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Hugh John Devore (November 25, 1910 – December 8, 1992) was a football player and coach whose close connection to the University of Notre Dame saw him serve in both capacities, while also seeing time as head coach at two other colleges as well as the National Football League's Philadelphia Eagles.
Devore was born and raised in Newark, New Jersey, and was a three-sport star at the city's St. Benedict's Prep. He was then recruited by the legendary Knute Rockne to play at Notre Dame. While playing on the freshman squad in 1930, Devore caught Rockne's eye during an intrasquad scrimmage when he stopped All-America quarterback Frank Carideo with a crushing tackle. Unfortunately, Devore never had the opportunity to play for Rockne in an official game after the coach was killed in a plane crash on March 31, 1931.
During his three years as a member of the Fighting Irish varsity, Devore played at end under Hunk Anderson, serving as co-captain during his senior year in 1933. Upon graduating from the school, Devore stayed at Notre Dame the following year as freshman football coach, then followed fellow Irish alum Jim Crowley as line coach at Fordham University in 1935.
Providence College, Holy CrossEdit
Following three seasons in that role, made famous by his coaching Fordham's iconic "Seven Blocks of Granite," a unit that included future Pro Football Hall of Fame coach Vince Lombardi he accepted his first head coaching position when he was hired at Providence College on January 20, 1938 and served as head coach of the Friars through the 1941 season and compiled a record of 12–19–2. After finishing his fourth season with the Friars, Devore then took an assistant coaching position with Holy Cross College on January 11, 1942. His one year at the school was marked by his outstanding scouting report of rival Boston College, leading to a stunning 55–12 upset of the Eagles in the season finale. In a strange twist of fate, Devore probably saved the lives of most or all of the BC players. The overconfident BC team had made reservations at Boston's Cocoanut Grove nightclub to celebrate their victory but cancelled. That night Cocoanut Grove burned down with the loss of 492 lives.
Back at Notre DameEdit
Devore then returned to his alma mater as ends coach the following year. When Irish head coach Frank Leahy entered the U.S. Navy in early 1944, Edward McKeever was named interim head coach and guided the Irish to an 8–2 record. However, when McKeever accepted the head coaching slot at Cornell University, Devore took his place on March 6, 1945. Notre Dame started that season in strong fashion with five straight wins and was ranked second in the nation, but a 48–0 thrashing by a potent Army squad ended hopes of a national title, with the Irish closing out the year with a 7–2–1 mark.
Upon Leahy's return, Devore was under consideration for the head coaching position at the University of Arkansas, but instead signed to lead St. Bonaventure College on February 13, 1946. In his first three years, Devore led his teams to a 19–5–1 record, including a 7–1–1 mark in 1948, an effort that earned him a new three-year contract. Yet after one 6–4 season, Devore announced his resignation on February 2, 1950 to accept the head coaching position at New York University, citing the proximity to his New Jersey roots.
New York UniversityEdit
Devore was the 24th and last college football coach for the New York University Violets located in New York, New York. His coaching record at NYU was 4–17–2. This ranks him tenth at NYU in total wins and 20th at NYU in winning percentage.
Devore had entered the job in hopes of improving the fortunes of the once-powerful program which had struggled after years of neglect and strict academic standards that had led to a severe downturn. The effort went for naught when after three years of trying, the school announced on March 10, 1953 that it was dropping its football program after 80 seasons, leaving Devore and his staff looking for work.
Green Bay Packers, University of DaytonEdit
Less than a month later, Devore found employment at the professional level for the first time as an assistant with the NFL's Green Bay Packers. That role lasted only one season, with Devore and Ray McLean serving as co-coaches for the team's final two games. Devore then returned to the colleges as head coach at the University of Dayton on January 6, 1954. After two seasons with the Flyers in which he compiled an 8–11–1 record (one of his players was future Notre Dame head coach Gerry Faust), homesickness pangs once again led him to accept the position of head coach of the NFL Eagles on January 9, 1956. The move, prompted by the strong urgings of league commissioner Bert Bell, engendered some controversy after Devore had first turned the position down because of his new four-year contract with Dayton.
Despite adding assistants such as former New York Giants head coach Steve Owen, Devore struggled during his two seasons in the City of Brotherly Love, compiling a mark of 7–16–1. The poor record led to Devore's firing on January 11, 1958, but the mentor quickly found work again at Notre Dame as freshman coach and assistant athletic director.
Second return to Notre DameEdit
The following year, after having recommended his former Fordham player Vince Lombardi for the Packers' head coaching position, Devore was retained as freshman coach by new head coach Joe Kuharich after Terry Brennan was dismissed along with his entire staff. Then when Kuharich resigned during spring practice in March 1963, Devore was once again named interim head coach at the school. In a complete reversal of his earlier stint, Devore's one season at the helm saw Notre Dame hit rock bottom with a 2–7 record. One of the few bright spots was a midseason 17–14 upset of the University of Southern California, while the season finale against Syracuse University saw Devore adorn his team in bright green jerseys, a sharp contrast to the school's traditional blue and gold.
Despite the 2–7 docket in 1963, the beloved, personable Devore, affectionately known as "Hughie," boosted the morale of the squad that had been left devoid of emotion under Kuharich. He knew all along that he was merely a stopgap measure while the search for a permanent replacement was being conducted and maintained, "I'll do whatever Notre Dame feels is best for me." The following year, he was presented with a game ball after Notre Dame's victory over Stanford, and new coach Ara Parseghian praised Devore for making his job that much easier.
The arrival of Ara Parseghian brought an exciting new era to the Golden Dome, including a near-national championship during his first season in 1964. Devore served as assistant athletic director during each of Parseghian's first two years, but on February 9, 1966, he was hired as an assistant coach for the American Football League's Houston Oilers under Wally Lemm.
After five years in that capacity, Devore then went to work as promotions director for the Houston Sports Association, dealing primarily with bringing in events for the city's Astrodome. He continued working until retiring at the age of 75 in 1986.
Health issues led Devore to move in with his daughter, Noreen, in August 1992, and four months later, he died, nearly two weeks after his 82nd birthday. His death was overshadowed in the Notre Dame community by the passing of former Irish athletic director Moose Krause, who died in his sleep two days later.
Devore was married to the former Madeline Foster on January 15, 1938, who preceded him in death. They had seven children. Devore's grandsons, Charlie Haas and Russ Haas were professional wrestlers who worked for WWE.
- ↑ (PDF) Providence College Fighting Friars 1921–1941. Providence, Rhode Island: Providence College Special Collections. http://library.providence.edu/spcol/pcfootball/flip/media/media_21_41.pdf. Retrieved November 6, 2011.
- ↑ The Ultimate Guide to College Football, James Quirk, 2004
- ↑ New York University Violets coaching records
- ↑ http://www.obsessedwithwrestling.com/profiles/r/russ-haas.php
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