Notre Dame took a significant step toward respectability, prominence, and stability when they hired a part-time coach, bearded James L. Morison. He wrote an acquaintance after his first day on the job: "I arrived here [Notre Dame] this morning and found about as green a set of football players that ever donned a uniform…They want to smoke, and when I told them that they would have to run and get up some wind, they thought I was rubbing it in on them. "One big, strong cuss remarked that it was too much like work. Well, maybe you think I didn't give him hell! I bet you a hundred no one ever makes a remark like that again." ... Morrison had been hired for $40 plus expenses for two weeks.
Morison had once played tackle for the University of Michigan. He stressed conditioning, speed, and an abundance of end runs and convinced his players that conditioning and speed would lead them to victory. Such tactics led to an opening 14–0 win over Hillsdale. Next came Albion, fresh from a 26–12 loss to Michigan, who proved to be tough. The game ended in a 6–6 tie when substitute fullback John Studebaker fell on a fumble for the only Fighting Irish touchdown.
At the conclusion of the two-week contract Morrison left campus to take the head coaching job at Hillsdale College. His Irish charges finished the year 3–1–1, losing only to Albion in the season finale. At Hillsdale, Morrison spent just one week. His Hillsdale team was shut out 12–0 on the road at Albion College.
In the spring of 1895, James L. Morrison received his law degree from the University of Michigan.