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Notre Dame Fighting Irish football

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Notre Dame Fighting Irish football
2021 Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team 
Notre Dame Fighting Irish logo.svg
First season1887 (1887)
Athletic directorJack Swarbrick
Head coachBrian Kelly
12th season, 87–40 (.685)
StadiumNotre Dame Stadium
(capacity: 77,622)
Year built1930
Field surfaceNatural grass (1930–2013)
FieldTurf (2014–present)
LocationNotre Dame, Indiana
NCAA divisionDivision I FBS
Past conferencesAtlantic Coast Conference (2020)
All-time record924–330–42 (.729)
Bowl record17–19 (.472)
Playoff appearances2 (2018, 2020)
Playoff record0–2
Claimed national titles11 (1924, 1929, 1930, 1943, 1946, 1947, 1949, 1966, 1973, 1977, 1988)[1]
Unclaimed national titles11 (1919, 1920, 1927, 1938, 1953, 1964, 1967, 1970, 1989, 1993, 2012)[2]
RivalriesUSC (rivalry)
Navy (rivalry)
Michigan (rivalry)
Michigan State (rivalry)
Heisman winners7 (Angelo Bertelli, Johnny Lujack, Leon Hart, Johnny Lattner, Paul Hornung, John Huarte, Tim Brown)
Consensus All-Americans104
Current uniform
Notre dame football uniforms.png
ColorsBlue and gold[3]
Fight songVictory March
MascotNotre Dame Leprechaun
Marching bandBand of the Fighting Irish
OutfitterUnder Armour

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team is the intercollegiate football team representing the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. The team is coached by Brian Kelly and plays its home games at the campus's Notre Dame Stadium, which has a capacity of 77,622. Notre Dame is one of six schools that competes as an Independent at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) level; however, they play five games a year against opponents from the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), of which Notre Dame is a member in all other sports except ice hockey.[4] In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Notre Dame football competed as an ACC member for the 2020 FBS season. During the 2020 season, they went on to appear in the ACC Championship Game.[5]

The school has won 22 national championships from NCAA-designated major selectors, 11 of which are claimed by the University.[6] Seven Notre Dame players have won the Heisman Trophy. Notre Dame home games have been televised by NBC since 1991.[7][8]


Early history (1887–1917)

1913 squad, with Captain Knute Rockne holding ball
1913 squad, with Captain Knute Rockne holding ball

Football did not have an auspicious beginning at the University of Notre Dame. In their inaugural game on November 22, 1887, the Irish lost to Michigan by a score of 8–0.[9] Their first win came in the final (and only) game of the 1888 season, when the Irish defeated Harvard Prep School of Chicago by a score of 20–0.[10][11] Between 1887 and 1899 Notre Dame compiled a record of 31 wins, 15 losses, and four ties against a diverse variety of opponents ranging from local high school teams to other universities.[11]

In 1894, James L. Morrison was hired as Notre Dame's first head football coach.[12] Notre Dame took a significant step toward respectability, prominence, and stability when they hired Morrison.[13] 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."[13] Morrison had been hired for $40 plus expenses for two weeks.[14]

In 1908, a win over Franklin saw end Fay Wood catch the first touchdown pass in Notre Dame history.[15] Notre Dame continued its success near the turn of the century and achieved their first victory over Michigan in 1909 by a score of 11–3, after which Michigan refused to play Notre Dame again for 33 years. By the end of the 1912 season, they had amassed a record of 108 wins, 31 losses, and 13 ties.[16]

Rockne running for a touchdown against Army, 1913.
Rockne running for a touchdown against Army, 1913.

Jesse Harper became head coach in 1913, and remained so until he retired in 1917.[17] During his tenure the Irish began playing only intercollegiate games and posted a record of 34 wins, five losses, and one tie.[18] This period would also mark the beginning of the rivalry with Army, and the continuation of a rivalry with Michigan State.[19][20]

In 1913, Notre Dame burst into the national consciousness and helped to transform the collegiate game in a single contest. In an effort to gain respect for a regionally successful but small-time Midwestern football program, Harper scheduled games in his first season with national powerhouses Texas, Penn State, and Army.[21] On November 1, 1913, the Notre Dame squad stunned the Black Knights of the Hudson 35–13 in a game played at West Point.[22] Led by quarterback Gus Dorais and end Knute Rockne—who was soon to be legendary coach—the Notre Dame team attacked the Cadets with an offense that featured both the expected powerful running game but also long and accurate downfield forward passes from Dorais to Rockne.[23][22] This game has been miscredited as the invention of the forward pass.[23] Prior to this contest, receivers would come to a full-stop and wait on the ball to come to them, but in this contest, Dorais threw to Rockne in stride, changing the forward pass from a seldom-used play into the dominant ball-moving strategy that it is today.[23][22]

Knute Rockne era (1918–1930)

Coach Rockne
Coach Rockne

Irish assistant Knute Rockne became head coach in 1918.[24][25][26] Under Rockne, the Irish would post a record of 105 wins, 12 losses, and five ties.[27] The 105 wins account for 12.3% of all wins in Notre Dame football history.[28] During his 13 years, the Irish won three national championships, had five undefeated seasons, won the Rose Bowl in 1925,[29] and produced players such as George Gipp and the "Four Horsemen". Knute Rockne has the highest winning percentage (.881) in NCAA Division I/FBS football history.[28] Rockne's offenses employed the Notre Dame Box and his defenses ran a 7–2–2 scheme.[30][31]

Rockne took over in the war-torn season of 1918 and posted a 3–1–2 record;[32] he lost only to the Michigan Agricultural Aggies.[33] He made his coaching debut on September 28, 1918, against Case Tech in Cleveland, Ohio and earned a 26–6 victory.[34] Leonard Bahan, George Gipp, and Curly Lambeau were in the backfield.[35][36] With Gipp, Rockne had an ideal handler of the forward pass.[37][38] The 1919 team had Rockne handle the line and Gus Dorais handle the backfield.[39] The team went undefeated and won the national championship.[40][41][42]

George Gipp, "The Gipper"
George Gipp, "The Gipper"

Gipp died at age 25 on December 14, 1920,[43] just two weeks after Walter Camp elected him as Notre Dame's first All-American.[44][43] Gipp likely contracted strep throat and pneumonia while giving punting lessons after his final game on November 20 against Northwestern.[44] Since antibiotics were not available in the 1920s, treatment options for such infections were limited and they could be fatal even to young, healthy individuals.[45] Rockne was speaking to Gipper on his hospital bed when he was purported to have delivered the famous, "Win one for the Gipper" line.[46][43][47][48][49]

Roger Kiley
Roger Kiley

John Mohardt led the 1921 Notre Dame team to a 10–1 record with 781 rushing yards, 995 passing yards, 12 rushing touchdowns, and nine passing touchdowns.[50] Grantland Rice wrote that "Mohardt could throw the ball to within a foot or two of any given space" and noted that the 1921 Notre Dame team "was the first team we know of to build its attack around a forward passing game, rather than use a forward passing game as a mere aid to the running game."[51] Mohardt had both Eddie Anderson and Roger Kiley at end to receive his passes.[52][53]

The national champion 1924 team included the "Four Horsemen" backfield of Harry Stuhldreher, Don Miller, Jim Crowley, and Elmer Layden.[54][55] The line was known as the "Seven Mules".[56] The Irish capped an undefeated, 10–0 season with a victory over Stanford in the Rose Bowl.[57][29]

The 1926 team beat Army and was led by Christie Flanagan.[58][59] For all his success, Rockne also made what an Associated Press writer called "one of the greatest coaching blunders in history."[60] Instead of coaching his team against Carnegie Tech, Rockne traveled to Chicago for the Army–Navy Game to "write newspaper articles about it, as well as select an All-America football team."[60] Carnegie Tech used the coach's absence as motivation for a 19–0 win; the upset likely cost the Irish a chance for a national title.[60]

The 1928 team lost to national champion Georgia Tech.[61] "I sat at Grant Field and saw a magnificent Notre Dame team suddenly recoil before the furious pounding of one man–Peter Pund," said Rockne. "Nobody could stop him. I counted 20 scoring plays that this man ruined."[62] Among the events that occurred during Rockne's tenure none may be more famous than Rockne's Win one for the Gipper speech.[63] Army came into the 1928 matchup undefeated and was the clear favorite.[64] Notre Dame, on the other hand, was having their worst season under Rockne's leadership and entered the game with a 4–2 record.[64] At the end of the half Army was leading and looked to be in command of the game. Rockne entered the locker room and gave his account of Gipp's final words: "I've got to go, Rock. It's all right. I'm not afraid. Some time, Rock, when the team is up against it, when things are going wrong and the breaks are beating the boys, tell them to go in there with all they've got and win just one for the Gipper. I don't know where I'll be then, Rock. But I'll know about it, and I'll be happy."[65] The speech inspired the team and they went on to upset Army and win the game 12–6.[66]

The 1929 and 1930 teams both went undefeated,[67][68] winning national championships,[69][70] and the 1930 team was led by the likes of Frank Carideo, Joe Savoldi, Marchy Schwartz and Marty Brill.[70] It featured the first and only example of all four members of a backfield being named to an All-American team during the same season. The 1929 team played all of its games on the road while the new Notre Dame Stadium was being built.[71] In 1930, "Jumping Joe" Savoldi scored the first Notre Dame touchdown in the new stadium on a 98-yard kickoff return.[72] Savoldi is also known as "the first hero in the lore of Notre Dame's Stadium" based on scoring three touchdowns in the official stadium dedication game against Navy the following week.[73] Rockne coached his last game on December 14, 1930, when he led a group of Notre Dame all-stars against the New York Giants in New York City.[74][75] The game[76] raised funds for the Mayor's Relief Committee for the unemployed and needy of the city. 50,000 fans turned out to see the reunited "Four Horsemen" along with players from Rockne's other championship teams take the field against the pros.[77]

On March 31, 1931, Rockne died at age 43 in the crash of a Transcontinental & Western Air airliner in Kansas; he was on his way to help in the production of the film The Spirit of Notre Dame.[78][79][80] The crash site is located in a remote expanse of Kansas known as the Flint Hills and now features a Rockne Memorial.[81] As Notre Dame's head coach from 1918 to 1930, Rockne posted what has remained for decades the all-time highest winning percentage (.881) for a football coach in the NCAA's flagship FBS division.[26][82] During his 13-year tenure as head coach of the Fighting Irish, Rockne collected 105 victories, 12 losses, 5 ties and 3 national championships.[27][83] Rockne also coached Notre Dame to 5 undefeated and untied seasons.[27][83]

