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NDNation.com Staff: Scott Engler - Michael Cash - John Vannie - Mike Coffey - Kayo - Bacchus

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Notre Dame's Greatest Rival

posted by Scott Engler
by ndoldtown

Notre Dame fans often speak in terms of "rivals" and "big games". Often younger fans are influenced by games that have been important recently, such as Miami in the eighties. Some fans are influenced to call teams they dislike intensely "rivals", such as Michigan. Others focus on teams that may have had recent success against us, such as Michigan State. In my opinion, there is only one team worthy of being called Notre Dame's greatest rival, and it is the Trojans of USC. They have earned it.

It is a fact that no team has beaten Notre Dame more than USC and it is a fact that no team has beaten USC more than Notre Dame. This alone would make each school consider the other the prime rival. But it is also a fact that the nature of the wins and losses has been something to behold. No team has had more memorable and -- from our perspective -- devastating wins over Notre Dame than USC and probably vice versa. USC's largest loss? 51-0 to Notre Dame in 1966. Worst loss in ND history? In my opinion, 55-24 in 1974. Undefeated seasons lost in the last game of the year? SC did it to ND in 1964, 1970 and 1980 -- thats a lot of heartbreak. ND did it to SC in 1952 and 1988.

Heisman winners who have played in the game? 14 - more than in any other rivalry. National Championship teams among the two schools - just counting AP and UP champs 14 - more than in any other rivalry. ND and USC games count for five of the ten most-watched college football games in television history.

But one thing above all of this makes ND-SC the greatest rivalry in college football and that it that it is an "unrequired" rivalry. The schools are not in the same conference, nor are they two schools in the same state who must play each other like Georgia/Georgia Tech or Florida/Florida State. Notre Dame and USC don't have to play each other and it would be easier if they did not. No regional or conference prerogatives compel the rivalry. What does is an unquenchable desire by each program to take on the best. And that is what puts this game a step up in prestige and glamor from intense "civil wars" and regional slugfests between "tech" and "state".

In playing this game each year, the schools have caused the rivalry to transcend the regional nature of college football. Auburn/Alabama probably causes more intense hatred within a small area. Michigan/Ohio State is the end of the world for the people from those states. But Notre Dame/USC transcends such games by creating the one and only "national" college football rivalry. Each school brings a particular type of glamour to the game: Southern California cool and midwestern grit. Hollywood/SC glitz versus ND Catholic Irish mystique. It is a rivalry that is just so different from the others that it cannot help but stand out.

Moreover, unlike many who could be considered "rivals" of Notre Dame, USC has never ducked the game, never minimized it and never treated ND as anything other than a valued rival. USC has never alibied that their "conference schedule" is more important and has never tried to pull out of the series during periods when it wasnt going well. If Michigan lost to ND eleven straight years as SC did in the 80s and 90s, does anyone doubt the game would be scotched? Likewise, if Michigan could only beat ND twice in sixteen years as ND was only able to beat SC twice between 1967 and 1982, it is a given that Michigan would retreat to "conference scheduling requirements" as an out. But neither ND nor SC have ever sought out of this game, when the other was riding high. Nor, despite a heated and tough rivalry, has ND/SC ever been characterized by religious, ethnic or off-field squabbles as has been the case with other opponents. Indeed, despite fan remonstrations, this rivalry has been characterized by a remarkable level of respect and bonhomie between the two schools.

Indeed, it was USC that sought out Notre Dame because it was looking for a tough rival to play. This at the same time that Big Ten schools were looking to not play Notre Dame.

A brief review of the rivalry and the way its combatants have conducted themselves explains its special nature. At the conclusion of the very first game in 1926 -- a heartbreaker lost by SC by a point -- USC coach Howard Jones went to the Notre Dame lockerroom and said "Well, we almost did it. Congratulaions, Knute." Rockne replied with thanks and said "It was the greatest game I ever saw."

This spirit of sportsmanship has carried through to today as with Charlie Weis's visit to the SC lockerroom in 2005, telling them he hoped they would win out and later chastizing ND fans complaining about the Bush push, saying "I would hope one of our players would be smart enough to do that in the same situation." Pete Carroll, not prone to praise directed at others, called the atmosphere at ND Stadium "the epitome of college football" and "a celebration of our sport." You will hold your breath a long time before Joe Paterno could pry a single compliment for ND out of himself.

