There is something indescribable about the first time I saw the Notre Dame Fighting Irish take the field on a Saturday afternoon. Throughout the history of college football and college football betting, fans from around the world have been captivated by this Catholic school. Many fans were “converted” the first time they saw the players come running out of the tunnel with the sun gleaming off of their shiny-gold helmets as the fight song was being played. Let’s take a look at some Notre Dame history throughout the years.
Notre Dame not only has some of the longest and richest history in college football — including seven Heisman Trophy winners, and 11 national championships — the Fighting Irish are currently ranked No. 2 with a 9-0 record. Throughout their 133-year history, the Irish have acquired one of the nation’s largest fan bases making them also one of the most hated teams in the country. College football’s recent history has been dominated by teams in the South and Notre Dame has a chance to play hero or villain in 2020 — depending on how you look at it.
More than ever, college football needs the small Catholic school located in South Bend, In, to restore some balance at the top. Hopefully shifting the playoffs for more diversity in years to come.
Humble Beginnings in 1887
Football at Notre Dame did not have a glorified start in comparison to what the Fighting Irish have achieved. In the inaugural game on Nov. 23, 1887, the Fighting Irish lost to Michigan, 8-0. The team did not earn its first win until the last game of the 1888 season when it beat Harvard Prep School of Chicago, 20–0.
Notre Dame hired its first head football coach, James Morrison in 1894, which was the beginning of the Fighting Irish becoming a respectable college football program. The small Midwest Catholic school was playing a diverse schedule that included high school teams and universities until 1913.
National Presence: Changing Football, 1913
The year 1913 marked the beginning of what would become the most historic college football program. Jesse Harper took over the coaching duties in and posted a record of 34-5-1 during his five-year tenure. During Harper’s time, the Irish would redevelop their rivalry with Michigan State and begin their important rivalry with Army.
In Harper’s first season he scheduled games against national powerhouses (Texas, Penn State, and Army), which brought Notre Dame into the national spotlight. In a 35-13 victory over Army, the Fighting Irish not only jumped into the nation’s spotlight — they changed college football forever. Quarterback Gus Dorais and end Knute Rockne was the duo responsible for the accurate downfield passing attack of the Fighting Irish. Dorais and Rockne did not create the forward-pass but they were the first to connect on moving routes in-stride down the field.
Knute Rockne: One of the Greatest Coaches 1918
Knute Rockne became the predecessor of his previous coach in 1918 after serving as an assistant coach under Morrison. Rockne went on to have one of the greatest coaching careers of all time — in any sport. The Irish, in the 13 years under Rockne — won three national championships, had five undefeated seasons and won the Rose Bowl in 1925. Knute Rockne, who had a record 105-12-5 as a head coach, still has the highest winning percentage (.881) in NCAA Division I/FBS football history.
‘Win one for the Gipper’
Rockne helped develop the forward pass in college football and created legends like quarterback George Gipp, who became Notre Dame’s first All-American. Gipp died in 1920 two weeks after being named an All-American. Gipp would later be remembered for a speech he gave Rockne on his deathbed where Gipp was quoted saying “Win one for the Gipper.”
This became famous in the 1940 film “Knute Rockne: All American” – where Rockne (played by Ronald Regan) goes on to give the speech to motivate the Fighting Irish in a come-from-behind victory over Army in 1928.
‘The Four Horsemen’
In the golden-age of college football and sports journalism, Rockne became a master at captivating audiences around the country. A photo and a nickname coined by sportswriter Grantland Rice, helped transform the backfield of the 1924 Irish into one of the most iconic groups of athletes.
“The Four Horsemen of Notre Dame” ran through opposing defenses, only losing two games in their three years — both to Nebraska in Lincoln. In 1924, the year the photo and article made them famous, the Four Horsemen led the Irish to an undefeated 10-0 season and a national championship.
Knute Rockne was a major factor in making Notre Dame football into what it is today. Rockne tragically died in a plane crash in 1931 leaving a huge impression on college football. In Rockne’s time, Notre Dame went from a school that nobody had heard of – to a national champion football team that everyone was talking about.
The Golden Age of Sports
Rise to the Top for Irish Football: 1930s-1960s
Throughout the 1930s and 1940s -the golden age of sports and radio – the Irish were traveling around the country. They took on the nation’s top opponents. Notre Dame broadcast all its games over the radio for free, which vaulted its popularity to heights never seen before by any sports organization.
‘Subway Alumni:’ Popularity Grew
Notre Dame’s domination of college football in the 1940s solidified the Irish into college football’s history. The Catholic school’s success was the reason the fan base grew out of control. This got the fans the name the “Subway alumni” because they would follow the Fighting Irish around the country on all their road games.
Coaches Frank Leahy and Ara Parseghian — 6x National Champions
Coach Frank Leahy coached the Irish from 1941-1953. In that time, Notre Dame finished five seasons undefeated and won four national championships. Leahy coached three different Heisman winners and finished with the second-highest winning percentage (.864) of any college coach in history.
