On Sept. 3, when the final gun sounded, the crowd cheered after the Notre Dame Falcons football team won its season opener with a decisive 44-17 victory over the University of Charleston.
Nobody was cheering louder than Notre Dame College football head coach Michael Jacobs, who knows just how far his team has come in such a short time.
Imagine again Coach Jacobs’ excitement when his team won their second game 35-29 over Virginia-Wise. The team is off to a great season.
In 1922, when students started classes at Notre Dame College there were no big stadiums in which to cheer and certainly no football team to cheer for. Notre Dame College was an all-girls school and remained so until 2001, when it became co-ed.
It wasn’t until 2008, however, when the school added a football program. Even so, the young team didn’t have a field to call home. Instead, it conducted practice at nearby high schools.
The athletic department and coaching staff saw promise in the young men who, despite less than ideal conditions, remained dedicated to their sport and invested in a field and an all-campus facility, where the team could train. Not only that, the Notre Dame College football program is the only one in Cleveland to offer athletic scholarships.
Over the past eight years, the Notre Dame Falcons have become a contender in the Mountain East Conference, beating and battling against teams that are traditional powerhouses, Jacobs said.
As the team’s former defensive line coach in 2014, defensive coordinator/assistant head coach in 2015 and now head coach, Jacobs is pleased with the growth of his team.
“We went 5-6 last year, and the year before, we had our best school record of 7-4 against some really tough teams,” he said. “Even the games we’re losing, we’ve been fairly competitive.”
It isn’t just state-of-the-art equipment, winning games and filling stadiums that Jacobs loves about the football program at Notre Dame College. To him, football is much more.
“Our goal is to graduate our young men, to provide them an opportunity through sport, to work on those sport-transferable skills,” he said. “We’re here to develop them as people as much as we are as players. We spend a lot of time working on things like teamwork, cooperation and problem solving.
"We work on community and all the things that are inherent to playing a college sport — and there’s no better team sport than football, where 11 people have to work as one, or else it doesn’t work. A breakdown in any one player can cause a play or a defense not to work properly. These are all things that we work on the field that we think make our kids employable later on in life.”
As student athletes, football players at Notre Dame College experience endless learning on and off the field. The school offers bachelor’s degrees in 30 disciplines, as well as a variety of master's degrees, certification programs and continuing and professional development programs for adult learners on campus and online.
To learn more about what Notre Dame College has to offer, visit notredamecollege.edu.