willingham is more memorable. Grant captures the excitement of college football through the lens of a man whose love of the game, whose sheer exuberance in the face of often-daunting odds, brought an entire team, if not an entire school, back to life. --David Pitt Copyright 2003 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

In a plodding portrayal that is reverent to a fault, Grant, a writer for ESPN, chronicles the challenges and triumphs of Tyrone Willingham's first year at the helm of the nation's most storied college football team: the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Grant highlights the significance and pressure on Willingham as the school's first black coach in any sport, and he does provide the requisite behind-the-scenes glimpses of the program that are sure to pique the interest of any Irish fan. Indeed, one of the most engrossing incidents features Willingham derisively breaking down tape of his former team, Stanford, and clearly laying the blame at the feet of its new coach. But the writing itself is formulaic and dull. Aside from painful extended metaphors like describing Willingham and the team as a jazz combo, Grant occasionally strays from his otherwise distant, professional tone with awkward dips into slang that he seems to think sports talk demands. He refers to Touchdown Jesus, a mosaic on the university library, as having a "certain bling-bling"; he describes an opposing receiver as getting "truly Heisman on their asses"; and at one point he bizarrely refers to Willingham as "the most popular Negro in America." In addition, Grant is so adoring of Willingham that the coach hardly comes across as human. Grant played football for him at Stanford, and a first-person player's perspective would have been revealing. The book has enough details and anecdotes to keep a rabid Notre Dame fan turning pages, but it will hardly be of interest to a wider audience or leave much of a mark in the realm of sports literature. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Last season, Notre Dame's football team went from being a runt of a program and shadow of its Knute Rockne self to being national title contenders and genuine Saturday afternoon badasses. The principal architect of this transformation is Ty Winningham, Notre Dame's taciturn, tough-as-a-bag-of-three-penny-nails new head coach. Grant, a football writer for ESPN, gives us a good look at Willingham and his gold-helmeted soldiers. Grant writes from afar, and when he says that Willingham keeps the press at arm's length, it means him, too. But his recitation of the games and the significance of each aspect is rendered in the typically clear style a reader would expect from ESPN. Grant's distant but informative portrait of Willingham is well researched and clever. As always, books about one coach and team for one season (e.g., Nick Cafardo's The Impossible Team about the 2002 New England Patriots) are myopic to a fault and can scare off readers with general interests in sports or academic audiences. Recommended for public libraries with patrons specifically interested in the Notre Dame football team.-James Miller, Springfield Coll. Lib., MA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Prologuep. 3
1. Rock Bottomp. 5
2. Waking Up Echoesp. 20
3. Training Campp. 32
4. "Something's Happening Here!"p. 45
5. Marylandp. 59
6. Purdue and the Mediap. 77
7. Michiganp. 97
8. Michigan Statep. 110
9. Stanfordp. 129
10. Pittsburghp. 146
11. Air Forcep. 159
12. Florida Statep. 171
13. Boston Collegep. 185
14. Navyp. 207
15. Rutgersp. 218
16. USCp. 230
17. Season of Change?p. 242
18. Validationp. 252
19. The Gator Bowlp. 259
20. Return to Gloryp. 272
Acknowledgmentsp. 281
Indexp. 283