IRVING, Texas (Feb. 6, 2024) – The National Football Foundation (NFF) & College Hall of Fame announced today that Cathedral High School in Indianapolis, Indiana, has been named the 2023-24 recipient of the NFF Hatchell Cup, presented by “The Original” Bob’s Steak & Chop House. The award recognizes the Fighting Irish as the top high school football team in the nation for excellence in the classroom, on the field and in the community, and it comes with a $10,000 donation from Bob’s to support the football program.
“The NFF is proud to present the Hatchell Cup to Cathedral High School,” said NFF Chairman Archie Manning. “All of the school’s players, coaches, administrators and their families should be incredibly proud of the team’s accomplishments. We hope by inspiring teams to compete in the classroom with the same competitive spirit that it takes to win on the field, we will better prepare high school football players for success later in life.”
Cathedral was chosen from the 56 teams recognized earlier this month as the state winners of the 2023-24 NFF National High School Academic Excellence Awards, Presented by the Rose Bowl Legacy Foundation, from their respective divisions of play. Cathedral and the state winners, who created the pool of finalists for the Hatchell Cup, were selected by the individual state high school coaches associations from nominations submitted by each school’s head coach. A national selection committee, assembled and overseen by the NFF, was responsible for choosing Cathedral as the winner of the 2024 Hatchell Cup. The NFF will make the official presentation of the trophy at a time and place to be determined this spring.
“We are extremely proud to congratulate our first national champion, Indianapolis Cathedral,” said Bob Gaddis, the executive director of the Indiana Football Coaches Association. “A special congratulations to Coach Billy Peeples and his staff for making academic excellence as important as wins and losses… It is a tremendous honor to be included in such an elite group of football programs around the country. The excitement and recognition this creates for the schools and communities that these student-athletes represent is amazing. It makes the sacrifices of these student-athletes all worth it.”
Led by Head Coach Bill Peebles, the 2023 Irish team boasted an impressive 3.65 GPA while making a deep postseason run and finishing No. 4 in the Class 6A Indiana Football Coaches Association rankings after an appearance in the Class 6A Regional Playoff. The Irish won the Class 6A, Section Title, finishing the season at 8-4 with all four losses coming against the top teams in the state.
Of the 163 players on the roster, 142 made the honor roll during the first quarter of the year, and 20 of the 30 seniors qualified for the Indiana Football Coaches Association Academic All-State Team. Eleven seniors were inducted into the National Honor Society, and the team boasted 57 players who enrolled in advanced placement classes. The team earned back-to-back accolades as NFF 6A Indiana winner of the NFF National High School Academic Excellence Award.
One of Indiana’s premier high school football programs, the Irish have won 14 Indiana state championships. They have won sectional titles every season except once since 2006, and they have won regional titles every season since 2020, winning Class 5A regional titles in 2020-21 and Class 6A regional titles the past two seasons. They won Class 5A state titles in 2021, losing in the semistate round in Class 6A in 2022.
The 2023 Irish senior class finished as the second-winningest senior class in school history with 42 victories, a game behind the 2022 senior class. During their four seasons, the seniors won four sectionals, three regionals and two state championships.
Active in the community, the team participates in a year-round service project, which includes a leadership development program where the players reach out to local schools and churches to perform service projects. The program culminates with a daily retreat on campus with local leaders speaking to the team and the players working to beautify the school for opening day.
Administrators at the school who played a role in the team’s all-around success include President Dr. Rob Bridges, Principal Julie Barthel, Vice Principal for Academics Mark Matthews and Athletics Director Rick Streiff.
The NFF announced the creation of the awards in February 2021, with the Nebraska and Texas state high school coaches associations leading the initial effort and engaging 33 state high school coaches associations in total. The awards represent the first nationwide recognition honoring individual high school football teams for excellence in the classroom. Past recipients of the Hatchell Cup include Cypress Woods High School (TX) in 2021-22 and Grundy Center High School (IA) in 2022-23.
Eligibility requirements for the NFF National High School Academic Excellence Awards, Presented by the Rose Bowl Legacy Foundation, include:
A minimum cumulative team GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale.
Superior academic application and performance.
Successful football season.
This season marks the second year that “The Original” Bob’s Steak & Chop House has served as the presenting sponsor of the Hatchell Cup. Since its 1993 opening in Dallas, Texas, Bob’s Steak & Chop House has proudly offered the best cuts of meat available to guests, making the name “Bob’s” synonymous with a best-in-class steakhouse experience. Over the years, the restaurant has built upon the reputation that it earned at the original Dallas location by opening restaurants across the nation, providing guests a first-class experience no matter where they call home.
“Bob’s Steak & Chop House congratulates Cathedral High School as the Hatchell Cup recipient for 2024,” said Bob Sambol, the founder of “The Original” Bob’s Steak & Chop House. “The award is the result of great leadership of the coaches and commitment by the players to be the best on and off the field. For years Steve Hatchell has preached about the good in Football. Cathedral High School is just that.”
The NFF Hatchell Cup is named in honor of NFF President & CEO Steve Hatchell. Since taking over the helm of the NFF in 2005, Hatchell has overseen numerous programs expanding the NFF’s reach and impact as it continues to promote the scholar-athlete ideal. His career in athletics administration spans more than five decades and includes countless accomplishments, including serving as the first commissioner of the Big 12 Conference and holding the top jobs at the Southwest Conference and the Orange Bowl.
For more information on the NFF National High School Academic Excellence Award or to learn how your state high school coaches association can participate next season, please contact the NFF at HSnominations@footballfoundation.com.