Oldest surviving Notre Dame assistant football coach dies at 89

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Bob McBride, the oldest surviving University of Notre Dame assistant football coach and a former Irish player as well, died Wednesday night at Dujarie House at Holy Cross Village in Notre Dame, Ind. He was 89.

McBride endured a rollercoaster of life experiences during the 1940s, as his football playing career at Notre Dame was interrupted by World War II service that saw him spend four months as a German prisoner of war. He returned for his senior season and was a member of the 1946 Notre Dame national championship team, later serving as an offensive line coach in the final five years of the Frank Leahy era (1949-53).

The five seasons that McBride spent on Leahy’s staff produced a combined 37-8-4 record, including a consensus national title in 1949 (10-0) and a 9-0-1 mark in 1953. Among the all-star linemen coached by McBride were Jim Martin, Jerry Groom, Bob Toneff and Art Hunter.

McBride came to Notre Dame in the fall of 1940, following an all-state senior season as a fullback at Logan (Ohio) High School. He earned Notre Dame monograms in 1941 and '42 as the starting right guard -- then entered military service in the spring of '43, ultimately serving as a machine gun squad leader in the 106th infantry division.

His division quickly shifted to the Belgian front and met the Germancounter-offensive in the Battle of the Bulge. Almost 7,000 men from the 106th were killed or captured, with McBride taken prisoner on Dec. 21, 1944. While suffering from frozen feet, he was forced to walk 13 days and was placed in two prison camps before a 50-day march during the German retreat. A starvation diet --one-seventh of a loaf of bread per day -- resulted in McBride's weight dropping from 212 to 90 pounds, before he was liberated 122 days into his imprisonment (ending 39 months of service). He received three battle stars, a purple heart and the presidential unit citation.

McBride used a summer construction job to build up his body before returning to the Irish in the fall of 1946. Relegated to a reserve role, he was an inspiration for his teammates, who rallied to have him serve as captain for the huge mid-season game with Army. That historic clash ended in a 0-0 tie (avenging major losses to Army the previous two seasons) and Notre Dame went on to claim the national title (8-0-1).

The only practice McBride ever missed was the day his son Patrick was born. McBride and the former Mary Stein had been married shortly before he departed for the war and their family now includes seven children and a long list of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

McBride -- who received Notre Dame's prestigious Byron Kanaley Award(recognizing exemplary student-athletes/leaders) -- compiled a 16-3 record as head football coach at Chicago's Mt. Carmel High School before returning toNotre Dame in 1949 as offensive line coach. His skill at breaking down gametape and overall coaching ability made him one of the most valuable members of the program during the final Leahy years.

When Leahy departed in 1953, McBride followed him into a steel alloy business and later became involved with the trucking business in Michigan City. The McBride family then spent 12 years in Savanna, Ga., and 12 more in Tucson, Ariz., before Bob and Mary (Stein) came full-circle back to South Bend in 2003. In 1991 the University of Notre Dame Alumni Association presented McBride with the Harvey G. Foster Award, conferred on an alumnus/alumna (living or deceased), some of whom are athletes or in athletic endeavors, who have distinguished themselves through civic or University activities.

Robert James McBride was born Sept. 6, 1922, in Logan, Ohio. He graduated from Notre Dame in 1947 with a degree in sociology.


(Source: This was a press release from the University of Notre Dame)

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