As noted, one thing that characterizes the rivalry is that both schools have been good sports when things have not gone their way. In the 1940s Michigan Coach Fritz Crisler attempted to organize Big Ten schools to boycott ND and dropped the Irish for thirty-five years after a 35-12 loss in 1943. As Coach Frank Leahy recalled. "In 1944 I asked Fritz Crisler directly if we could resume the series. He looked me straight in the eyes and said that Michigan was willing to meet Notre Dame any place, any time and any Saturday. I believed him. I repeatedly asked him for a date that we could meet and he never could make room on his schedule for Notre Dame."

Compare this to Leahy's remembrance of a letter he received from USC's coach in response to the calls to drop Notre Dame coming from the Big Ten: "You know that I still have with me a letter from Jeff Cravath, the former coach at the University of Southern California. When I was being savagely attacked for causing Notre Dame's scheduling problems, he wrote to me and said, 'There never will be a time when USC drops Notre Dame from its schedule. The Irish play football the way it was meant to be played and it is a distinct privilege to coach against Frank Leahy. Lets preserve the classic USC-Notre Dame game for our grandchildren. The Trojans are proud to play Notre Dame. Never would I criticize boys who fight with all their hearts and sould for their school. Hopefully, that is the same spirit we have at USC.'"

In 1948 after a tie between the teams, "When Coach Leahy tried to enter to congratulate his opponents, the students hoisted him on their shoulders and even gave him three cheers. 'This is the first time in my coaching career that I have been so highly honored by the student body of an opposing school,' said the surprised Leahy." "Notre Dame vs USC, The Glamor Game" Cromarte, Brown Rutledge Hill Press 1989

The feeling of respect between the schools was best exemplified by John McKay. No coach from another school has imposed more painful and significant losses on ND than McKay. Yet my feeling towards McKay -- and that of many ND fans -- is one of warmth and respect. That is because he was a man of respect, who, while wanting to beat ND treated his rival with class and dignity in the best spirit of competition. McKay noted, "When I grew up as a Catholic in West Virginia, I loved Notre Dame and its football team. The Fighting Irish were the first team in any sport I cheered for. I think they've always had that fascination for young Catholic kids, and today I still cheer for them - except when they play USC. . . Notre Dame has always lent a lot of dignity and tradition to college football. The enthusiasm of their student body is tremendous, their fight song is inspiring and I get goose bumps when I go back to South Bend and see the leaves falling and the golden dome shining in the sunlight. . .

It amuses me that coaches say they like to play Notre Dame, but when its time to schedule them, few teams stand in line. . .In 1971 before the game in South Bend, I told my players 'We're back here together in the greatest hotbed of football, Notre Dame, and this is the game that typifies college football. This is what its all about. This is what I've believed in since I was a little kid. And I still believe in it.' Notre Dame-USC is the greatest in college football." John McKay, 1976, in "The Game is On - Notre Dame vs. USC"

Imagine such sentiments ever being expressed by Bo of Ann Arbor, whose last statement about ND in the press was "To hell with Notre Dame". Also note that McKay, with his large-hearted view of his rival won had much greater success than Bo against ND and won multiple national championships compared to Bo's zero. It is a truism, in my opinion, that big people do big things and I think McKay was a big person.

John Robinson echoed the feeling: "Notre Dame USC is one of those elite games that is second to none, with great nationwide interest. The entire coaching staff has that feeling at USC. . . Its such an honor to have either of these jobs, head coach at USC or Notre Dame, its an honor to be in the position. Nothing better can happen to you than to be involved in this great series."

Former USC athletic director Jess Hill summed up the USC approach to this game: "The Notre Dame series has proven to be very outstanding in every respect, because our philosophy has been in scheduling, that you play the best in the country and when you play Notre Dame - you are playing the best. . . There's no disgrace in ever losing to Notre Dame but there's a great deal to be gained by defeating Notre Dame.