Heartley Anderson (1931–1933)

Through game broadcasts during the Golden Age of Radio, Notre Dame football gained a nationwide following of "subway alumni", Catholics who became fans whether or not they attended the university.[84] Former Saint Louis head coach Heartley "Hunk" Anderson was promoted from assistant coach and took the helm of the Irish after Knute Rockne's death, leading them to a record of 16 wins, nine losses, and two ties.[85] Anderson was a former Irish player under Rockne and was serving as an assistant coach at the time of Rockne's death. Anderson resigned as Irish head coach after the 1933 season to accept the position of head football coach at NC State.[86]

Notre Dame finished 6–2–1 in 1931.[87] The Irish began the season with a 25–0 win over Indiana,[88][89] Notre Dame tied Northwestern in the season's second game.[90] Anderson's squad then demolished Drake by a score of 63–0.[91] After defeating Pittsburgh by a score of 25–12,[92] the Fighting Irish shut out their next three opponents: Carnegie Mellon,[89] Pennsylvania[93] and Navy.[94] The Irish lost a heartbreaker by a score of 16–14 to USC on November 21 that snapped the Irish's 26-game non-losing streak.[95] Army shut out the Irish by a score of 12–0 on November 28 to finish the Irish's season.[96] The Irish went 7–2 in 1932.[97] Anderson's team began with three blowout victories: 73–0 over Haskell,[98] 62–0 over Drake[99] and 42–0 over Carnegie Mellon.[100] The Irish then faced Pittsburgh in front of a then-record crowd of 62,000, losing by a score of 12–0.[101] Notre Dame bounced back to win its next four: 24–6 over Kansas,[102] 21–0 over Northwestern,[103] 12–0 over Navy[104] and 21–0 over Army in front of a new record crowd on 80,000.[105] Anderson's Irish closed the season on a sour note, losing to USC by a score of 13–0.[106] 1933 was a tough year for the Irish as they finished with a 3–5–2 record.[107] Notre Dame began the season in a scoreless tie with Kansas.[108] After defeating Indiana by a score of 12–2,[109] ND suffered a four-game losing streak, failing to score a point in all four losses to Carnegie Mellon,[110] Pittsburgh,[109] Navy,[109] and Purdue.[111] Notre Dame ended the losing streak by defeating Northwestern by a score of 7–0.[112] The Fighting Irish closed the season with a 19–0 loss to USC[113] and a 13–12 win over Army.[66]

Elmer Layden (1934–1940)

Anderson was replaced by Elmer Layden, who was one of Rockne's "Four Horsemen" in the 1920s.[114][115] After graduating, Layden played professional football for one year and then began a coaching career.[114][115] The Irish posted a record of 47 wins, 13 losses, and three ties in seven years under Layden,[116] the most successful record of a Notre Dame coach not to win a national championship.[115] He left Notre Dame after the 1940 season to become Commissioner of the National Football League.[115][114]

Layden's 1935 squad posted one of the greatest wins in school history by rallying to defeat Ohio State by a score of 18–13.[117][118] His 1938 team finished 8–1,[119] losing only to USC in the season finale.[120] This loss cost them a possible consensus national championship, but the team was named national champion by the Dickinson System.[121] Like Rockne before him, Layden was a goodwill ambassador for Notre Dame during his time as head coach.[122][123] He was able to schedule a home-and-home series with Michigan after meeting with Fielding H. Yost, healing a rift between the two schools.[124] The two teams had not met since 1909, when, after eight straight losses to the Wolverines, the Irish posted their first win.[125][126] They were scheduled to meet again in 1910, but Michigan canceled the game and refused to play the Irish again.[126] By the time they met again in 1943, Layden had left Notre Dame and Frank Leahy had taken his place.[126] Unlike the easygoing Layden, Leahy was intense, and after the Irish had thrashed Michigan by a score of 35–12 in 1943,[127][128][129] Wolverine coach and athletic director Fritz Crisler never scheduled the Irish again.[126]

Frank Leahy era (1941–1953)

Coach Leahy
Coach Leahy

Boston College head coach Frank Leahy was hired by Notre Dame to take over for Layden in 1941, and was another former Irish player who played during the Rockne era.[130] After graduating from Notre Dame, Leahy held several coaching positions, including line coach of the "Seven Blocks of Granite" of Fordham University that helped that team win all but two of their games between 1935 and 1937.[130] He then coached the Boston College Eagles to a win in the 1941 Sugar Bowl and a share of the national championship.[131][132][133] His move to Notre Dame began a new period of gridiron success for the Irish, and ensured Leahy's place among the winningest coaches in the history of college football.[134]

Leahy coached the team for 11 seasons, from 1941 to 1943 and 1946 to 1953.[130] He has the second highest winning percentage (.864) of any college coach in history.[134] He led the Irish to a record of 87 wins, 11 losses, and nine ties including 39 consecutive games without a loss (37–0–2),[135][134] four national championships,[134] and six undefeated seasons.[135] A fifth national championship was lost because of a 1953 tie against Iowa,[136] in a game that featured 1953 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Lattner[137] that caused a minor scandal at the time, when it appeared that some Irish players had faked injuries to stop the clock, leading some to nickname those players the "Fainting Irish".[136][138][139] From 1944 to 1945, Leahy served in the U.S. Navy during World War II and was honorably discharged as a Captain.[140] Edward McKeever, Leahy's assistant coach, became interim head coach when Leahy left for the Navy.[141] During his one year at the helm (1944) the Irish managed 8 wins and 2 losses.[142] McKeever left Notre Dame in 1945 to take over as head coach of Cornell.[143] He was replaced by Hugh Devore for the 1945 season who led the Irish to a 7–2–1 record.[144]

Leahy retired in 1954 reportedly due to health issues.[145] Perhaps the best example of this occurred during the Georgia Tech game in 1953. Leahy fell ill during the game, which led to him collapsing during halftime.[146][self-published source] The situation was so dire that a priest was called in to give Leahy the last rites.[147] However, Leahy recovered, and the consequent diagnosis was that he was suffering from nervous tension and pancreatitis.[148]

Terry Brennan (1954–1958)

The departure of Frank Leahy ushered in a downward slope in Notre Dame's performance, referred to in various circles as a period of de-emphasis.[149] 25-year old assistant coach Terry Brennan was hired as Frank Leahy's successor as the Notre Dame head coach in 1954 and would stay until 1958.[150] When asked if he thought he was too young to be a head coach at the age of 25, Brennan replied, "Oh, I don't know. I'll be 26 in a few months."[151][152] He departed with a total of 32 wins and 18 losses.[153] But note: the 32 wins included 17 in 1954 and 1955. From 1956 to 1958 his record was 15–15. Brennan was a former player under Leahy and before joining the Irish had coached the Mount Carmel High School team in Chicago and later the freshman squad and assistant at Notre Dame.[150] His first two seasons the Irish were ranked fourth and ninth respectively.[150][154] It was the 1956 season that began to darken his reputation, for it became one of the most dismal in the team's history and saw them finish the season with a mere two wins, including losses to Michigan State, Oklahoma, and Iowa.[155] One bright spot in the 1956 season was the awarding of the Heisman Trophy to Paul Hornung, who would go on to a legendary NFL career with the Green Bay Packers.[156] To date, Hornung is the only Heisman winner to win the award while playing for a team that had a losing record.[156] The Irish would recover the following season, posting a record of 7–3[157] and including in their wins a stunning upset of Oklahoma, in Norman, Oklahoma, that ended the Sooners' still-standing record of 47 consecutive wins.[158] In Brennan's final season, though, the Irish finished 6–4.[159] Brennan was fired in mid-December.[160] Brennan's tenure can only be properly framed with the understanding that in a time of zero scholarship limitations in college football, Notre Dame's administration inexplicably began a process of deemphasizing football, severely cutting scholarships and hindering Brennan from building a roster of any meaningful depth.[161]

Joe Kuharich (1959–1963)

Former San Francisco, Chicago Cardinals and Washington Redskins head coach Joe Kuharich took the head coaching position at Notre Dame in 1959, realizing a longtime ambition to return to his alma mater.[162][163] He had earlier been courted by Notre Dame after the 1956 season, after the Irish finished 2–8,[164] but before he had a chance to accept an offer, Terry Brennan was given a reprieve.[165] He brought a professional touch to Irish football, putting shamrocks on the players' helmets and shoulder stripes on their jerseys.[165] Kuharich compiled a 17–23 record over four non-winning seasons and remains to this day the only coach ever to have an overall losing record at Notre Dame.[166] Included was a school-record eight-game losing streak in 1960, a year in which the Irish finished 2–8.[167] It was one of the worst stretches in program history. The consensus opinion was that Kuharich never made the adjustment from pro football to college football, attempting to use complicated pro coaching techniques with collegiate players, and never adapted to the limited substitution rules in effect at the time, having big, immobile linemen playing both ways in an era where smaller, quicker players were preferred.[168] He often said, "You win some and you lose some", and seemed perfectly content finishing 5–5 every year.[168] This did not sit well with the Irish faithful, who expected Notre Dame to beat everybody.[168] When the pressure of winning became too much to bear, Kuharich resigned in the spring of 1963 and assumed the post of supervisor of NFL officials.[165] Because it was so late in the spring, Hugh Devore was named head coach for the 1963 season while the search for a permanent replacement was being conducted.[169] The players that he recruited came to within 93 seconds of an undefeated season and a national championship in 1964 under first-year coach Ara Parseghian.[170] Despite his unsuccessful Notre Dame tenure, Kuharich remains the only Irish coach to post back-to-back shutouts over their greatest rival, the University of Southern California Trojans in 1960 (17–0) and 1961 (30–0).[171]

Kuharich was involved in a game whose controversial ending resulted in a rule change. In 1961, Notre Dame faced Syracuse at home and trailed, 15–14, with three seconds left to play.[172] A desperation 56-yard field goal attempt fell short as time ran out, and Syracuse appeared to have won the game.[172] But the Orangemen were penalized 15 yards for roughing the placekick holder, and given a second chance with no time showing on the clock, Notre Dame kicker Joe Perkowski drilled a 41-yard field goal for a 17–15 Irish victory.[172] Syracuse protested, claiming that under the existing rules, the second kick should not have been allowed because time had expired.[172] It never was clear whether the officials had erred in allowing the extra play, and the Irish victory was permitted to stand.[172] As a result of this game, the rule was clarified to state that a half cannot end on an accepted defensive foul—consistent with the officials' ruling in this game.[173]

