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ND Athletics Remembers Father Ted

Notre Dame's 15th President Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh CSC was laid to rest Wednesday afternoon. While his impact was felt in far more important places than the campus athletic fields, members of the ND Athletics Family shared their memories of ND's greatest president.

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

In the days following the passing of Notre Dame's President Emeritus Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh CSC, heartfelt tributes and remembrances poured in from members of the Notre Dame family, civil rights activists, CEOs, politicians, and religious leaders. Father Ted's work frequently dealt with far more important matters than athletics, but he still shaped the landscape of college sports and the Notre Dame athletic department.. The priest was the commissioner on the Knight Commission which worked to reform collegiate athletics, influenced the lives of countless Notre Dame student athletes, and even penned an article for Sports Illustrated. Since I'm woefully unqualified to write about Hesburgh's amazing life, some tributes and remembrances from those associated with ND athletics follow.

Notre Dame Senior Associate Athletic Director John Heisler wrote an amazing piece detailing Father Ted's work in athletics for The piece covers both his work both at the university and in the college sports landscape at large.

In his autobiography Father Hesburgh laid out his vision, as articulated through the Knight Commission work, for three regulations to which college athletics departments should hold:

Academic Integrity: The college must graduate at least the same percentage of student-athletes as it does students who are nonathletes.
Fiscal Integrity: All funds derived from athletics (tickets, television, contributions of boosters) must go directly to the university and be dispensed only by the university.
Continuous Auditing: Just as academic programs are checked and accredited, just as university financial accounts are audited regularly, there shall be a continuous, ongoing audit by an outside agent, under the NCAA, with an annual report on the state of athletics from an academic, financial, and moral point of view. Thus can the public have confidence that colleges are doing what they say they are doing."

Two of the schools most successful basketball coaches also have fond memories of Hesburgh. Digger Phelps coached for the Irish while Father Ted was the school's president. He shares some of his best memories in this interview with WNDU. Digger also shared a letter to the school's paper The Observer.

Current coach Mike Brey also shared some of his memories of spending time smoking a cigar in Hesburgh's office in the library and the confidence the talks gave Coach Brey.

Also from the basketball program, Notre Dame All American and the school's first African American player Tommy Hawkins shared the story of Hesburgh standing up for all Notre Dame minority students when Hawkins was refused service at a South Bend pizza parlor. Hawkins also shared a poem he wrote about the priest in his letter to The Observer.

"The House of Hesburgh"
A Salute to Father Theodore M. Hesburgh

President Emeritus, University of Notre Dame

"Welcome to the House of Hesburgh - it has no walls and yet it is a fortress of humanity, intelligence and dignity. It is a bastion of religiosity, with windows open to the world. It is a place that you can go to restore your faith, talk and listen to your soul, chart your life's course and fortify yourself for the road ahead.

This home is filled with the love of God and our sacred Mother. It is a storehouse of forthright conviction, understanding and sage advice, honed by years of education, fervent prayer and effective living.

It is well decorated with mementos of an eclectic past. It features an endless array of both national and international awards and photographs documenting a life of historic accomplishments. It is a place where the echoes of the past miraculously blend with the hope of the future.

This wonderful homestead is landscaped with the beautiful flowers of spring, the green leaves of summer, the radiant change of colors of the fall and tinged with the blustery winds and swirling snows of winter. It is in every respect a place that stirs your being and inspires the spirit within you.

As you leave please go in peace, and upon departing, know that you have experienced the wonders of God through one of the most powerful and enlightened vicars of our time. Rest assured you will never forget that you have visited the House of Hesburgh."

Former football coach Lou Holtz was on of the many distinguished speakers at the Memorial Service Wednesday night. Lou spoke about how Notre Dame educates the whole person, and how Hesburgh was an hugely important part of making the school what it is today.

SportsCenter anchor and 1983 ND alum Hannah Storm penned a letter to the Observer as well. In it she recalls Hesburgh's advice to her in dealing with nerves before going on air.

Swimming and Diving Coach Tim Walsh recalls the time Father Hesburgh helped the coach through a terrible time following a bus accident that killed two students.

When speaking with the media to announce the new coaching hires, Football Coach Brian Kelly spoke about his memories of Hesburgh and the cross the priest blessed for the team.

All campus athletic events all held moments of silence, and each team added a sticker or patch to their uniforms in remembrance of Father Ted.

There are plans for commemorative signage in every campus athletic facility, but the details are not yet finalized. Lastly, Fighting Irish Digital Media created a video detailing Hesburgh's impact on athletics.

For non-athletic tributes and more information about the life of Father Hesburgh, the Observer's feature page contains a number of letters from the likes of President Carter, President Obama, and Cardinal Timothy Dolan, in addition to a lengthy obituary. Additionally, the university's website has video from the Tuesday night wake, and should have video of the funeral and memorial service posted soon. There is also information about nearly every aspect of Hesburgh's work at ND and around the world.

I had the pleasure of meeting Hesburgh my freshman year at the Notre Dame when he came to speak to Siegfried Hall. While I won't soon forget Hesburgh's stories about the Civil Right's Movement and flying at 2200 MPH in an SR-71 Blackbird, I regret not seeking out some time to speak to him individually about simple things like prayer and fishing.

Rest in Peace, Father Ted