One of the greatest moves that the two institutions ever made was establishing this intersectional rivalry in football - this competition. Its always very competitive, very tough, and very aggressive. At times we had some minor disagreements, but nothing has ever imperiled the continuity of the competition between USC and Notre Dame. I sincerely hope that the USC Notre Dame series will continue forever, and I think it will.

It has been a privilege and pleasure for me as a coach and athletic director to have the opportunity of meeting the wonderful people from Notre Dame. They are dedicated to excellence."

Notre Dame has returned the respect. When asked recently who the greatest college football coaches in history were, Ara Parseghian listed Bear Bryant and John McKay. A great coach in his own right, a lesser man would have a hard time crediting such a bitter rival. Lou Holtz, who was 9-1-1 versus USC always treated the rivalry with the utmost respect, requiring his players to take a quiz on the history of the game the week before its playing. Charlie Weis -- recipient of a bitter loss to SC -- went out of his way throughout 2005 to explain that there was no question who deserved the Heisman - Reggie Bush.

I think that the reason USC has had such great success against Notre Dame is that they have the attitude of winners. They take on all comers and seldom look for out-of-conference patsies. During the McKay/Robinson period -- when certain teams said it was not wise to schedule Notre Dame because it distracted away from conference games -- USC played Notre Dame every year and won eight Rose Bowls and shares of five national championships. USC has succeeded in large part because it shares Notre Dame's philosophy of playing the best and not backing away from a challenge.

So, while Pete Carroll's Hollywood persona is not really my cup of tea and I get a good laugh out of Matt Leinart's dance class and I find the B-list celebs on the SC sideline a bit much, the fact is that there is no team we play that has earned our respect more than SC. There is no rival who has been fairer or more steadfast in its partnership with ND. There is no rival over whom a win is more valuable.

I hope we kill them this year. Fight on.
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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, but McKay's teams played dirty and the '64 game was taken from us by two absolutely absurd calls at the goal line - I could go on, but McKay was not saint - funny and quotable yes, but no saint. When he got to the pros and had to play by the same rules as everybody else, he stunk.

7/26/2006 10:17:00 PM  
Anonymous SouthernCal92 said...

As an SC alum, I am very pleased to see this posted here, as I have always had the upmost respect for The Rivalry.

Sure, there have been slumps and given that I was at USC during the Holtz domination I hated the Irish.

But there was always respect. And never a thought to disband the series.

Fight On, Irish.

Fight On!

7/26/2006 10:44:00 PM  
Anonymous MNDomer03 said...

As a student during the Davieham era, the best SC game I was able to witness was when the winds and rain shifted against SC and Holloway fell on Jackson's fumble, leading to the 22 point comeback in '99. While I always hated Fredo due to their lack of class, hated UM due to their pompous attitude, and hated Purdue because they were pathetic, for some reason I never hated SC. With the resurgence under the Poodle and Charlie, it just makes one appreciate that the ND/SC rivalry is what makes college football truly great. Fight On. Go Irish!

7/26/2006 10:58:00 PM  
Anonymous MNDomer03 said...

As a student during the Davieham era, the best SC game I was able to witness was when the winds and rain shifted against SC and Holloway fell on Jackson's fumble, leading to the 22 point comeback in '99. While I always hated Fredo due to their lack of class, hated UM due to their pompous attitude, and hated Purdue because they were pathetic, for some reason I never hated SC. With the resurgence under the Poodle and Charlie, it just makes one appreciate that the ND/SC rivalry is what makes college football truly great. Fight On. Go Irish!

7/26/2006 10:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The ultimate respect in this rivalry was paid during the Bataan Death March. After a Japanese soldier demanded Mario Tonelli's Notre Dame ring, a Japanese officer returned the ring to Tonelli. The officer remembered Tonelli, a running back, and Notre Dame beating SC 13 - 6, as he was a SC graduate.

7/26/2006 11:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a SC alum I must say if there was one team I wanted SC to lose to last year I wanted it to be Notre Dame (for a rematch in the BCS) . I was there on the 50 and watched the Bush push as I was celebrating a sure Notre Dame victory. You see I was reaised on Notre Dame football and to this day still root for the Irish anytime they play the Trojans.Would have gone there but the lack of beautiful woman and sunny skies changed me for good. I have been called a traitor by many of my Trojan friends and family but they just don't understand.