Ara Parseghian era (1964–1974)

Ara Parseghian Statue, dedicated September 22, 2007
Ara Parseghian Statue, dedicated September 22, 2007

In 1964, Ara Parseghian left his job as the Northwestern head football coach when he was hired to take over the coaching duties at Notre Dame.[174] He immediately brought the team back to a level of success in Irish football history that was comparable only to Rockne and Leahy. These three coaches have an 80% or greater winning percentage while at Notre Dame – Rockne at .881, Leahy at .864, and Parseghian at .836. Parseghian's teams never won fewer than seven nor lost more than three games during the ten-game regular seasons of the era.[175]

In his first year, the Irish improved their record to 9–1, but they lost the national championship in the last game of the season at USC when Craig Fertig connected with a touchdown pass to Rod Sherman.[176] Parseghian earned coach of the year honors from the American Football Coaches Association, the Football Writers Association, and The Sporting News, as well as several others, and a cover story in Time magazine.[177][178] Parseghian was also named coach of the year by several selectors in his national championship years of 1966 and 1973 and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1980.[179][180] It was under Parseghian as well that Notre Dame lifted its 40-plus year-old "no bowl games" policy,[181] beginning with the season of 1969, after which the Irish played the No. 1 Texas Longhorns in the Cotton Bowl Classic, losing in the final minutes in a closely contested game.[182] The following year, Parseghian's 9–1 squad[183] ended Texas' Southwest Conference record 30-game winning streak in the 1971 Cotton Bowl.[182]

During his eleven-year career, the Irish amassed a record of 95–17–4 and captured two national championships as well as the MacArthur Bowl in 1964.[175][184] The Irish also had undefeated seasons in 1966 and 1973,[185][186] had three major bowl wins in five appearances, and produced one Heisman Trophy winner (John Huarte in 1964).[187] In 1971, Cliff Brown became the first African-American quarterback to start a game for the program.[188] Due to health issues, Parseghian was forced to retire from coaching after the 1974 season.[189]

Dan Devine era (1975–1980)

Coach Devine
Coach Devine

Dan Devine was hired to take over as head coach upon Parseghian's departure from Notre Dame in 1975.[190] Devine was already a highly successful coach and had led Arizona State, Missouri, and the NFL's Green Bay Packers.[190] Devine had been a leading candidate for the head coaching job at Notre Dame in 1964, when Ara Parseghian was hired.[191] When approached for the job following Parseghian's resignation, Devine accepted immediately, joking that it was probably the shortest job interview in history.[192] When he arrived at Notre Dame he already had a college coaching record of 120 wins, 40 losses, and eight ties and had led his teams to victory in four bowl games.[193] At Notre Dame he would lead the Irish to 53 wins, 16 losses, and a tie as well as three bowl victories.[193]

His lasting achievement came midway through this run when Notre Dame won the 1977 national championship, led by junior quarterback Joe Montana.[194] The championship season climaxed with a 38–10 win in the 1978 Cotton Bowl Classic over previously top-ranked Texas, led by Heisman Trophy winner Earl Campbell.[195] The win vaulted the Irish from fifth to first in the polls. Earlier in the season, before the annual game against USC, played at home on October 22, Devine changed the team's jerseys from navy blue & white to kelly green & gold, later known as the "green jersey game" resulting in a 49–19 victory over the Trojans.[196] The Irish continued to wear green for the rest of Devine's tenure at the school.[196]

Like Joe Kuharich before him, Devine was involved in a game while at Notre Dame whose ending resulted in a rule change still in effect today.[197] On September 15, 1979, the Irish faced the Michigan Wolverines in Ann Arbor in their season opener.[198] With six seconds remaining, Michigan lined up for a game-winning field goal attempt. Notre Dame linebacker Bob Crable ran onto the backs of offensive lineman Tim Foley and defensive end Scott Zettek and was able to block the kick, preserving a 12–10 Irish victory.[198] A new rule was implemented the following season that prohibited this tactic.[197]

Because he had the unenviable task of following a legend, Devine came under heavy scrutiny while at Notre Dame and it was felt that he was never fully embraced by the Notre Dame community, despite winning a national championship.[199] After a 5–2 start in his first season, rumors of incompetence were circulated and that Devine would be dismissed and replaced by Don Shula or even Ara Parseghian (who went so far as to say he would not return to Notre Dame under any circumstances).[200] Even on the day of the 1977 USC game, "Dump Devine" bumper stickers were being sold outside Notre Dame Stadium.[200] He also had the notoriety of losing to his old program, a shocking 3–0 loss to the Tigers at South Bend in 1978. It was not until after Devine had left Notre Dame that the fans began to appreciate him.[201][202]

On August 15, 1980, Devine announced that he would be leaving Notre Dame at the end of the season, saying he wanted to be able to spend more time with his wife.[199] He moved back to Arizona and became a fundraiser for Arizona State University's Sun Devil Foundation.[199] In 1985, he was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame, and then returned to his old school at Missouri seven years later as athletic director to help navigate the school through financial troubles.[199] Devine was inducted into the inaugural class of the University of Minnesota Duluth Athletic Hall of Fame in 1991.[203]

Gerry Faust (1981–1985)

Gerry Faust was hired to replace Devine in 1981.[204] Prior to Notre Dame, Faust had been one of the more successful high school football coaches in the country.[205] As coach of Moeller High School in Cincinnati he amassed a 174–17–2 record over 19 seasons.[205] Many of his players had gone on to play for Notre Dame; indeed, when he arrived in South Bend, he was reunited with nine of his former players from Moeller.

Despite his success in the high school ranks, Faust's success at Notre Dame was mixed and his record mediocre at best. In his first season, the Irish finished 5–6.[206] In Faust's second season, Notre Dame improved slightly to 6–4–1.[207] The most successful years under Faust were the 1983 and 1984 campaigns where the Irish finished 7–5 and made trips to the Liberty Bowl and Aloha Bowl respectively.[208][209] His final record at Notre Dame was 30–26–1.[210] To avoid being fired, Faust resigned at the end of the 1985 season, following fan cries of "Oust Faust".[211][212] He announced his resignation prior to the final game of the year, where Notre Dame suffered a humiliating 58–7 loss at Miami; Allen Pinkett scored the Irish TD. Faust proceeded to take over as head coach at Akron.[213]

Lou Holtz era (1986–1996)

Coach Holtz
Coach Holtz

Lou Holtz had 17 years of head coaching experience by the time he was hired to lead the Irish.[214] He had previously been head coach of William & Mary, North Carolina State, the NFL's New York Jets, Arkansas, and Minnesota.[214] Holtz began in 1986 where his predecessor left off in 1985, finishing with an identical record of 5 wins and 6 losses.[215] However, unlike the 1985 squad, which was generally outcoached and outplayed, Holtz's 1986 edition was competitive in nearly every game, losing five out of those six games by a combined total of 14 points. That would be his only losing season as he posted a record of 95–24–2 over the next ten seasons adding up to a 100–30–2 record overall.[216][217]

In 1987, Holtz led the Irish to an 8–4 record.[218] Notre Dame's best player was star wide receiver Tim Brown, who would win the Heisman Trophy that season and is Notre Dame's seventh and last Heisman winner to date.[219][220] The season began with the Irish defeating No. 9 Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan by a score of 26–7.[221] The next week, the Irish defeated No. 17 Michigan State by a score of 31–8.[222] After defeating Purdue,[223] the Irish lost to Pittsburgh and lost starting quarterback Terry Andrysiak to injury during the game.[224] With sophomore quarterback Tony Rice under center, the Irish reeled off five straight wins, beginning with Air Force,[225] then USC,[226] Navy,[227] Boston College[228] and No. 10 Alabama.[229] Notre Dame would then lose their last three to close the season, starting with Penn State,[230] then No. 2 Miami[231] and Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl.[232]

In contrast to Faust, Holtz was well known as a master motivator and a strict disciplinarian.[233][234] The tone was set with Holtz's first meeting with his team as Irish head coach in 1986, immediately demanding his players sit up straight in their chairs and look him in the eye as he spoke.[235] He displayed the latter trait in spades when two of his top contributing players showed up late for dinner right before the then top-ranked Irish played second-ranked USC in the final regular season game of 1988.[236] In a controversial move, coach Lou Holtz took his 10–0 Irish squad to Los Angeles without stars Ricky Watters and Tony Brooks, who he suspended for disciplinary reasons.[237] This was not the first time these players had gotten into trouble and the players had been warned there would be serious consequences if it happened again.[238] His move was vindicated when the Irish defeated USC anyway.[237] Holtz was named national coach of the year (Paul "Bear" Bryant Award) in 1988,[214] the same season he took Notre Dame to an upset of No. 1 Miami in the Catholics vs. Convicts series[239] and a win over No. 3 West Virginia in the Fiesta Bowl, thus capturing the national championship.[240] The Irish finished a perfect 12–0 in 1988, its last undefeated season and national championship to date.[241][242]

Occasionally, despite his lack of success with the N.Y. Jets, he was rumored to be leaving Notre Dame for the NFL. Following a 6–10 season in 1990 and an 8–8 showing in 1991, the Minnesota Vikings were rumored to replace Jerry Burns with Holtz. However, Holtz denied these rumors each of those two seasons. Holtz remained at Notre Dame; the Vikings, meanwhile, hired Dennis Green to replace the retired Jerry Burns.[243][244] Holtz nearly replaced Green five years later after retiring from Notre Dame.[245][246]

The 1988 national champion Fighting Irish visited President Ronald Reagan in the White House in January 1989.
The 1988 national champion Fighting Irish visited President Ronald Reagan in the White House in January 1989.

