A former Notre Dame football player has had a significant financial hand in creating a little history at his alma mater.
The university announced in a press release Friday afternoon that Pat and Jana Eilers have made a $3 million gift to endow the football team’s defensive backs coaching position. The school notes that this is the first endowed assistant coach position within the football program. It’s not the first in the program, though, as Brian Kelly‘s official title is the “Richard A. Corbett Head Football Coach” thanks to that family’s gift.
Eilers was a two-year starter for the Irish in the late eighties and was a member of the 1988 national title team. In addition to defensive back, Eilers spent time as a receiver.
“Pat epitomizes everything that Notre Dame Athletics stands for. A star in the classroom and on the field while at Notre Dame, Pat translated the lessons learned here into success as a professional football player, businessman, family man and community leader,” said athletic director Jack Swarbrick in a statement. “This extraordinary gift is just one of many ways in which Pat and Jana continue to give back to Notre Dame. I have not met anyone who believes more strongly in value of intercollegiate athletics and the role it can play in educating young people; we are very fortunate to count Pat and Jana among the members of the Notre Dame Family.”
“Pat is a remarkable person, an extremely dedicated alum and, most importantly, a great husband to Jana, and father to Elizabeth, Katherine, Clare and Patrick,” Kelly said. “This gift is yet another example that demonstrates his commitment to our University and our football program. Pat is a perfect representation to all current and future Notre Dame football student-athletes. He truly embodies what it means to be a ‘Notre Dame man.”
The release stated that the endowment “will underwrite the salary of the defensive backs assistant coach, provide stability and resources for the long term and create funds for use within the department and across campus.” Current Irish defensive backs coach Todd Lyght considers it an honor to have his former teammate’s name as part of his new job title.
“I’m honored that my friend, and former teammate, Pat Eilers was willing to make such an incredibly generous gift,” said Lyght. “Pat’s love, dedication and commitment to Notre Dame and our football program are exemplary. It’s extremely humbling that my position will now bear his family’s name.”
Eilers earned degrees in biology (1989) and mechanical engineering (1990) from Notre Dame, and received his master of business administration degree from Northwestern’s J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management (1999). Eilers’ level of dedication to his former school is not just shown monetarily, though.
Last year, Eilers took a sabbatical from his job as an executive at a Chicago-based equity firm to serve as a defensive quality control assistant when a grad assistant was forced to take a medical leave.
“This gift is simply an expression of our gratitude to those professors, coaches and administrators who have dedicated their lives to Notre Dame’s unique mission of striving for excellence in academics, athletics and spirituality, while upholding the highest standards of integrity and character,” Eilers said. “It’s a privilege to give back and we’re excited the resources will be used to endorse my friend and former teammate Todd Lyght.”