7/27/2006 01:00:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a Trojan, I wholeheartedly agree with this post. It is refreshing to read such a positive message about the rivalry, especially in the wake of some of the petty ND-USC fan squabbles on most of the forums in the last couple of years. Kudos to NDNation.com.

7/27/2006 01:11:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well done. There really is a clear difference. I hate BC. I hate Michigan. I want to kill SC, but I appreciate the way they face off with ND - always with a great amount of agression, fight, desire, and most importantly, respect.

7/27/2006 01:49:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been fortunate to attend many games vs. USC at Notre Dame Stadium and the atmosphere, no matter the records of the teams, is simply beyond compare. I was on hand for the 2005 USC game, and although I was brokehearted after the final guy went off, I was never prouder of a Notre Dame team and I realized that I had attended the most amazing sporting event I've ever seen. The USC fans I encountered were passionate and each one of them was thrilled to attend a game at Notre Dame. I found them to be polite and respectful and it was a pleasure to make their acquaintance. I've attended ND games for 33 years and I cherish the rivalry with USC tremendously, even when they beat us. You did a wonderful job of capturing the unique spirit of this amazing rivalry. May it continue forever!!


7/27/2006 11:27:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nov. 30, 1974...my 18th birthday and the toughest ND loss to SC in my life. From a promising first half to AD's second half TD fest. I hated losing to SC and still do.
There have been many highs and lows in this rivlary. Perhaps the highest was in 77 (I hope this is the right year) when the "Trojan horse" was brought out of the tunnel and the green jerseys made their unexpected appearance. I wasn't there, but I was fired up sitting in front of my tv.
I've been an usher at ND stadium for ten years. The Nebraska game a few years ago was highly anticipated. Every time Michigan comes to South Bend is a big game. However, the game I, and many others always look forward to, is the SC Trojans game. What a game at ND stadium last year. Sure it was another heartbreaking loss to SC, but it left no doubt that ND can play with anybody.
Can't wait for the game in 2007 and hope to make it to L.A. to see a SC-ND game some day.

7/27/2006 11:42:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a Double Domer 92,97, I was lucky enough to be at ND through the years of domination, and am now just realizing the extent of the USC rivalry. I was at the game last year and was impressed at the class that the USC fans exibited, much like I see ND fans do throughout the country.

You are right on with your description of Michigan. How, for God's sake, can you be pompass with the historical lack of Championships and your best Coach never won one? Crisler's attempt to ban ND from the Big 10 is hilarious, but when you are being abused year after year you tend to run the other way!

Living in Michigan right now is fabulous - I just sit back and let Charlie do his thing!

7/27/2006 11:59:00 AM  
Anonymous Randy Snyder said...

I am a USC alum and diehard since my childhood growing up in LA (second generation Trojan). Perhaps it was fate I was born in 1974 ;) But, as you can do the math, my formative years were during the torturous Lou Holtz era. I sat in stunned silence and watched ND fans celebrate in my stadium after the ridiculous '86 fourth quarter collapse where Tim Brown won the Heisman. That is what made that 11 game streak so unbearable b/c it wasn't like 11 blowouts in a row. It was like, no matter what, SC would find a way to blow it. The '86 game already mentioned, all the turnovers in '88, the goaline stand in '89, Wellman tackled a foot short of the first down in '90 on the possible game winning drive, the famous onside kick in '91 where the ND guy admitted USC revovered but he took it away under the pile, and '92 was a close game but USC couldn't tackle anyone.

Still a top 3 moment in my fanhood is the '96 game sitting next to my dad and brother in the unusual cold where USC actually got all the brakes against Lou Holtz for once and WE WON!!! The extasy can only be topped by being in South Bend last year for the Bush Push. My dad could have died right then and been happy.

I am excited by the fact that Weis has ND on the rise b/c this rivalry is so much more fun when both teams are good. There are some USC fans that root for an 0-11 ND season. I, on the other hand, root for ND in every other game so that our game can be that much more special.

Great, great article.

7/27/2006 02:26:00 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

Best OpEd I have ever read. I am already looking forward to next season's battle of the titans. As an SC alum there is no game I look forward to more than Notre Dame. Both teams reall do have an unquenchable desire to take on the best. That is why USC and Notre Dame are the two best football schools in the country, period.

