1963 has a nice sound to Navy

College football: For the Mids, a win over the Irish is long overdue.

Decades Between Wins

College Football

October 15, 2004|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

It was not a milestone season in the storied history of Notre Dame football.

The Irish were in a transitional period between the Joe Kuharich era and the arrival of Ara Parseghian, who would quickly restore their glory and bring a national championship to South Bend, Ind., three years later.

Hugh Devore was a stopgap coach for 1963 and Notre Dame won only twice in nine starts that autumn after a late-November game at Iowa was canceled to honor the memory of President John F. Kennedy, who had been assassinated earlier that week.

So, when senior Tom Lynch, a fiery center-middle linebacker from Ohio, led a nationally prominent Navy squad onto the field in South Bend, the Midshipmen fully expected to dominate. Indeed, the academy won, 35-14, then proceeded to a 9-1 record before losing to No. 1 Texas in the Cotton Bowl.

The Midshipmen, who confront Notre Dame at the Meadowlands tomorrow, are still seeking their next victory in a series that is renewed annually.

"Tom was kind of the nuts and bolts of that team," said Roger Staubach, the then-junior quarterback who captured the Heisman Trophy after the 1963 season, served a portion of his military commitment in Vietnam and eventually led the NFL Dallas Cowboys to two Super Bowl titles. "He kind of kept everything together. We all depended on him. The man exudes leadership."

Lynch was a two-platoon player, the center on offense and middle linebacker on defense. He was feisty and demonstrative -and a member of a clan with deep Irish roots.

"We have domers [Notre Dame graduates] all over the family," he said with a chuckle from his Philadelphia home. The most notable athletically was brother Jim, a highly recruited freshman at South Bend the year Navy prevailed and later a standout linebacker with the Kansas City Chiefs. "I'm the only one who went to Navy.

"I remember we went to Elkhart, Ind., after we won and all had dinner. Jim had a Notre Dame jersey on and I told him `I'd be embarrassed to wear that.' He took that comment very seriously."

Seven members of the Lynch family attended Notre Dame, including Tom's own daughter and son-in-law. But Tom was a Navy man through and through. He rose to the rank of admiral, served as superintendent of the Naval Academy from 1991 through 1994 and spent a year at the Pentagon before retiring from military life.

"We took Notre Dame handily that year," he said of 1963. "They were way down, but to me, it was still a big deal to go to South Bend and win because of the family connection. It had really been something when I went out there as a sophomore. Everybody was talking about Army-Navy, but just to beat the Irish was a big thing."

In the past decade, Lynch's interest in finance has guided him back into rejoining his teammates with The Staubach Co., a Dallas-based firm that deals in commercial real estate. Lynch is the senior vice president and director of federal programs.

Besides Staubach and Lynch, executives with the company include '63 fullback Pat Donnelly, who scored three touchdowns in the win over the Irish, and the team's leading receiver, Skip Orr.

"We're still all working together," said Staubach, a member of both the college and professional football Halls of Fame. "They keep me under control. I consider it very lucky to have gotten Tom after he retired."

Staubach said he remembers Lynch most for two key interceptions in a showdown with Pittsburgh. Lynch doesn't recall anything particularly noteworthy about himself in the historic Notre Dame game.

"Mostly, I think about going against a 6-1 defense," said Lynch. "Roger would get up under center and pinch me on the butt. I'd snap the ball right away and he'd always get three or four yards on that play."

"We were very good, capable of beating anybody in the country," said Staubach. "And Tom was a great captain, pulling together that mixture of seniors and juniors."

It was clearly a different game in 1963. There were fewer specialists. No one on the Navy roster was listed above 231 pounds, the weight of running backs at some major programs today. A 50-man team with a slew of two-way players.

"I was one of the biggest guys on the team at about 220 pounds," said Lynch. "And, yes, I would say I was vocal."

After several close calls in recent Navy-Notre Dame games, the old guard, including the members of the '63 unit, is crossing its fingers this year.

"I would say we ought to be able to beat them every 40 years or so," said Staubach. "It's now a big deal for us to beat Notre Dame."

No one would agree more than Tom Lynch.

Next for Navy

Matchup: Navy (5-0) vs. Notre Dame (4-2)

Site: Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.

When: Tomorrow, noon

TV/Radio: Chs. 13, 9/WJFK (1300 AM), WNAV (1430 AM)

Line: Notre Dame by 6 1/2

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