With the exception of the 2010 Sun Bowl
, the University of Miami has been out of sight, out of mind for nearly twenty years. But with the Irish and Canes set to renew the rivalry that defined a decade of college football, my animosity towards Miami has refurbished itself in a way that makes me forget that it ever went dormant. Scenes from the infamous tunnel brawl of 1988 have been dancing through my head all week. I can't concentrate on anything else. I close my eyes and it's all right there; helmets swinging, bodies flailing, haymakers flying, two teams with so much hatred for each other that they can't even wait for the game to start. Maybe it’s the nostalgia talking, but it’s Notre Dame-Miami week, in Chicago, and I'm so amped it’s stupid. Put the women and children to bed; Catholics vs. Convicts
In the 1980s, you couldn’t have scripted a rivalry more perfect than Notre Dame-Miami. First there was Notre Dame- characterized by a century worth of All Americans, Heisman winners and National Championships, they were history's team. As Bob Costas
once put it, when you play against Notre Dame, you also play against their past. It was a tradition built not only on winning, but on winning the “right” way. Their persona was to play with integrity, stay out of trouble and graduated all their players. They were good ol’ Catholic boys- hardnosed and straight laced. By conventional standards, Notre Dame was America's quintessential football program.
So why such an intense rivalry with Miami? Well, simply put, Miami in the 1980s was Notre Dame's polar opposite. Miami was the "Team of the Decade", winning three AP national championships and nearly missing on two more, but they did it about as far from the Notre Dame way as possible. A band of misfits bonded together by their brash and flamboyant coach, Jimmy Johnson
, Miami instigated fights, ran up the score, choreographed dance moves after touchdowns, paid cash bounties for injuring opposing players and had a collective criminal record longer than the playbook. They were college football’s undeniable bad boys. Miami couldn’t care less that they lacked Notre Dame's football lineage; they were building a tradition their own way- the Miami way. The U played by their own rules and they made no apologies about it. It was a classic case of good vs. evil.
“We got out an hour and fifteen minutes before the game. We go through our warm-ups like a well-schooled, well-disciplined team. We’re doing everything the right way. Then I look over on the Miami side, and they’re coming out of their locker room, and they don’t even have their shirts on. Their belts are unbuckled. They’re walking around bullshitting with people. Jimmy Johnson is bullshitting with people. You talk about swagger? I saw the swagger.” -Frank Stams, Notre Dame fullback
Notre Dame-Miami Memories
I have dozens of Notre Dame-Miami memories including Rocket Ismail’s
95 yard kickoff return in 1990 and the ND students publishing Jimmy Johnson’s phone number in the student newspaper, the Observer
, prior to the 1988 game. My absolute favorite memory from this rivalry, however, starts in 1985 and ends in 1988.
In 1985, the Irish traveled to the Orange Bowl for Gerry Faust’s
farewell game as Notre Dame’s head coach. With the game well in hand, the Canes blocked a 4th quarter punt to make the final score 58-7. Furious that Miami had run up the score, backup quarterback Terry Andrysiak
shook Jimmy Johnson’s hand, after the game, looked him right in the eye and said: “Coach, that was one of the most classless acts I’ve seen in my life. And in a few years, when you come to our place, we’re going to kick your ass.”
He was right. Three years later, in 1988, Miami came to South Bend as defending national champions and ranked #1 in the country. Pat Terrell
knocked away Miami’s two point conversion bid as Notre Dame prevailed 31-30. The game lifted Notre Dame to its 11th national championship and was later named the most memorable game ever played in Notre Dame Stadium.
I’m not a huge fan of the Shamrock Series and I’m CERTAINLY not a huge fan of the uniforms that Notre Dame will wear on Saturday, but I’m excited for this rivalry to be renewed and I’m even more excited that it’s in my hometown of Chicago. After all these years, I guess there’s still just something about that green and orange “U” that brings a little bit extra out of me.
Share your favorite Notre Dame-Miami memory or your predictions for Saturday’s game with a “comment”.
Go Irish Beat Canes,