7/27/2006 04:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Outstanding piece of writing.

As a Trojan alum, I've always tried to describe what makes the SC-ND rivalry so special and the UCLA rivalry so inferior by comparison. You summed it up best by saying it is an "unrequired rivalry."

It's just two wonderful schools that are deep in football tradition playing a fair test for sixty minutes.

The most painful loses in my USC life have come at the hands of Notre Dame. I will now, and forever, hate Tony Rice because of the 1988 game. I'll take that defeat to my grave as the most painful loss in my lifetime. I'll always hate Lou Holtz because for eleven years he made a mockery of our coaching staff.

And on the other side of the scale, I will always remember being in the stands in 1996 when we broke the streak. I'll remember the night Carson Palmer won the heisman at Notre Dame's expense. And I'll remeber "4th and Nine" and the "Bush Push" also.

With Charlie Weiss as your coach and Pete Carroll as ours, it's going to be pure football heaven between our schools for years to come.

Good luck next season and lets hope we're both undefeated going into November's game.

7/27/2006 04:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A fine article indeed however the rivalry has been cheapend by the hype here in SoCal. Most so called Trojan fans are bandwaggoners waiting for Phil Jackson to turn around the Lakers or dreaming of an O'Malley led putsch to retake Chavez Rivine. As a Die Hard Irish Fan in LA CW is a blessing after the gloom of Boob and the ignominy of the Molder of Men. I think I know who the Usher is in the previous post and I thank the heavens that before he escaped we were able to witness greatness. I loathe all things 'SC but admit that them being them makes College Football great.

Play Like A Champion Today,

7/27/2006 06:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do remember in 1989, while USC was visiting ND Stadium, the SC football players taunted the ND players by running through their warm up lines and mocked the fight song prior to the game. This led to a tunnel brawl similar to the 1988 Miami game. That's about the only case of bad sportsmanship I can recall between the two schools but committed by USC under Larry Smith.

Otherwise, I've talked to ND fans who've visited the coliseum and have characterized the SC fans as polite and classy in stark contrast to the uncouth, rude, and sometimes violent Miami fans at the Orange Bowl in the late 1980's.

Once again this rivalry will recapture its lustre and significance now that Weis is waking up the echoes in South Bend.

7/27/2006 08:47:00 PM  
Anonymous James Faber said...

I want to echo the comments to this article, these being an it was outstanding piece of writing. As a Trojan fan, I enjoyed each and every bit of this story, and could personally relate to a lot of it.

I too grew up an Irish fan, as a Catholic boy from Oregon, just as the author described, but ended up attending USC and became a Trojan.

Last year my buddy and I went to the game at South Bend, for the first time, and it was one of the greatest trips I have taken, because of the atmosphere, and the attitude of the Notre Dame people. The minute I got off the bus with my Leinart jersey on, I was greeted by an usher who shook my hand and said "Welcome to Notre Dame". I was told this would happen, but I never believed it until it did.

We didn't have tickets, and in the process for looking to purchase them, were approached by an ND grad, Bob, who asked us if we had yet toured the campus. Upon telling him we hadn't, he volunteered to take us around, did so for an hour, and then bought us a beer in the Leahy Lounge, prior to leaving us so he could enjoy some pregame time with his daughter.

We still tell our SC friends about the hospitality Bob showed us, and the class he had representing Notre Dame. I hope we Trojans have some stories of similar treatment to ND fans when they come here.

It is great ND and SC have both gotten back to the top of the college football world. And, with our coaches personas, and their history in the NFL, there is absolutely no reason to think the recruiting will not continue, and this Classy rivalry will flourish for many years to come.

Good luck to the Irish this year. I want a match up of two undefeated teams in November, which is the way all the participants in this great rivalry have wanted, still want, and will want for as long as they tee the ball up.

7/27/2006 08:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To start with great article. As an avid Irish fan I hate Michigan, Purdue, Boston College and USC. But of these teams the only one worth respecting is USC. I hope that this year things work out that USC and Notre Dame are playing each other January 8th for the National Championship.

