The Last Flight of Knute Rockne

In March 1931, head coach Knute Rockne (‘14) boarded Transcontinental and Western Air Flight 599, headed to Los Angeles to participate in the production of The Spirit of Notre Dame. Tragically, the plane went down a few miles west of Bazaar, Kan., killing Rockne and the other seven on board. After leading Notre Dame to back-to-back national championships, Rockne’s death devastated the university community and shook the United States, with President Herbert Hoover declaring it “a national loss.” In this ‘Strong and True’ moment, former Irish head coach Ara Parseghian recalls his childhood, and the time he found out about the Irish coach’s passing. The accompanying images from the crash, as well as Rockne’s funeral, are from the University of Notre Dame Archives.

artist's depiction

An artist’s drawing depicting the tragic plane crash that took the life of Knute Rockne and seven others.

Toledo headline

Headline from The Toledo Blade following Rockne’s death.

plane crash

Looking through the wreckage of the TWA Flight 599 crash.

Rockne grave site

Notre Dame athletes gathered at Rockne’s grave site in April 1931.

Rockne Basilica

Rockne’s funeral at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart.

Rockne outside Basilica

A crowd of people gather outside the Basilica for Knute Rockne’s funeral.

Rockne casket

Pallbearers Marty Brill, Marchy Schwartz, Tom Conley, Frank Carideo, Tommy Yarr, and Larry Mullins carrying Knute Rockne’s casket out of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart following his funeral.

Rockne national loss

President Herbert Hoover declared Rockne’s death “a national loss.”

Rockne Scholastic

Front page of a special issue of Scholastic announcing Rockne’s death.