In 1989, Holtz led the Irish to a 12–1 record.[247] The Irish began the season in the Kickoff Classic game in East Rutherford, New Jersey against Virginia.[248] The Irish won by a score of 36–13.[249] Next, top-ranked Notre Dame defeated No. 2 Michigan by a score of 24–19.[250] That was followed by wins over Michigan State,[251] Purdue,[252] Stanford,[253] No. 17 Air Force,[254] No. 9 USC,[255] No. 7 Pittsburgh,[256] Navy,[257] SMU[258] and No. 17 Penn State.[259] The Irish would lose to No. 7 Miami the following week, ending Notre Dame's 23-game winning streak.[260] Holtz would lead the Irish to a victory in the Orange Bowl over No. 1 Colorado to end the season.[261]

Holtz led the Fighting Irish to a 9–3 record in 1990.[262] The season began with a No. 1 ranking and a victory over No. 4 Michigan by a score of 28–24.[263] The Irish defeated No. 24 Michigan State the following week[264] then beat Purdue.[265] The Irish would suffer its first defeat of the season the next week, losing to Stanford by a score of 36–31.[266] The Irish would rebound to post five consecutive wins, defeating Air Force,[267] No. 2 Miami,[268] Pittsburgh,[269] Navy[270] and No. 9 Tennessee.[271][272] After losing 24–21 to No. 22 Penn State,[273] the Irish defeated USC by a score of 10–6 in the regular season finale.[274] The Irish would get a rematch with Colorado in the Orange Bowl but would lose by a score of 10–9.[275]

The Fighting Irish would go 10–3 in 1991.[276] After defeating Indiana to open the season,[277] the Irish lost to No. 4 Michigan by a score of 24–14.[278] The Irish won their next seven, defeating Michigan State,[279] Purdue,[280] Stanford,[281] No. 12 Pittsburgh,[282] Air Force,[283] USC[284] and Navy.[285] The Irish would suffer a defeat to No. 13 Tennessee at home, blowing a 24-point lead to lose by a score of 35–34.[286] Notre Dame would then lose back-to-back games for the first time since 1987 when they lost to unranked Penn State, their first loss to an unranked opponent also since 1987.[287] The Irish would close out the regular season with a victory over Hawaii by a score of 48–42.[288] The Irish would receive a berth in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, Louisiana, where they defeated Florida by a score of 39–28.[289]

In 1992, Notre Dame finished 10–1–1.[290] After defeating Northwestern to start the season,[291] the Fighting Irish tied No. 5 Michigan, their first tie of the Holtz era.[292] After defeating Michigan State[293] and Purdue,[294] the Irish lost to No. 19 Stanford by a score of 33–16.[295] Notre Dame would win out for the rest of the season, defeating Pittsburgh,[296] BYU,[297] Navy,[298] No. 9 Boston College,[299] No. 21 Penn State,[300] No. 23 USC[301] and the Cotton Bowl against No. 3 Texas A&M.[302]

The Irish would enjoy another successful season in 1993, finishing the season at 11–1.[303] After scoring 27 points in wins over Northwestern[304] and No. 2 Michigan[305] to start the season, the Irish defeated Michigan State,[306] Purdue,[307] Pittsburgh,[308] BYU,[309] USC,[310] Navy[311] and No. 1 Florida State.[312] However, a loss to No. 12 Boston College on a game-winning field goal as time expired by a score of 41–39 ended the Irish's national championship aspirations.[313] The Irish would face a rematch with No. 6 Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl to finish the season, a game the Irish won by a score of 24–21.[314]

In 1994, Holtz led Notre Dame to a 6–5–1 record, the Irish's worst record since Holtz's first season in 1986.[315] The Irish would begin by defeating Northwestern[316] but would lose to No. 5 Michigan by a score of 26–24.[317] The Irish defeated Michigan State the following week by a score of 21–20.[318] After wins over Purdue[319] and Stanford,[320] the Irish would lose three of their next four to drop out of the rankings for the first time since 1986. After beating Navy,[321] the Fighting Irish lost to No. 6 Florida State by a score of 23–16.[322] After beating Air Force,[323] Notre Dame tied USC[324] and lost to No. 5 Colorado in the Fiesta Bowl by a score of 41–24.[325]

The Irish would improve to 9–3 in 1995.[326] Despite getting upset by Northwestern to begin the season,[327] the Irish won their next three, defeating Purdue,[328] Vanderbilt (a game in which Coach Holtz missed because of a health issue and defensive coordinator Bob Davie filled in as head coach for the game),[329][330] and No. 10 Texas.[331] After losing to No. 6 Ohio State,[117] the Irish reeled off six straight wins, defeating No. 15 Washington,[332] Army,[333] No. 5 USC,[334] Boston College,[335] Navy[336] and Air Force.[337] The Irish finished the 1995 campaign by losing to No. 8 Florida State in the Orange Bowl.[338]

Lou Holtz's last season at Notre Dame in 1996 resulted in an 8–3 record.[339] After defeating Vanderbilt,[340][341] Purdue[342] and No. 8 Texas,[343] the Irish lost to No. 4 Ohio State.[344] Notre Dame would finish the season with a win over No. 16 Washington,[345] a loss to Air Force in overtime,[346] a win over Navy,[347] a win over Boston College,[348] a win over Pittsburgh,[349] a win over Rutgers[350] and an overtime loss to USC, snapping the Irish's 13-game non-losing streak against the Trojans.[351]

Holtz's option offense, which helped catapult Notre Dame to many victories in the late 1980s and early 1990s, also helped rack up impressive recruiting classes. During the 1989 season, Holtz had the following future NFL players on offense: QB Rick Mirer,[352] RB Ricky Watters,[353] RB Anthony Johnson,[354] RB Rodney Culver,[355] RB Dorsey Levens,[356] and WR Raghib Ismail.[357] In 1990, he added RB Jeff Burris (who would later move to Safety),[358] FB Jerome Bettis[359] and TE Irv Smith.[360] 1991 saw the additions of RB Reggie Brooks[361] and FB Ray Zellars.[362] 1992 saw the addition of WR Derrick Mayes.[363] For 1993, he added FB Marc Edwards.[364] In 1995, he added RB Autry Denson.[365] From the 1987–1991 NFL Drafts, there were 33 Notre Dame players selected.[366] From the 1992–1995 NFL Drafts, there were 32 Notre Dame players selected.[367]

Overall, Holtz took Notre Dame to one undefeated season, nine consecutive New Year's Day bowl games, and top 10 finishes in the AP poll in five seasons.[368] Holtz retired from Notre Dame following the 1996 season,[369] but would unretire in 1999 to accept the head coaching position at South Carolina where he would serve until the completion of the 2004 season.[370][371]

Bob Davie (1997–2001)

Coach Davie
Coach Davie

Bob Davie, who had been Holtz's defensive coordinator from 1994 to 1996, was promoted to head coach when Holtz retired.[372] Davie, who turned down a head coaching offer from Purdue to accept the Irish's head coaching position,[373] was a well-respected defensive mind who had also served as defensive coordinator at Tulane and Texas A&M.[374] Davie had also filled in as head coach for one game during the 1995 season when Lou Holtz was dealing with a health issue.[329] One of his first major decisions was to fire long-time offensive line coach Joe Moore, who then successfully sued the university for age discrimination.[375] On Davie's watch, the team suffered three bowl game losses (1997 Independence Bowl,[376] 1999 Gator Bowl,[377] and 2001 Fiesta Bowl),[378] and it failed to qualify for a bowl game in two others (1999 and 2001). The highlight of Davie's tenure was a 36–20 upset win in 1998 over No. 5 Michigan, the defending national champions.[379] Davie's Irish also posted a 25–24 home victory over USC in 1999.[380] Davie nearly defeated top ranked Nebraska in 2000, with the Irish comeback bid falling short in overtime 27–24.[381] The aforementioned 2001 Fiesta Bowl was Notre Dame's first invitation to the Bowl Championship Series. The Irish lost by 32 points to Oregon State,[382] but would finish No. 15 in the AP Poll, Davie's highest ranking as head coach.[383] The 2001 squad was awarded the American Football Coaches Association Achievement Award for its 100% graduation rate.[384]

On December 17, 1999, Notre Dame was placed on probation by the NCAA for the only time in its history.[385][386] The association's Committee on Infractions found two series of violations.[386] The New York Times reported "the main one involved the actions of a booster, Kimberly Dunbar, who lavished gifts on football players with money she later pleaded guilty to embezzling."[385][386] In the second series of events, a football player was accused of trying to sell several complimentary game tickets and of using others as repayment of a loan.[385][386] The player was also said "to have been romantically involved with a woman (not Dunbar), a part-time tutor at the university, who wrote a term paper for another player for a small fee and provided players with meals, lodging and gifts."[385] The Dunbar violation began while Lou Holtz was head coach: "According to the NCAA committee report, Dunbar, the woman at the center of the more serious violations, had become romantically involved with several Notre Dame football players from June 1995 to January 1998 and had a child with one, Jarvis Edison."[385] Notre Dame was placed on probation for two years and lost one of its 85 football scholarships each year in what the Times termed "minor" penalties.[385][386]

Following the 1998 season, the team fell into a pattern of frustrating inconsistency and alternated between successful and mediocre seasons. Despite Davie's rocky tenure, new athletic director Kevin White gave the coach a contract extension following the Fiesta Bowl-capped 2000 season,[387] then saw the team start 0–3 in 2001 – the first such start in school history.[388] Disappointed by the on-field results, coupled with the Joe Moore and Kim Dunbar scandals, the administration decided to dismiss Davie after the 2001 season.[389] His final record at Notre Dame was 35–25.[390] After departing Notre Dame, Davie accepted an offer from ESPN to serve as a play-by-play broadcast college football analyst, a position he would hold for ten years before New Mexico hired him to be their head football coach in December 2011.[391][392][393]

George O'Leary controversy

On December 9, 2001, Notre Dame hired George O'Leary, the head coach at Georgia Tech, to replace Davie.[394] However, while researching a "local boy done good" story on O'Leary, New Hampshire Union Leader reporter Jim Fennell uncovered misrepresentations in O'Leary's resume that had influenced the administration's decision to hire him.[395] The resulting media scandal embarrassed Notre Dame officials, and tainted O'Leary; he resigned five days later, before coaching a single practice, recruiting a single player, or hiring a single assistant coach.[396] O'Leary's tenure is the shortest of any head coach in FBS history.[397] O'Leary would go on to become the head football coach at the University of Central Florida.[398]

Tyrone Willingham (2002–2004)