7/27/2006 10:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had always believed that USC was our biggest and best rival, but my respect for the Trojan nation was cemented prior to the infamous 1999 game in South Bend (This was the game where the weather and wind changed during the 4th quarter). While tailgating prior to the game, the obvious and open respect shared by both sides of this intense rivalry blew my mind. The class displayed by the Trojan faithful was second to none. It was in deep constrast to almost all of our other "rivals". I am anxiously awaiting another "game of the century" this November, with only the final score being in ND's favor.

7/28/2006 10:49:00 AM  
Blogger eTrojan said...

We've always had a phenomenal time going back to South Bend for the game (including this past year). The fans are gracious, the campus is great, the atmosphere is electric.

A couple folks here have mentioned the '99 game. We had a handicapped placard, since one member of the group had just had knee surgery. The Notre Dame parking authorities put is in the lot right outside the stadium, amid all the die-hard Notre Dame fans. Once we parked, 6 guys, 6-foot-plus, 200-pounds-plus, rolled out of the mini-van in full Cardinal-and-Gold glory. No hostilities. No trash talk. Just good old fashioned competitive ribbing. We had a great time talking football with the Irish fans, throwing footballs around, sharing beer. Even after the game (what a weird game), the friendly environment continued.

The only other place I've seen that kind of acceptance from the opposition was at Auburn, where they were thrilled that we'd come all the way from L.A. for the game. But Auburn hasn't had 80 years of rivalry with SC to develop any real feelings one way or the other. (They admitted that if we were Alabama or LSU fans, the reception wouldn't have been as warm.)

7/28/2006 02:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We've always had a phenomenal time going back to South Bend for the game (including this past year). The fans are gracious, the campus is great, the atmosphere is electric.

A couple folks here have mentioned the '99 game. We had a handicapped placard, since one member of the group had just had knee surgery. The Notre Dame parking authorities put is in the lot right outside the stadium, amid all the die-hard Notre Dame fans. Once we parked, 6 guys, 6-foot-plus, 200-pounds-plus, rolled out of the mini-van in full Cardinal-and-Gold glory. No hostilities. No trash talk. Just good old fashioned competitive ribbing. We had a great time talking football with the Irish fans, throwing footballs around, sharing beer. Even after the game (what a weird game), the friendly environment continued.

The only other place I've seen that kind of acceptance from the opposition was at Auburn, where they were thrilled that we'd come all the way from L.A. for the game. But Auburn hasn't had 80 years of rivalry with SC to develop any real feelings one way or the other. (They admitted that if we were Alabama or LSU fans, the reception wouldn't have been as warm.)

7/28/2006 02:09:00 PM  
Blogger KevDog said...

The game is always electric, a culture clash and an epic collision of football power when both teams are on, as in 1988. The "respect" angle needs a little tempering in light of some of the shady characters that 'SC has produced, but football-wise it is total respect. Seeing Frank Stams KO Rodney Peete in 1988 remains my no. 1 ND highlight. What did Ara say about that horse?

7/28/2006 04:07:00 PM  
Anonymous fbear1974 said...

Great article and I could not agree more.

I have watched every ND-USC game since 1964 with the exception of ND's unexpected home win in 1995 when I was on a damn cruise my wife set up.

As a student at ND during Ara's era, no game was bigger. And since then the feeling has not diminished. There is no victory more satisfying than beating USC and no lose more disheartening.

I am already anticipating this year's match in LA as Charlie Weis' completes an undefeated regular season with his first win over the Trojans.

Onward to victory ...

7/28/2006 04:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a Bender and a Domer I have allways loved the rivaly and absolutely love this article. I have never come across a UCS fan that I didn't like, but for their being a USC fan. Seriously, they have class and respect and show it every time they travel to The Bend. You are all welcome at our tailgate, just look for the "Urbin Assault Vehicle" near "Senior Bar"!!! GO IRISH beat SC!!! - Domer90

7/29/2006 12:52:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a lifelong SC fan, I have been to something like 30 SC-ND games, 8 at ND. I can still remember vividly my first visit there in 75 and how awestruck I was by the campus and the fans, who were, to a man, polite and welcoming. That first experienced turned me into an Irish fan for every game but one. There is something special about our game and I hope the series never ends. But, we need to have a word with you about playing UCLA....