Notre Dame did not officially win the championship in 1953 though it finished undefeated. After winning four titles in the 1940s, Notre Dame did not win the championship until 1966. They again were the nation’s best team in 1973, which earned coach Ara Parseghian his second national title with the Irish.
Modern Era: 1970s
By the 1970s, the Irish were a perennial powerhouse that had one of the largest following in all of sports. In 1977, the Irish won their 10th national title, this time under coach Dan Devine. The Fighting Irish were the New York Yankees of college football — people either loved them or hated them because they were consistently good. “Notre Dame does not recruit, they gather” is a famous quote about the popularity of the Fighting Irish.
Lou Holtz: 1988, Notre Dame’s Last National Championship
Lou Holtz was named as the head coach of the Fighting Irish in 1986. Holtz found success during his tenure finishing with a record of 100-30-2. He led Notre Dame into the modern area of football. Holtz led the Irish to its last undefeated (12-0) season and national championship in 1988. In 1990 NBC bought the rights for $35 million to broadcast Notre Dame’s football games for five years. The exclusive rights to Notre Dame football was thought of as the Casa Blanca of the sports broadcast world.
Holtz retired in 1996 and the Fighting Irish struggled to find the right man for the job for nearly twenty years. Notre Dame was still playing in prime-time games against top opponents from around the country. However, the turn of the century provided the Irish with some mediocre seasons that included lopsided losses to rivals such as USC and Michigan State.
President Donald Trump awarded former Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor the president can award. https://t.co/Z0nsXt4yHX
— USA TODAY Sports (@usatodaysports) December 3, 2020
The Bottom: 2007
It felt like a 20-year decline since the Irish’s national championship season in 1988. That came to head in the 2007 season. Notre Dame finished the 2007 campaign with some of the worst losses in school history and a record of 3-9 – most losses in a year. Charlie Weis was the coach of the Irish during their darkest days and he was let go following the 2009 season.
Coach Brian Kelly: Recent Irish Football
Brian Kelly became the 31st head coach of the Fighting Irish on Dec. 10, 2009. Kelly who is currently the coach of the Irish has been successful for the most part. He has appeared in one national title game (2012) and in one College Football Playoff game — the Irish lost both. Kelly has brought Notre Dame back into contention with their fourth season in a row with nine wins or more.
The (9-0) Fighting Irish are currently ranked No. 2 and have a statement win over the Clemson Tigers. Notre Dame seems to be the country’s best chance to take down Alabama and Clemson. They both have appeared in four-of-the-six College Football Playoffs National Championship games. The problem for Kelly and the Irish is that some of the worst losses in their biggest games of the past decade have come against Alabama and Clemson (2012 BCS National Title, 2018 CFP semifinal).
For the first time in 67 years, and only the third time since Notre Dame Stadium's opening in 1930, the Fighting Irish will host a football game in December.
How about that for some history?https://t.co/weLK5ORn0K
— BlueandGold.com (@BGInews) December 1, 2020
‘Time’s are a Changin”
If you are not an Alabama or Clemson football fan then you are probably ready for someone else to be in the CFP. I will say, I have enjoyed watching some of Nick Saban’s and Dabo Swinney’s teams dominate the past decade-plus, but I am ready to see some diversity at the top of the standings.
College football needs desperately, now more than ever, for it’s white knights to come riding in wearing their shiny gold helmets. They need them to restore some sort of balance at the top. With a possible rematch with Clemson in the ACC-Championship, the Fighting Irish have a chance to win the ACC the first year that they are fully part of the conference. That, and keep the Clemson Tigers out of the CFP.
College football could benefit from a championship game that does not consist of Alabama and Clemson. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish are the team that can make that happen this year. Kelly and his staff may need to take college football to a new height to achieve this, which is exactly what their predecessors did for so many decades before them. Have a look at the online NCAAF betting odds.
Fighting Irish on Top
In many ways, there is a similar love/hate type of attitude that occurs around the nation that happens when the Lakers win the NBA Championship. Or the New York Yankees are able to win an MLB Championship – to when the Fighting Irish are on top of the college football world. And when such historic organizations are on top, there is an order that is restored in the sport. The leagues profit kindly.
Unlike most colleges whose fan base is near their school, the Fighting Irish have fans around the globe. There is no better team for the job of dethroning Alabama and Clemson this year and possibly for years to come, than the Fighting Irish. They will need to “Play Like a Champion” when their time comes to prove they are the nation’s best team. Notre Dame is college football’s hero who can save the game from the tyranny of the schools down South.
wild that brian kelly will have passed knute rockne when they’re awarding ND the CFP trophy this year https://t.co/8TderAWUed
— Ricky Gard (@rickygard) November 28, 2020