Former Notre Dame football coach who took down Oklahoma's 47-game win streak, Terry Brennan, dies

ND Insider Staff Report
Notre Dame player and coach Terry Brennan, football, 1928-2021

Former Notre Dame football coach Terry Brennan, who led the Irish to a 7-0 victory over Oklahoma in 1957 that snapped the Sooners’ 47-game win streak, has died at his home in Wilmette, Ill. He was 93. 

The University announced Brennan’s death Wednesday afternoon. 

A former halfback on Notre Dame’s 1946 and 1947 national championship teams, Brennan was just 25 years old when he was hired as Notre Dame’s head coach in 1954, replacing the legendary Frank Leahy. 

When asked if he was too young, Brennan famously said, “Oh, I don't know. I'll be 26 in a few months.” 

Brennan’s ND coaching career

Year, record (final AP ranking): 

1954 — 9-3 (4) 

1955 — 8-2 (9) 

1956 — 2-8 (NR) 

1957 — 7-3 (10) 

1958 — 6-4 (17) 

OVERALL — 32-18 

In five seasons as a coach under the Golden Dome, Brennan compiled a 32-18 record, including a 9-1 campaign his first year, the lone loss coming to No. 19 Purdue in the second game when the Irish were ranked No. 1.  

Brennan was 8-2 in 1955 before a dreadful 2-8 mark in 1956. The silver lining in that season was Paul Hornung who led the Irish in passing, rushing, scoring, kickoffs, punt returns and punting on his way to the Heisman Trophy.

► More:'I wish I had 11 Paul Hornungs': Former Notre Dame coach Terry Brennan reflects on legend

► More:Throwback Thursday: Notre Dame snapped 47-game win streak

“He was a 60-minute performer,” Brennan said of Hornung, who died in November 2020. 

Brennan’s finest hour at Notre Dame came on Nov. 16, 1957 in Norman, Okla., when the Irish shut out the Sooners, 7-0, snapping their 47-game winning streak.  

Dick Lynch ran in for the game’s only score late in the fourth quarter, capping a 20-play, 80-yard drive. 

Notre Dame player Dick Lynch, right, who scored the winning touchdown in the game, is all smiles as he shows head coach Terry Brennan a magazine article titled: "Why Oklahoma is Unbeatable" as the team arrives back in South Bend on Nov. 16, 1957 after defeating the Sooners 7-0.
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Following a 6-4 season in 1958, Brennan was fired. He would not coach football again. He served as a conditioning coach for the Cincinnati Reds baseball team in 1959 before joining a Chicago investment banking firm.

As a player, Brennan rushed for 1,716 yards and averaged 5.8 yards per carry across four seasons (1945-48). 

Brennan co-authored a book with William Meiners and his son Terry Jr., about the 1957 win over Oklahoma titled “Though the Odds Be Great or Small,” that was released just last month by Loyola Press. 

Brennan was preceded in death by his wife Kel (Mary Louise Kelley) and is survived by Terry Brennan (Gilmore), Denise “Dinny” Dwyer (John),  Jane Lipton (Richard), Chris Brennan (Dianne), Joe Brennan, Matt Brennan (Marilyn) along with 25 grandchildren and 32 great grandchildren. 

A Celebration of Life mass service will be held Friday, Sept. 10 at 11 a.m.) at Saints Faith, Hope & Charity Catholic Church in Winnetka, Illinois.