7/29/2006 01:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ABSOLUTELY NOTHING beats SC-ND. I've been following it, with kids at both schools & friends playing on each side. No other game anywhere can top the history or significance of this series -- in making reputations, Heisman's and Nat'l Champions, and in other ways.

For example, it was the SC-ND game that first made ND a truly national school. It established ND as a bit of a barnstorming powerhouse (a unique aspect of Irish football that Kevin White is bringing back to ND with the upcoming 8th-home-game-away-from-home scheduling).

For another type of significance, how about this? . . . The SC-ND game was what got Knute Rockne interested in Hollywood, and that fateful airplane crash that took his life was to bring him back to Hollywood for some movie-making & deal-making.

A few other minor but interesting & unique aspects of this rivalry that have not been mentioned yet. . . Each school has awarded the other school's president an honorary degree. The NBC football announcer for the past decade is one of USC's most distinguished & admired football grads -- Pat Haden, who was a nat'l championship-winning SC QB, and still is a Trustee of the University as he broadcasts ND football all season long. Both schools have greatly improved academically -- ND was on this path first, but SC has made great strides in the past 10+ years. Both did it against the will of some alumni, and now both schools have proved the the academic upgrade could be accomplished without destroying football excellence. There are no other private schools that compete at this level of athletics and football year after year, decade after decade. SC & ND are elite and in some ways, remarkably similar institutions

Last point: the blogger who said John McKay played dirty and "stunk" as a pro is either one of those ND fans who want to hate everything Cardinal & Gold, or is just ignorant. McKay was a truly great & classy coach. He took the Tampa Bay Bucs to the playoffs within a couple of years of their pitiful start (the start was due to a team draft at that time that gave expansion teams no talent to work with). McKay brought great things to college football, and great things to ND. He didn't make the millions that Pete & Charlie make. He was always candid, and he acknowledged that after 4 nat'l champ teams at USC, it was time to take the NFL money. No shame there, and he did better than most expansion coaches. Without McKay, our own ND legends & history of dramatic football wins & losses would lack much of its luster.

Both schools, both football programs are a joy to follow. There is passion & commitment on both. Generally, there is class. There is no reason for Domers to hate SC, nor for Trojans to hate ND. Better that we admire each other, and try to keep our 2 teams as among the best, so that the winner of this great game really has proved something. Go Irish! (And, SC, beat everybody else!).

7/29/2006 08:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ND-SC is a great rivalry, but one wonders if SC is becoming the Miami, FL of the West coast with the spate of SC football players in the police blotter the last two years.

As an ND fan, I must admit that Pete Carroll could have pulled a Steve Spurrier and scored perhaps 55 or 65 points in the 02, 03 and 04 contests against the hapless Irish. He began substituting and changed to a conservative game plan that kept the score semi-respectable. That earned my respect.

I believe SC is football factory and their players aren't necessarily students first, but under Pete C. they play hard and clean. I've never seen any cheap shotting and the players seem to remain poised throughout the game. That's a testament to Pete Carroll and his coaching staff.

Here's to a great game at the coliseum in 2006!

7/30/2006 02:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another tidbit, USC and Notre Dame have the most players in the NFL Hall of Fame - 10 players.

7/30/2006 10:24:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To play devil's avocate - I really think the fact that there is no deep root hate between these two schools actually lessens the rivarly. Sure USC deserves respect for sticking it out, and for the good teams they have, but I think it can be that deep-rooted hate for a team or a school that can bring out the most passion in a rivarly.

7/31/2006 12:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Truly loved the article and echo the feeling. I can't believe, however, the comparison not being made between N.D. and UCLA. We only hate N.D. one day a year, OK, maybe the whole week before the game, but always respect 365 days of the year. UCLA on the other hand is true hate 365, followed by NO RESPECT! Go N.D., go Trojans.
ND high school

7/31/2006 07:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Harry said...