Once again in need of a new head coach, the school turned to Tyrone Willingham, the head coach at Stanford.[399] Willingham's hiring made him the first African American head coach in Notre Dame football history. Bringing a feeling of change and excitement to campus, Willingham led the 2002 squad to a 10–2 regular season record,[400] including an 8–0 start with wins over No. 7 Michigan[401] and No. 11 Florida State,[402] and a No. 4 ranking. This great early start, however, would be the lone highlight of Willingham's tenure, as Notre Dame finished the year with a heart-breaking loss to Boston College,[403] then lopsided losses to USC[404] and North Carolina State in the Gator Bowl.[405] The program faltered over the next two seasons under Willingham, compiling an 11–12 record.[406] During this time, Notre Dame lost a game by at least 30 points on five occasions. Furthermore, Willingham's 2004 recruiting class was judged by analysts to be the worst at Notre Dame in more than two decades.[407] Citing Notre Dame's third consecutive four-touchdown loss to arch-rival USC[408] compounded by another year of sub-par recruiting efforts, the Willingham era ended on November 30, 2004 (after the conclusion of the 2004 season) when the university chose to terminate him and pay out the remainder of Willingham's six-year contract.[409] Willingham would not be unemployed for long, however, as he would accept the head coaching position at Washington two weeks after he was fired by the Irish.[410]

Charlie Weis (2005–2009)

Coach Weis
Coach Weis

After Willingham's firing, Notre Dame initially pursued Utah head coach Urban Meyer, who had been an Irish assistant from 1996 to 2000.[411] After Meyer accepted the Florida head coaching position and turned down the Irish,[412] Charlie Weis left the NFL's New England Patriots, where he won three Super Bowls as offensive coordinator,[413] to become head football coach for the Irish beginning with the 2005 season.[414] Weis' hiring as the Irish's 30th head football coach made him the first Notre Dame graduate to hold the football head coaching position on a full-fledged basis since Joe Kuharich (a 1938 Notre Dame graduate).[415]

In his inaugural season he led Notre Dame to a record of 9–3,[416] including an appearance in the Fiesta Bowl, where they were defeated by the Ohio State Buckeyes 34–20.[417] In the first half of the first game (against Pittsburgh), Notre Dame had gained more offensive yards than it had in five games combined, during the previous season.[418] On September 25, Weis and the Irish traveled to Seattle, Washington to face Washington and former head coach Tyrone Willingham, who was hired by the Huskies to be their head coach two weeks after getting fired at Notre Dame.[419][420] The Irish won by a score of 36–17.[419] Quarterback Brady Quinn would go on to break numerous team passing records that season and rise to the national spotlight, by holding 35 Notre Dame records as well as becoming a top Heisman Trophy contender.[421] Wide receiver Jeff Samardzija would be the team's leading receiver and would go on to a successful career in Major League Baseball as a pitcher for the San Francisco Giants.[422] Tight end Anthony Fasano would be another key offensive player during the 2005 season who would go on to an NFL career with the Dallas Cowboys, Miami Dolphins, Kansas City Chiefs and Tennessee Titans.[423] During the 2005 season, Notre Dame signed Weis to a big raise and ten-year contract extension that was set to keep the coach in South Bend through the 2015 season.[424]

Weis and the Irish went into the 2006 season with a No. 2 preseason ranking in the ESPN/Coaches Poll.[425] They finished the regular season with a 10–2 record,[426] losing only to Michigan[427] and USC.[428] Notre Dame accepted a bid to the 2007 Sugar Bowl, losing to LSU 41–14.[429] This marked their ninth consecutive post-season loss, the longest drought in NCAA history.[430] As a result, Notre Dame dropped to No. 17 in the final rankings.[431][432]

In the wake of a graduating class that sent eleven players to the NFL,[433] the 2007 season (3–9)[434] included various negative milestones: the most losses in a single year (9);[435] two of the ten worst losses ever (38–0 losses to both Michigan[436] and USC);[437] and the first six-game losing streak for home games.[438] The Naval Academy recorded their first win over the Irish since 1963, breaking the NCAA-record 43-game streak.[439]

In 2008, the Irish started 4–1, but completed the regular season with a 6–6 record,[440] including a 24–23 home loss to Syracuse, the first time that Notre Dame had fallen to an eight-loss team.[441] Quarterback Jimmy Clausen would be the team's star player, completing over 60% of his passes his sophomore season in 2008.[442][443] Despite speculation the university might fire Weis, it was announced he would remain head coach.[444] Weis's Notre Dame squad ended the season breaking the Irish's NCAA record nine-game bowl losing streak by beating Hawaii, 49–21, in the Hawaii Bowl.[445] After the 2008 season, offensive coordinator Mike Haywood left to accept the head coaching position at Miami (OH).[446][447] Instead of hiring a replacement, Weis elected to assume offensive coordinator duties himself, which included calling the plays.[448][449]

Charlie Weis entered the 2009 season with the expectation from the Notre Dame administration that his team would be in position to compete for a BCS Bowl berth.[450] Notre Dame started the first part of the season 4–2, with close losses to Michigan[451] and USC.[452] Many of their wins were also close, aside from a 35–0 victory over Nevada[453] and a 40–14 defeat of Washington State.[454] Sitting at 6–2, however, Notre Dame lost a close game at Notre Dame Stadium to Navy, 23–21.[455] This loss was the second to Navy in the last three years, and would be the first loss in a four-game losing streak to finish the season. The following week, Notre Dame lost to No. 8 Pittsburgh,[456] then lost to UConn at home in double overtime on senior day.[457] The Irish lost to Stanford the last week of the season by a score of 45–38.[458] Quarterback Jimmy Clausen and wide receiver Golden Tate would forgo their senior seasons and enter the NFL Draft.[459]

Weis was fired on November 30, 2009, exactly five years after his predecessor.[460] According to Weis' buyout, he was to be paid $6 million then $2.05 million annually until the contract ran out in December 2015 for a total of about $19 million.[461] During that time, Weis made more money annually not to coach the Irish than his successor, Brian Kelly, made to coach the team.[462] After leaving Notre Dame, Weis would serve as offensive coordinator for the NFL's Kansas City Chiefs in 2010 as well as Florida under Will Muschamp in 2011 before accepting the head coaching position at Kansas in December 2011.[413] His hiring made him the fifth consecutive former Notre Dame head coach (sixth counting George O'Leary) to be hired as head coach by another FBS school, joining Gerry Faust (Akron), Lou Holtz (South Carolina), Bob Davie (New Mexico) and Tyrone Willingham (Washington).[463] O'Leary was hired by Central Florida.[464]

Brian Kelly (2010–present)

Coach Kelly
Coach Kelly

Brian Kelly became the 31st head coach of the Fighting Irish on December 10, 2009, after coaching Cincinnati to a 12–0 record and BCS bowl-game berth, but he left the team before the bowl game.[465] In his first season, Kelly led the Fighting Irish to an 8–5 record.[466] Tragedy struck early in the season when Declan Sullivan, a junior working for the athletic department, died while filming a practice on a scissor lift in dangerously high winds.[467] Dayne Crist started the season at quarterback but was injured for a second consecutive year, this time in the Tulsa game, which the Irish lost.[468] Kelly turned to freshman quarterback Tommy Rees, who led the Irish to victories in the last three games against No. 14 Utah,[469] Army in Yankee Stadium,[470] and breaking an eight-year losing streak to USC in the LA Coliseum.[471] Kelly guided the Irish to a 33–17 win over Miami (FL) in the 2010 Sun Bowl to finish 2010 with an 8–5 record.[472][473] With senior wide out Michael Floyd returning for his senior season and an outstanding recruiting class that included several highly touted defensive linemen,[474]

Kelly and the Irish looked to improve on their 8–5 record from the prior year. However, an early season upset to a Skip Holtz-led South Florida team[475] and a last second loss to Michigan in Ann Arbor left the Irish at 0–2 to start the season.[476] The Irish bounced back to beat No. 15 Michigan State[477] and had two 4-game winning-streaks, with the only loss during that stretch coming at the hands of USC.[478] The Irish also broke Navy's 2-game winning streak over Notre Dame (2009–10).[479] Notre Dame finished the season with an 8–4 record but lost 18 – 14 to Florida State in the 2011 Champs Sports Bowl,[480][481] concluding the 2011 campaign with and 8–5 record overall, identical to the 2010 season.[482] In the team's losses, multiple turnovers from the quarterback position were often the culprit, and as a whole turnovers at critical times in the game often derailed potential Irish comebacks. After the 2011 season, offensive coordinator Charley Molnar left ND to accept the head coaching position at UMass.[483] Safeties coach and recruiting coordinator Chuck Martin would move over to the offensive side of the ball as Molnar's replacement running the offense.[484]

On September 12, 2012, during the football program's 125th season, Notre Dame announced that it would leave the Big East Conference for the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), excluding the football and hockey programs.[485] This move became official on July 1, 2013, in time for the fall sports to compete within the ACC conference. While the Fighting Irish football team will remain an FBS independent, it has agreed to play five games per season against ACC teams starting with the 2014 football season, as the schedule allows. In return, Notre Dame will become eligible to participate in the ACC's sub-BCS level bowl arrangements.[486]

On November 18, 2012, Notre Dame was ranked No. 1 in the nation in both the AP and Coaches' polls after reaching 11–0 during the regular season for the first time since 1993, also ranking No. 1 in the BCS standings for the first time in the 14-year history of the selection system.[487] After defeating the University of Southern California Trojans on November 24, 2012,[488] Notre Dame concluded its first 12–0 regular season, and on December 2, 2012, the Irish were formally named to appear in the BCS National Championship Game for the first time in the 2013 BCS National Championship Game. In that game, on January 7, 2013, the Irish lost to Alabama 42–14.[489]

Coming off the previous year's national title game appearance, the Fighting Irish were dealt a blow when 2012 starting quarterback Everett Golson was suspended from the university due to an academic violation.[490] Senior Tommy Rees then took over. Notre Dame's 2013 season ended with a record of 9–4[491] and a victory over Rutgers in the Pinstripe Bowl.[492] Notre Dame finished No. 20 in the AP poll.[493] After the 2013 season, offensive coordinator Chuck Martin left ND to accept the head coaching position at Miami (OH),[494][495] marking the second assistant coach to leave Kelly's staff to accept an FBS head coaching job. Mike Denbrock was promoted from wide receivers coach to offensive coordinator to replace Martin.[496]

