The University of Notre Dame football team will officially open its 2016 training camp at Culver Academies Saturday morning. This is the third year coach Brian Kelley has brought the Irish to “Camp Culver,” which will consist of five practice days at Oliver Field. The team will then move back to the Notre Dame campus. The Culver practices are closed to the public, but you can stay connected by going to WatchND.tv for updates and features during the week.
“Camp Culver” is just part of the long history enjoyed between the two schools:
The Knute Rockne-Bob Peck Connection
- Legendary Notre Dame coach Knute Rockne and Culver Military Academy coach Bob Peck shared a long history. Both Rockne and Peck played professional football for the Massilion (Ohio) Tigers during the 1917 season.
- In 1922, as Rockne’s fame was increasing, he turned his football coaching schools into a profitable business. The first place to host his new venture was Culver Military. He later joined forces with University of Wisconsin basketball coach Walter (Doc) Meanwell to create a two-week football and basketball coaches camp, which was also conducted at Culver for at least two years: 1924 and 1925.
- On April 21, 1924, Rockne gave the dedication speech for the Culver Recreation Building. He is quoted as saying: “I believe that the great value of athletics lies in keeping the student body physically fit. I know of no place, with the possible exception of the United States Military Academy, where the athletic program is handled as well or where they get the results that they do at Culver.”
- At Peck’s request, Rockne gave a pep talk to the Eagles on Nov. 3, 1930, prior to CMA’s game against St. John’s Military Academy, which was played before 45,000 fans at Soldier Field on Nov. 8. The pep talk did the trick. CMA won, 19-0. A member of that team was Russ Oliver ’31, another Culver coaching legend. (Photo, left to right, Rockne, Peck, Oliver, and Perry Schultz ’31)
- Rockne’s two older sons, Knute Lars and William Dorais (called W.D. in the camp roster) attended Woodcraft Camp in 1927 and 1928.
- Both Rockne and Pitt died unexpectedly. Rockne, 43, died in a plane crash on March 31, 1931. Peck, 41, died June 14, 1932. His death was attributed to heart disease.
- Rockne (ND) and Peck (Pitt, where he was coached by “Pop” Warner) are members of the College Football Hall of Fame. Rockne was inducted posthumously in 1951. Peck was inducted posthumously in 1954.
More Irish ties to Culver
- Coach Lou Holtz brought the Fighting Irish to Culver Academies in 1995 and 1996. Two members of the current Notre Dame staff, Ron Powlus and Autry Denson, were members of Holtz’s teams that made the trip down from South Bend.
- The Irish men’s lacrosse and hockey teams have also visited Culver to kick off their fall practice sessions.
- Culver graduates have played/are playing for the Fighting Irish in football, fencing, hockey, men’s lacrosse, women’s lacrosse, rowing, and softball.
The Hesburgh Connection
- Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., the president emeritus of the University of Notre Dame, was the 1990 Baccalaureate speaker. During the service, Superintendent Ralph Manuel presented Father Hesburgh with the Culver Distinguished Service Award for his role “as not only one of the most outstanding citizens of the United States, but one of the most outstanding citizens of the world.”
- Father Hesburgh also served on the first board of advisers of Culver Academies’ Global Studies Institute, giving the program instant credibility. Several Notre Dame professors have come to campus as guest GSI and The Ron Rubin School speakers. Eleven GSI students also attended a special Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies event with Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu on Sept. 11, 2003.