What a great article! It captures the feeling and emotion of a great rivalry between respected (if fan hated) foes. Not to detract from this article, it put me in mind of a ferocious rivalry between two teams with equal respect for one another. I am a graduate of the University of Oklahoma (65) and Notre Dame Law (73). While not as often a game with the national signifigance of the ND USC matchup, the annual Oklahoma Texas game on neutral territory at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas (The Red River Shootout) must certainly rank close behind the ND USC series. In my experinece with two of the premier college footbal teams in the nation, I know of no two teams with such a heated rivalry that maintain such a high level of respect for each other as Oklahoma and Texas. This respect is no better exemplified than the Oklahoma Texas game of 1962. At the end of this defensive struggle, Oklahoma had substantially outpointed Texas in every statistic save one. Texas won 9 to 6. As the Oklahoma team left the field the entire Texas side of the stadium stood and applauded their bitter foe. I consider this display of respect matched only by Coach Weise's visit to the USC locker room last season. As a single Domer I am probably the only Sooner who can truly say he is proud that Notre Dame was the last team to beat Oklahoma before it commenced its now legendary 47 game winning streak and Notre Dame was the team that ended that streak.

8/01/2006 02:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When was the last time we beat SC when anything was at stake for them???? Our 3 wins in the last 10 years feel empty because both teams didn't have anything to play for.

I have a friend who is a huge Irish fan and didn't consider SC to be that big of a rival. He has changed his mind since the blowouts started under Willingham.

8/01/2006 04:34:00 PM  
Anonymous TrojanHorse said...

ND vs. USC - Why college football always has been and always will be #1

That is also why I'll never care if L.A. never gets another NFL team

Fight On!!!!

8/02/2006 07:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is refreshing to read an article that celebrates the class in sports. I have been watching ND/USC games since Huarte to Snow.

I have attended many ND games, both @ ND and away. Unfortunatley, only once have I been to an ND/USC tilt. On the other hand, that one afternoon was one of the best in the history of the rivalry, Oct 22, 1977.

ND came out to warm up in their Blue and Gold and returned to the locker room only to find the green jersey's hanging on their lockers. The students then rolled out a homemade Trojan Horse onto the field, the team expolded thru the tunnel, clad in green for the first time in YEARS and the stadium erupted.

ND went on to thrash SC, 49-22, wore the green for the remainder of the season and beat up #1 Texas in the Cotton Bowl to win the National Championship.

Unfortunately, the 2005 green jersey ploy fell inches short of repeating that history.

Lets hope these memories will continue to be made for years to come.

8/02/2006 10:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

kuddos to ndoldtown for a nice article: www.boifromtroy.com pingback

8/03/2006 11:51:00 AM  
Blogger SoCalGirlForND said...

Living in Orange County, CA, it's SC or UCLA all the way. I have spent many years trying to educate these people on the significance of this distinguished rivalry.
Now I have a problem. As a home team I was always a UCLA girl. Now who do I root for?

FYI 2 of our ND boys this year come from "rival" high schools - Mission Viejo and Trabuco Hills. As a 5th grade teacher whose students are never allowed to wear SC shirts in my classroom unless we lose a game, I suppose I will now implement a mutual "respect" for Trabuco, cause my kids go to Mission!!!

Play Like a Champion EVERY Day!!

8/23/2006 05:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a UCLA alum I love Notre Dame because they have beaten USC much more than anyone else. In November 1966 I saw the Irish beat the Trojans 51-00 at the L.A. Coliseum and have an Irish lover ever since.

9/12/2006 06:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


11/16/2006 10:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ya but ur forgeting about navy, even thou they havent been that good lately, they always play ND tough, and ND has played them more than any other team, in the best years, the winner of that game would go on the be the national champion

11/21/2006 01:38:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Always a great rivalry based on respect for the opponent.

SOme of the most enojyable sports memories of my life have invovled these games. My first in person game was 1964 "Fertig to Sherman"!

My first visit to ND Stadum was 1967 when SC with OJ beat ND for first time in South Bend in many years.

With many in-laws who have deep ND ties makes the rivalry even more special.

Letgs hope both great universities always appreciate and cherish the rivalry. Fight ON!

6/25/2007 10:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

McKay was also the author of what I consider the greatest quote ever uttered by a coach. While coaching the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he was asked after one game about his team's execution: he replied in was in favor of it.

10/15/2009 01:51:00 PM  

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