The 2014 season started off with 6 straight victories and a No. 5 national ranking heading into a showdown with No. 2 Florida State in Tallahassee, Florida.[497] FSU won that game 31–27, on a controversial offensive pass interference call that brought back a last second Notre Dame touchdown.[498] The Fighting Irish bounced back with a win against Navy[499] before dropping their final 4 games of the season. They did win the Music City Bowl by defeating the LSU Tigers and finished the season at an 8–5 record.[500][498] After the 2014 season, the Irish again changed offensive coordinators, as Mike Denbrock stepped down from the position due to prostate cancer and returned to coaching the team's receivers.[501]

The 2015 Fighting Irish began its season with another new offensive coordinator, Mike Sanford Jr.[502] That year's squad is arguably the most explosive offense that Brian Kelly has coached at Notre Dame. During the regular season, the Irish were one of twenty-one schools in the country to average 200 or more passing yards and rushing yards per game.[503] The Irish had fourteen plays of over 50 yards during the season, which ranked 13th in the country and was a school record. They also had two touchdowns of over 90 yards, (a 91-yard touchdown run by C. J. Prosise and a 98-yard touchdown run by Josh Adams). The Irish only had two in the previous 126 years of Notre Dame football. The running game was dominant. The 5.76 yards per carry were fifth in the country. They finished the regular season averaging 34 points per game, including a 62-point effort against UMass, the most points in a game since 1996. The Irish finished their 2015 season with a 10–3 record,[504] a ranking of No. 11 in the AP and No. 12 in the Coaches' Poll and a Fiesta Bowl appearance, a loss to Ohio State.[505]

The 2016 season ended with a 4–8 record,[506] Brian Kelly's worst win/loss record at Notre Dame up to that point. The tone for the season was set early, with a double overtime loss to Texas in the season opener.[507] On September 24, Notre Dame lost to Duke by a score of 38–35.[508] Just 4 games into the season, Brian Kelly fired defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder.[509] Mike Elko was hired from Wake Forest as VanGorder's replacement.[510][511] After a 10–3 loss to NC State in Raleigh, North Carolina during messy conditions due to Hurricane Matthew,[512] Kelly publicly called out his starting center over "poor snapping and atrocious play".[513] At the end of the season, starting quarterback DeShone Kizer declared for the NFL Draft[514] and backup quarterback Malik Zaire announced he would be transferring in the winter after graduation.[515] Offensive coordinator Mike Sanford Jr. left the ND staff after the season to accept the head coaching position at Western Kentucky, making him the third Irish OC under Kelly to accept an FBS head coaching position.[516] Chip Long was hired from Memphis as his replacement.[517] Mike Denbrock also departed the Notre Dame staff, accepting the offensive coordinator position at Cincinnati under new head coach Luke Fickell.[518][519] Amidst speculation that Kelly's job was in jeopardy and that Kelly was looking to leave Notre Dame, athletics director Jack Swarbrick announced that Kelly would return for the 2017 season.[520]

The 2017 season ended with a 10-3 record,[521] and a win in the Citrus Bowl over LSU. An early one-point loss to No. 2 Georgia set the tone for the first half of the season. The tough running of running back Josh Adams behind an experienced and talented offensive line allowed Notre Dame to string together 6 consecutive more-than-20-point victories against solid competition like No. 11 USC[522] and No. 14 NC State.[523] But a 41-8 loss to No. 7 Miami in South Florida on Nov 7, 2017 effectively ended the Irish hopes of a playoff run.[524] They went on to struggle in final games to Navy (W 24-17) and Stanford (L 20-38). The strong start and disappointing finish made for mixed feeling among Irish fans after the poor 2016 season.[525]

The 2018 season ended with a 12-1 record,[526] with the lone loss coming at the hands of the eventual National Champion Clemson Tigers in the Cotton Bowl. This season marked the first time in Notre Dame history that the team would be selected as one of the four teams to participate in the College Football Playoff, as the team was ranked No. 3 heading into the playoffs. After going 12-0 in the regular season, Notre Dame would go on to lose in the 2018 Cotton Bowl Classic by a score of 30-3.

Due to logistical issues created by the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States (which resulted initially from the Big Ten and Pac-12 restricting non-conference games), Notre Dame reached an agreement to play a full ACC schedule for the 2020 season. They placed first in the standings and played in the ACC Championship Game. They lost to the Clemson Tigers, 34-10. They then played in the 2021 Rose Bowl, losing to the Alabama Crimson Tide.[527][528]

Championships and distinctions

National championships

  • Notre Dame has won eight wire service (AP or Coaches') national championships, second most ever in the post-1936 poll era.[529]
  • Notre Dame claims national championships in an additional three seasons before the major poll era for a total of 11. Notre Dame, however, is often credited with 13 consensus national championships in total. The 1938 and 1953 seasons are part of the reason for the discrepancy. In the 1938 season, 8–1 Notre Dame was awarded the national championship by the Dickinson System, while Texas Christian (which finished 11–0) was awarded the championship by the Associated Press. In the 1953 season, an undefeated Notre Dame team (9–0–1) was named national champion by every major selector except the AP and UPI (Coaches') polls,[530] where the Irish finished second in both to 10–1 Maryland. As Notre Dame has a policy of only recognizing AP and Coaches' Poll national championships post-1936, the school does not officially recognize the 1938 and 1953 national championships.[531]
  • The NCAA does not list 1938 and 1953 but does recognize 1919 and 1964, making Notre Dame a national champion selection in thirteen seasons: 1919, 1924, 1929, 1930, 1943, 1946, 1947, 1949, 1964, 1966, 1973, 1977, 1988.[532]
  • Notre Dame has been voted national champion by at least one selector in an additional nine seasons: 1920, 1927, 1938, 1953, 1967, 1970, 1989, 1993, and 2012 [533][534]

Notre Dame's 11 claimed national championships are:

Year Coach Selector Record Bowl Final AP Final Coaches
1924 Knute Rockne Helms, CFRA, NCF 10–0 Won Rose
1929 Knute Rockne Helms, CFRA, NCF 9–0
1930 Knute Rockne Helms, NCF 10–0
1943 Frank Leahy AP 9–1 No. 1
1946 Frank Leahy AP 8–0–1 No. 1
1947 Frank Leahy AP 9–0 No. 1
1949 Frank Leahy AP 10–0 No. 1
1966 Ara Parseghian AP, Coaches' 9–0–1 No. 1 No. 1
1973 Ara Parseghian AP 11–0 Won Sugar No. 1 No. 4
1977 Dan Devine AP, Coaches' 11–1 Won Cotton No. 1 No. 1
1988 Lou Holtz AP, Coaches' 12–0 Won Fiesta No. 1 No. 1
National Championships 11

Following its appearance in the 1925 Rose Bowl, Notre Dame did not play in a post-season game for 44 consecutive years (1925–1968), including after many of the team's most successful seasons from the Rockne era in the 1920s and the Leahy era in the 1940s. The university's stated reasons for its self-imposed hiatus were that bowl games were "glorified exhibitions" that played no part in national championship selections and that they extended the season too far to the detriment of players' academic progress.[535]

Appearances in the final Associated Press Poll

Notre Dame has made 715 appearances in the Associated Press poll over 71 seasons. Notre Dame has spent 496 weeks in the Top 10, 277 weeks in the Top 5, and 95 weeks at No. 1.[536] Notre Dame has finished the year ranked in the final Associated Press poll of the season 56 times:

Team awards

Notre Dame Fighting Irish - 1964, 1966‡, 1973, 1977, 1988

‡ - named co-champions with Michigan State

Notre Dame Fighting Irish – 1966, 1973, 1977, 1988 [537]
Notre Dame Fighting Irish – 2017 [538]


  • As of 2020, Notre Dame has the fourth-highest winning percentage in NCAA Division I FBS (I-A) history (.728)(minimum 100 games of football).[539]
  • As of 2019, Notre Dame has produced the second most players drafted into the National Football League of any program in the country. As of the 2019 NFL draft, 511 players have been drafted.[540]
  • As of 2020, Notre Dame is fifth in wins among Division I-A/FBS programs (918), trailing Texas (923), Alabama (929), Ohio State (931), and Michigan (964).[541]
  • As of 2020, Notre Dame is tied for the fewest losses of any NCAA Division I program (329) that has been playing football for more than 100 years with Oklahoma.[539]
  • As of 2020, Notre Dame has 109 winning seasons in 134 years of football, and only 15 losing seasons (including the 2012-2013 season which were posthumously stripped of their wins).[542]
  • One of two football programs with the most individual Heisman Trophy winners at seven (shares the distinction with Oklahoma, Ohio State has seven Heisman Trophies that were won by six players).
  • As of 2014, Notre Dame has produced more 1st Team All-Americans (188), consensus All-Americans (81 players on 99 selections) and unanimous All-Americans (33) in football than any other college program.[543][544]
  • Notre Dame is represented by 48 players and coaches in the College Football Hall of Fame, the most of any university.[545][546]
  • 12 former players are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, tied with USC.
  • Helped by its status as a highly regarded academic institution (ranked 19th by U.S. News & World Report),[547] Notre Dame is second only to Nebraska in Academic All-Americans (66).
  • Since 1962, Notre Dame has graduated 98.74% of its football players in four years. As of 2006, only 13 football players in this time have left Notre Dame without finishing their degree requirements. Also of note is the 90% graduation rate of ND's African American players (only Navy and Boston College have higher African American graduation rates).[548]
  • Notre Dame holds the NCAA record for Most consecutive wins over one opponent, beating the US Naval Academy (USNA) 43 times in a row before falling to them in 2007.[549]
  • The football program is also known for ending the Oklahoma Sooners' NCAA record winning streak of 47 games in 1957. Coincidentally, Oklahoma's 28–21 loss to Notre Dame to open the 1953 season was the last loss before the beginning of the streak.[550]
  • Notre Dame has had 13 undefeated seasons and 11 others with at most one loss or tie. They have gone undefeated in the regular season an additional
  • Notre Dame is 3–3–1 in games where the national title winners from the previous two years have met in a regular season game. There have only been 13 of these games played in college football history. Notre Dame has played in 7 of the 13 games:
    • 1945 – Army def. Notre Dame 48–0
    • 1947 – Notre Dame def. Army 27–7
    • 1968 – Notre Dame tie USC 21–21
    • 1974 – USC def. Notre Dame 55–24
    • 1978 – Notre Dame def. Pitt 26–17
    • 1989 – Miami def. Notre Dame 27–10
    • 1990 – Notre Dame def. Miami 29–20
  • Notre Dame is one of only three out of the current 124 Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A) teams to have never played a Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) team since the divisions were created in 1978. The other two are UCLA and USC.[551]
  • Notre Dame is one of only two Catholic universities that field a team in the Football Bowl Subdivision, the other being Boston College.

