Toledo Irish: Notre Dame “Traveling Squad” Toledo Connection
by Maury Collins
Tom King, R.I.P., used to tell me about the Notre Dame “Traveling Squad.” The members of the squad use to wear white jerseys with green “Traveling Squad” lettering and a big leprechaun. They traveled to all Notre Dame games home and away, by motor homes provided by All American Coach Company in Toledo, and would occupy a spot in the various stadium parking lots with a flag with “King’s Island” lettered on it.
The (Toledo) Blade ran an article on Tom Loomis’ “Mirrors of Sport” in the August 20, 1978 paper. Tom King made a copy of the article for me with the notation; “Maury, a lot of great memories. It truly was a special time. Tom”
Before I highlight parts of the article, let me tell you about the special championship Notre Dame 1977 Football season. It was coach Dan Devine’s third season. After a surprising loss to unranked Ole Miss, patience among the fans was running thin, who considered Devine’s previous 8–3 and 9–3 seasons as lackluster compared to the team success under Devine’s predecessor, Ara Parseghian.
Here is a recap of the first three games: Notre Dame beat number 9 Pitt in the opening game, mostly because Pitt’s starting quarterback went down with an injury in the first quarter. The team then lost to unranked Ole Miss. The third game was against Purdue.
The Irish trailed Purdue by 10 points in Ross-Ade deep into the third quarter, 24 -14. Starting quarterback Rusty Lisch had struggled and was replaced by the ever popular second string quarterback, the vaunted Gary Forystek, but he swiftly suffered a year ending injury. It looked bleak for the Irish.
Devine resorted to third string quarterback Joe Montana and somewhere, a light bulb went on. Montana rallied the Irish to a 31-24 victory, with lots of Montana magic, including the go ahead TD pass of 13 yards to Ken MacAfee.
Game 6 brought number 5 Southern Cal to Notre Dame stadium. This was the famous “Green Jersey” game. The Irish, inspired and motivated by the surprise green jerseys were leading 22 to 7 at halftime. In the fourth quarter the Irish were ahead by a 42-7 margin and the reserves were playing. The final score was 49 -19.
Notre Dame was victorious in the rest of the regular season games and was ranked number 5 going into the Cotton Bowl against Number 1 and highly favored Texas, led by Heisman winner Earl Campbell. Notre Dame outrushed the Horns 243-131, the Irish getting a comfy 4.6 yards per carry, while holding the ferocious Campbell and the rest of the Horns to just 2,6 yards per carry. Notre Dame won by a 38 to 10.
Ohio State, Michigan and Oklahoma all lost their bowl games. Notre Dame was voted the Division one National Champions.
Now for the article. It was published the following August, but the events included were from the previous year. Tom Loomis’s friend and neighbor was Jack Finnegan, the traveling squad’s “coach.” Jack received that designation when fans at an “away” game mistook him for a member of the Notre Dame coaching staff. Jack gave autographs willingly and was called “coach” by the squad after that.
Mr. Loomis was in Dallas for the Cotton Bowl. The squad quarterback, Tom King, escorted him to a “watering Hole.” King, a prominent Toledo attorney, told Mr. Loomis that he had subpoenaed him to explain about the squad to the Toledo press.
The Notre Dame Traveling squad has 25 members from all regions of the country. Ten were from Toledo. Wives sometimes would accompany squad members to road games by demand (Their demand).
In Dallas, one of the wives asked Mr. Loomis; “Well Mr. Writer, how badly are the Irish going to smash Texas?” She was right, of course.
Notre Dame was the Cotton Bowl handily and was voted the National Champion team. The article goes on to mention a flagpole overlooking Tom King’s swimming pool. The Irish Flag flies from the flagpole made from the goalpost that students tore down after the Notre Dame Green jersey victory over Southern Cal. Tom King purchased it from those students and transported it via mobile home to his yard.
There was a bronze plaque attached, which read, “Let it be so recorded on this day, Oct. 22, 1977 from the hallowed ground of Notre Dame. This goalpost was augured by the traveling squad and transported to this spot in commemoration of the Fighting Irish victory over USC 49-19.
The word went out that the “Green Machine” was born and we were there.” It was said that when the traveling squad would meet at Tom King’s residence, “Coach” Finnegan would read the plague over and over followed by a drink.
I was never a member of the Notre Dame Traveling squad, but I did attend a few Notre Dame football games with Tom King later in his life. I was always surprised at how many people came up to say hello to Tom and share a few words. It takes a dynamic leader like Tom King to bring together so many people for a common cause. He was in constant contact with many people and he made each person, he was speaking with, feel like the most important person in the world.
*Maury Collins is a Charter Member and past president of the John P. Kelly Division AOH. Contact him at ma************@gm***.com Web https://maurysirishnewstoledo.weebly.com/