Appeal rejected in Gipp exhumation case

Updated: January 6, 2009, 6:25 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- The legal fight over exhuming the remains of Notre Dame football great George Gipp may have ended.

The Michigan Court of Appeals last month refused to hear an appeal of a decision to reject a lawsuit filed by two men who say they are Gipp's distant cousins. Ron Gipp and Karl Gipp live near George Gipp's boyhood home in the Upper Peninsula and sued in November 2007.

The previous month, his body had been removed from a cemetery near Laurium to determine if he had fathered a child out of wedlock before dying in 1920. DNA testing produced negative results.

The lawsuit accused those responsible for the exhumation of trespassing. Other family members said the testing was justified.

Gipp was Notre Dame's first All-America selection. He scored 21 touchdowns, passed for eight others and held the school career rushing record for more than 50 years.

He is best known for the deathbed exhortation attributed to him years later by coach Knute Rockne. During a pregame pep talk, Rockne inspired his underdog Fighting Irish with the story of a dying Gipp urging the team to "win one for the Gipper."

The phrase became a political slogan for Ronald Reagan, who portrayed Gipp in the 1940 movie "Knute Rockne, All American."

ESPN filmed the exhumation for a possible report about Gipp on its show "E:60."

"We were there to document it as a news event," ESPN spokesman Rob Tobias said a year ago. "We had no involvement in the planning or execution of the exhumation, nor did we pay for any of the proceedings."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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