No. 1 vs. No. 2

Notre Dame has participated in eleven "No. 1 vs No. 2" matchups since the AP poll began in 1936.[552] They have a record of 5–3–2 in such games, with a 4–1–1 record as the No. 1 team in such matchups. Here's a list of such games:

Date No. 1 Team No. 2 Team Outcome
October 9, 1943 Notre Dame Michigan W 35–14
November 20, 1943 Notre Dame Iowa Pre-Flight W 14–13
November 10, 1945 Army Notre Dame L 0–48
November 9, 1946 Army Notre Dame T 0–0
November 19, 1966 Notre Dame Michigan State T 10–10
September 28, 1968 Purdue Notre Dame L 22–37
November 26, 1988 Notre Dame Southern California W 27–10
September 16, 1989 Notre Dame Michigan W 24–19
November 13, 1993 Florida State Notre Dame W 31–24
January 7, 2013 Notre Dame Alabama L 14–42

Historic games

Notre Dame has played in many regular season games that have been widely regarded by both the media[553] and sports historians[554] as historic or famous games. Notre Dame has played in many games labeled as "game of the century" games as well as several No. 1 vs No. 2 matchups,[555] It has also participated in several games that ended record streaks in college football. The games listed are widely regarded as of historical importance to the game of college football and are written about by sports historians and make many sportswriters' lists.

Notre Dame has also played in several bowl games considered by many sportswriters to be among the best bowl games played:[567][568]

All-time records

Season records

Notre Dame's all-time record after January 2, 2021, stands at 918 wins, 329 losses, and 42 ties. The winning percentage of .728 is 4th All-Time. Its 918 wins are fifth behind Michigan, Ohio State, Alabama and Texas, while its 329 losses are tied with Oklahoma as the second-lowest of any college programs that have been playing football for 100 years or more, behind Ohio State's 326.[569]

In-state NCAA Division I record

Team Record Percentage Streak First Meeting Last Meeting
Ball State 1–0 1.000 Won 1 2018 2018
Indiana 23–5–1 .810 Won 6 1898 1991
Indiana State 0–0
Purdue 58–25–2 .694 Won 7 1899 2021
Valparaiso 1–0 1.000 Won 1 1920 1920
Overall Record 82–30–3

Head coaches

Years Coach Seasons Record Pct.
1887–1889, 1892–1893 None 5 7–4–1 .625
1894 James L. Morrison 1 3–1–1 .700
1895 H.G. Hadden 1 3–1 .750
1896–1898 Frank E. Hering 3 12–6–1 .658
1899 James McWeeney 1 6–3–1 .650
1900–1901 Pat O'Dea 2 14–4–2 .750
1902–1903 James F. Faragher 2 14–2–2 .843
1904 Red Salmon 1 5–3 .625
1905 Henry J. McGlew 1 5–4 .556
1906–1907 Thomas A. Barry 2 12–1–1 .893
1908 Victor M. Place 1 8–1 .889
1909–1910 Shorty Longman 2 11–1–2 .857
1911–1912 Jack Marks 2 13–0–2 .933
1913–1917 Jesse Harper 5 34–5–1 .863
1918–1930 Knute Rockne 13 105–12–5 .881
1931–1933 Hunk Anderson 3 16–9–2 .630
1934–1940 Elmer Layden 7 47–13–3 .770
1941–1943, 1946–1953 Frank Leahy 11 87–11–9 .855
1944 Ed McKeever 1 8–2 .800
1945, 1963 Hugh Devore 2 9–9–1 .500
1954–1958 Terry Brennan 5 32–18 .640
1959–1962 Joe Kuharich 4 17–23 .425
1964–1974 Ara Parseghian 11 95–17–4 .836
1975–1980 Dan Devine 6 53–16–1 .764
1981–1985 Gerry Faust 5 30–26–1 .535
1986–1996 Lou Holtz 11 100–30–2 .765
1997–2001 Bob Davie 5 35–25 .583
2001† George O'Leary 0 0–0
2002–2004 Tyrone Willingham 3 21–15 .583
2004‡ Kent Baer 0 0–1 .000
2005–2009 Charlie Weis 5 35–27 .565
2010–present Brian Kelly 12 106–40 .726

† George O'Leary did not coach a single practice or game, resigning five days after being hired for misrepresenting his academic credentials.
‡ Kent Baer served as interim head coach for one game at the 2004 Insight Bowl after Tyrone Willingham was fired.

Bowl games

Notre Dame has made 39 bowl game appearances, winning 18 and losing 20, with one game vacated.[570] After an initial appearance in a postseason contest in the 1925 Rose Bowl, the Fighting Irish refused to participate in bowl games for more than four decades;[571] writers like Dan Jenkins have speculated that Notre Dame might have gone to as many as twenty bowl games during the self-imposed forty-five-year hiatus.[571] It has played in the BCS National Championship Game (1 loss), Rose Bowl (1 win, 1 loss), the Cotton Bowl Classic (5 wins, 3 losses), the Orange Bowl (2 wins, 3 losses), the Sugar Bowl (2 wins, 2 losses), the Gator Bowl (1 win, 2 losses), the Liberty Bowl (1 win), the Aloha Bowl (1 loss), the Fiesta Bowl (1 win, 4 losses), the Independence Bowl (1 loss), the Insight Bowl (1 loss), Hawaii Bowl (1 win), the Sun Bowl (1 win), the Pinstripe Bowl (1 win) and the Citrus Bowl (1 win). From 1994 to the 2006 football seasons, Notre Dame lost 9 consecutive bowl games, tied with Northwestern University for the most in NCAA history. That streak ended with a 49–21 win over Hawaii in the 2008 Hawaii Bowl. In the process, Notre Dame scored its highest point total in post-season play. The record of 9 consecutive bowl losses was later tied by Northwestern in 2011, then that streak was snapped a year later.

Date Bowl Opponent Result
January 1, 1925 Rose Bowl Stanford W 27–10
January 1, 1970 Cotton Bowl Classic No. 1 Texas L 17–21
January 1, 1971 Cotton Bowl Classic No. 1 Texas W 24–11
January 1, 1973 Orange Bowl No. 9 Nebraska L 6–40
December 31, 1973 Sugar Bowl No. 1 Alabama W 24–23
January 1, 1975 Orange Bowl No. 2 Alabama W 13–11
December 27, 1976 Gator Bowl No. 20 Penn State W 20–9
January 2, 1978 Cotton Bowl Classic No. 1 Texas W 38–10
January 1, 1979 Cotton Bowl Classic No. 9 Houston W 35–34
January 1, 1981 Sugar Bowl No. 1 Georgia L 10–17
December 29, 1983 Liberty Bowl No. 13 Boston College W 19–18
December 29, 1984 Aloha Bowl No. 10 SMU L 20–27
January 1, 1988 Cotton Bowl Classic No. 8 Texas A&M L 10–35
January 2, 1989 Fiesta Bowl No. 3 West Virginia W 34–21
January 1, 1990 Orange Bowl No. 1 Colorado W 21–6
January 1, 1991 Orange Bowl No. 1 Colorado L 9–10
January 1, 1992 Sugar Bowl No. 3 Florida W 39–28
January 1, 1993 Cotton Bowl Classic No. 3 Texas A&M W 28–3
January 1, 1994 Cotton Bowl Classic No. 6 Texas A&M W 24–21
January 2, 1995 Fiesta Bowl No. 5 Colorado L 24–41
January 1, 1996 Orange Bowl No. 8 Florida State L 26–31
December 28, 1997 Independence Bowl No. 15 LSU L 9–27
January 1, 1999 Gator Bowl No. 12 Georgia Tech L 28–35
January 1, 2001 Fiesta Bowl No. 5 Oregon State L 9–41
January 1, 2003 Gator Bowl No. 17 North Carolina State L 6–28
December 28, 2004 Insight Bowl Oregon State L 21–38
January 2, 2006 Fiesta Bowl No. 4 Ohio State L 20–34
January 3, 2007 Sugar Bowl No. 4 LSU L 14–41
December 24, 2008 Hawaii Bowl Hawaii W 49–21
December 31, 2010 Sun Bowl Miami (FL) W 33–17
December 29, 2011 Champs Sports Bowl No. 25 Florida State L 14–18
January 7, 2013 BCS National Championship No. 2 Alabama L 14–42
December 28, 2013 Pinstripe Bowl (vacated) Rutgers W 29–16
December 30, 2014 Music City Bowl No. 23 LSU W 31–28
January 1, 2016 Fiesta Bowl No. 7 Ohio State L 28–44
January 1, 2018 Citrus Bowl No. 17 LSU W 21–17
December 29, 2018 Cotton Bowl Classic (CFP Semifinal) No. 2 Clemson L 3–30
December 28, 2019 Camping World Bowl Iowa State W 33–9
January 1, 2021 Rose Bowl (CFP Semifinal) No. 1 Alabama L 14–31

Shamrock Series

Between 2009 and 2016, and resuming again in 2018, Notre Dame has hosted an annual off-site home football game known as the Shamrock Series. The series promotes Notre Dame's athletic and academic brand, and has brought the Fighting Irish to San Antonio, New York, Greater Washington, D.C., Chicago, Indianapolis, Boston and the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex.

Prior to the 2012 season, Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick announced at a news conference of plans to continue the series through 2016. He confirmed after his news conference that New York is expected to fall in that rotation and then continue to be the one consistently repeating venue for Shamrock Series games. The Shamrock Series was not held in 2017, but resumed in 2018.

