In all of the history of Collegiate sports no one person symbolizes and personifies the true meaning of sportsmanship combined with a quality unmatched in the annals of sports other than Knute Rockne. Here was a man born in Voss, Norway who emigrated to Chicago, Ill. with his parents when he was only five. Through his parents influence, guidance and nurturing Knute acquired a keen perspective on life and developed an extraordinary ability that enabled him to become not only a very gifted athlete, or student, but would become the most successful coach in the history of American sports.
With so much attention focused on Penn State's football program and the accusations brought against an assistant coach this past month brings one to wonder what is going on, on college campuses today. From catholic priests, to public officials and now an assistant football coach, there really must be something in the water, sort of speaking. In an age where college athletic programs are big business, where major universities football programs bring in millions of dollars annually, where players as well as coaches loose sight of the real reason why one pursues a college education all of which has created a culture ripe with greed, callous behavior, moral decay and a presumption that all one has to do is play or coach football in hopes of bigger monetary gains that may lay ahead.
The lucrative TV contracts now offered to major universities has made it easier for colleges to use questionable means in recruiting, developing and maintaining their athletic programs, most notable their football programs. Most of today's student athletes are a far cry from the student athletes of years ago. Long before television contracts and an international spotlight that focused solely on a football programs success college athletes actually went to school for academics first and athletics second.
Today, in an age far removed from Rockne's time most major Universities are predominately focused not on academics but on the financial gains that their collegiate sports programs guarantee. With the advent of television colleges now generate enormous financial gains. It has become big business. Through television advertising and a national audience collegiate football has emerged into totally different era. An era where Universities athletic programs particularly the football program guarantee enormous revenue. This is why athletes as well as coaches have lost sight of what the college experience is all about. The academics combined with genuine sportsmanship along with the human fellowship, high moral standards, and dignified manners that were displayed by the coaches and students in an era right after World War I is lost today.
The most successful coach in the history of sports understood the concept of education first would bring about success in athletics .There has always been codes of conduct for college athletes. Personally, I had to uphold certain ethical and moral standards as an athlete; but since so much money is involved today in college athletics morals and ethics are too often pushed aside. There are many facets that made Knute Rockne the most successful coach in history. When he established his 25 commandments for his players to live by he set the tone not only for the success of the football program at Notre Dame but each of his players became a better person because of it.
- Scholarship: The player should first be a good student. Do not neglect your studies. Your first purpose should be to get an education.
- Cooperation: Everyone should work for the common good of the school and the squad. Everyone should boost everyone else; a disorganizer has no place on the squad.
- Obedience: The public holds the coach responsible for the team; his orders must be obeyed. He is responsible for the system and the carrying out of the system, not necessarily the winning of the game.
- Habits: Good habits are only doing those things which help and not doing those things that will harm or hinder.
- Ambition: Keeping an eye on the future, always trying to improve oneself. Interest and spirit sometimes outweigh natural ability.
- Attendance: Anything worth doing is worth doing well. Try not to miss a day of school or practice.
- Earnestness: The desire to make every minute count, always wanting to do the right thing for the team and the school.
- Morals: A high standard of living and thinking.
- Sportsmanship: Good sportsmanship means clean and fair play. Treat your opponent with respect.
- Conduct: Your school, family, town, community and yourself are judged by your conduct; you can make or break them.
- Unity: Actions on part of every member of the squad for the common good.
- Service: Students should always consider that they are receiving far more than they are giving. Their best efforts for their school are none too good.
- Leadership: The willingness to help, guide or direct, in the right way, be example, words or actions.
- Patience: The willingness to take and profit by the instructions received, although not a member of the first team.
- Loyalty: To give your best service to the team, school, game and coach.
- Self-sacrifice: Giving up some of the present things for the future.
- Determination: The mental quality of strong determination is very necessary to win in the face of strong opposition.
- Confidence: The belief in oneself, teammates, team and plays.
- Remarks: Be careful of your remarks about anyone; if you cannot say something good, say nothing. Talking too much is bad policy.
- Responsibility: Being dependable, the performing of one's duties, the desire to be known as responsible.
- Concentration: During school hours, think and prepare your studies; they must be of first importance. During practice, think only of playing; if you have studied, you will not have to worry about your schoolwork.
- Losing: You can be a hard but good loser. Any coach or team that cannot lose and treat their opponents with respect has no right to win; a poor sportsman generally tries to amuse the spectators with his self-styled clever wit by making abusive remarks, which act as a boomerang by intelligent spectators.
- Winning: If you are the rightful winner, be willing to take credit for it, but keep in mind that it was only your time to win and that your winning was probably due to conditions or a reward for your sacrifices; a kind word or a handshake goes a long way toward forming a lasting friendship, and does not change the score.
- The Past: It is history. Make the present good, and the past will take care of itself.
- The Present and Future: Give to your school the best that you have, and the best will come back to you. Your success in the future depends on the present. Build well.
These 25 principles embody what not only an athlete but the person behind the athlete as well as the coach must follow through on to maintain the highest degree of personal and moral conduct not only on the playing field but in life off the playing field. If universities openly embraced these principles that Knute Rockne established and every student athlete as well as coaches abided by then what happened at Penn State wouldn't have happened.