One of the unique aspects of the Shamrock Series is its inclusion of academic and other non-football activities in the area of that year's host city the days and hours leading up to the game, which include pep rallies, drummers' circles, and academic lectures.[572][573][574][575]

October 31, 20097:30 p.m.vs. Washington StateNo. 25NBCW 40–1453,407
November 20, 20107:00 p.m.vs. ArmyNBCW 27–354,251
November 12, 20117:30 p.m.vs. MarylandNBCW 45–2170,251
October 6, 20127:30 p.m.vs. Miami (FL)No. 10NBCW 41–3 (vacated)62,871
October 5, 20137:30 p.m.vs. No. 22 Arizona StateNBCW 37–34 (vacated)66,690
September 13, 20147:30 p.m.vs. PurdueNo. 11NBCW 30–1456,832
November 21, 20157:30 p.m.vs. Boston CollegeNo. 5NBCSNW 19–1638,686
November 12, 20163:30 p.m.vs. Army
  • Alamodome
  • San Antonio, TX
NBCW 44–645,762
November 17, 20182:30 p.m.vs. No. 12 SyracuseNo. 3
  • Yankee Stadium
  • Bronx, NY
NBCW 36–348,104
October 3, 20207:30 p.m.vs. WisconsinNBCNo contest
September 25, 202112:00 p.m.vs. No. 18 WisconsinNo. 12
  • Soldier Field
  • Chicago, IL
FoxW 41–1359,571
October 8, 20227:30 p.m.vs. BYU[576]NBC
September 5, 2026vs. Wisconsin
  • Lambeau Field
  • Green Bay, WI

Players and coaches

Heisman Trophy

Seven Notre Dame football players have won the Heisman Trophy, which ties them with the University of Oklahoma for the most by any university. (Ohio State also has seven trophies but were won by only six players and USC won seven but has been reduced to six trophies, following Reggie Bush's forfeit of the 2005 award due to NCAA violations).

Heisman Trophy Winners
Year Name Position
1943 Angelo Bertelli QB
1947 Johnny Lujack QB
1949 Leon Hart End
1953 Johnny Lattner HB
1956 Paul Hornung OB
1964 John Huarte QB
1987 Tim Brown WR

Heisman voting:[577]

Other national award winners

Coaching awards

Team awards

Notre Dame Fighting Irish – 1966, 1973, 1977, 1988 [537]
Notre Dame Fighting Irish – 2017 [538]

College Football Hall of Fame

Forty-six former Notre Dame players and 6 coaches have been inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, located in Atlanta, Georgia.[545] Notre Dame leads all universities in players inducted.

Name Position Year Inducted
Hunk Anderson G 1974
Angelo Bertelli QB 1972
Tim Brown WR 2009
Ross Browner DE 1999
Jack Cannon G 1965
Frank Carideo QB 1954
Dave Casper TE 2012
George Connor T 1963
Bob Crable LB 2017
Jim Crowley HB 1966
Zygmont Czarobski T 1977
Dan Devine Coach 1985
Bob Dove End 2000
Ray Eichenlaub FB 1972
Bill Fischer T/G 1983
Thom Gatewood End 2015
George Gipp HB 1951
Jerry Groom C 1994
Ralph Guglielmi QB 2001
Jesse Harper Coach 1994
Leon Hart End 1973
Frank "Nordy" Hoffman G 1978
Lou Holtz Coach 2008
Paul Hornung QB 1985
John Huarte QB 2005
Raghib "Rocket" Ismail KR/WR 2019
Johnny Lattner HB 1979
Elmer Layden FB 1951
Frank Leahy Coach 1970
Johnny Lujack QB 1960
Jim Lynch LB 1992
Ken MacAfee TE 1997
Jim Martin End/T 1995
Bert Metzger G 1982
Creighton Miller HB 1976
Don Miller HB 1970
Edgar Miller T 1966
Fred Miller T 1985
Wayne Millner End 1990
Alan Page DE 1993
Ara Parseghian Coach 1980
Knute Rockne Coach 1951
Louis Salmon FB 1971
Marchy Schwartz HB 1974
Bill Shakespeare HB 1983
Emil "Red" Sitko HB/FB 1984
John "Clipper" Smith G 1975
Harry Stuhldreher QB 1958
Joe Theismann QB 2003
Adam Walsh C 1968
Bob Williams QB 1988
Tommy Yarr C 1987
Chris Zorich DT 2007


The team in their current home uniforms
The team in their current home uniforms

Notre Dame's home jersey is navy blue with white numerals, gold outlining, and a small interlocking "ND" logo on each sleeve. The away jersey is white with navy numerals, gold outlining, and the interlocking "ND" on the sleeves. In recent years, neither jersey included the player's name on the back, but names were included during the Dan Devine and Gerry Faust eras. However, for the Irish's Hawai'i Bowl appearance in 2008 vs. the University of Hawai'i, Notre Dame once again wore last names on their jerseys. Gold pants, with a small ND logo just below the left waist, are worn with both home and away jerseys.

Former quarterback Brady Quinn in the current away uniform
Former quarterback Brady Quinn in the current away uniform

Notre Dame's helmets are solid gold with gray facemasks, the gold being emblematic of the University's famed "Golden Dome". Notre Dame's tradition for the team's student managers to spray-paint the team's helmets prior to each game ended in 2011 when the football equipment staff, along with Notre Dame Athletics Director Jack Swarbrick and head coach Brian Kelly outsourced the painting process to Hydro Graphics Inc.

Over the years, Notre Dame has occasionally worn green instead of blue as its home jersey, sometimes adopting the jersey for an entire season – or more – at a time. Currently, Notre Dame reserves its green jerseys for "special" occasions. Often on such occasions, the Irish will take the field for warmups dressed in blue, only to switch to green when they go back to the locker room before kickoff. This tradition was started by Dan Devine in 1977 before the USC game. Notre Dame has also been known to switch jerseys at halftime, as during the 1985 USC game, and in the loss to Nile Kinnick-led Iowa in 1939, although this was to help avoid confusion between their navy uniforms and Iowa's black ones. The current design of the jersey is kelly green with gold numbers and white outlining. For the 2006 Army game, Coach Charlie Weis broke out the Green jerseys as a reward to his senior players, as well finally ending the string of losses by the Irish when wearing green. Notre Dame wore throwback green jerseys in 2007 against USC in honor of the 30th anniversary of the 1977 National Championship team.[608] On at least one occasion (1992 Sugar Bowl) Notre Dame has worn an away variant of the jersey: a white jersey with green numbers. Champion supplied football jerseys for The University of Notre Dame for over 50 years until they switched to Adidas in 2001. On July 1, 2014, the University of Notre Dame Athletic department began wearing uniforms and footwear supplied by Under Armour.

Former tight end Tyler Eifert.
Former tight end Tyler Eifert.

During Gerry Faust's tenure (1981–85), Notre Dame's blue jerseys switched from the traditional navy to royal blue with gold and white stripes on the sleeves. The navy blue jerseys returned in 1984.

No uniform numbers have been retired by Notre Dame. Upon being issued a number, each player is given a card that lists some of the more famous players who have worn that particular number. Number 3 is perhaps the most famous number in Irish football history, having been worn by Ralph Guglielmi, George Izo, Daryle Lamonica, Coley O'Brien, Joe Montana, Michael Floyd, Rick Mirer and Ron Powlus, among others.[609] Number 5 is also notable, as it is the only number to be worn by one of the Four Horsemen (Elmer Layden) a Heisman Trophy Winner (Paul Hornung) and a National Title winning Quarterback (Terry Hanratty).[609] Number 7 has been worn by such Irish greats as 1964 Heisman Trophy winner John Huarte, 1970 Heisman runner-up Joe Theismann, Steve Beuerlein, Jimmy Clausen and Jarious Jackson.[609]

In 2011, both Michigan and Notre Dame wore throwback uniforms in their game against each other. For the Shamrock Series games, Notre Dame and their outfitters have announced that the school will wear specially-designed helmets, jerseys, and pants.


Notre Dame Stadium

Notre Dame Stadium on game day, with student section and band
Notre Dame Stadium on game day, with student section and band

Notre Dame Stadium is the home football stadium for the University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team. Located on the southeast part of the university's campus in Notre Dame, Indiana and with a seating capacity of 77,622, Notre Dame Stadium is one of the most renowned venues in college football.[610] The Sporting News ranks Notre Dame Stadium as # 2 on its list of "College Football Cathedrals".[611] and the stadium experience evokes a more traditional feel. Notre Dame Stadium is used for football-related activities and for Commencement (since 2010). Notre Dame Stadium had no permanent lighting until the expansion project in 1997. NBC paid for the lighting as they have televised all Notre Dame home football games since 1991. On April 12, 2014, it was announced during the annual Blue-Gold Spring Game that a FieldTurf synthetic surface would replace the grass field after the 2014 Commencement Weekend. In November 2014 the University of Notre Dame embarked on a $400 million stadium expansion called the Crossroads Campus Project, which was completed in time for the 2017 season.

Cartier Field

Cartier Field was the original playing field of the Fighting Irish. In 1930, it was replaced by Notre Dame Stadium, due to the growing popularity of ND football. Notre Dame's practice facility still bears the Cartier Field name. Most ND practices take place on Cartier Field.

Guglielmino Athletics Complex

Known by fans as "The Gug" (pronounced "goog"), The Guglielmino Athletics Complex is Notre Dame's football headquarters. The Gug houses the offices for all team staff members, an auditorium, a weight room, a training room, the equipment room, the practice locker room, a brand new napping room, and various other spaces for the football team to utilize. The complex was underwritten by Don F. Guglielmino and his family.

Irish Athletic Center

The indoor practice facility has a synthetic turf field and a video board at midfield for replay and graphics. On the second level of the facility, there is a 1,600-square-foot recruiting lounge. In all, the facility totals 111,400 square feet, and the ceiling is 95 feet at its peak.


The First Jeweled Shillelagh, awarded to the winner of the annual USC vs. Notre Dame game.
The First Jeweled Shillelagh, awarded to the winner of the annual USC vs. Notre Dame game.

Notre Dame has rivalries with several universities. Although the Fighting Irish competes as an Independent, they play a more national schedule and have frequently scheduled opponents. USC, Michigan, Michigan State, Stanford, Pitt, and Navy are among Notre Dame's oldest rivals.


USC is Notre Dame's primary rival. The rivalry has produced more national titles, Heisman trophies, and All-Americans than any other. It is considered one of the most important rivalries in college football,[612] and is often called the greatest rivalry not dictated by conference, affiliation, or geography.[613] Other than during World War II, the teams have played each other since 1926. Notre Dame leads the series 46–36–5 through the conclusion of the 2018 season.[614][disputed ]


Navy and Notre Dame have one of the longest continuous series in college football, having played 83 games without interruption since 1927. Notre Dame had a 43-game win streak during this time frame, the longest in Division I-A football, which ended in 2007. Navy won three of four consecutive meetings in 2007, 2009, and 2010. Notre Dame has won in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015. Navy won in 2016. Notre Dame won in 2017.


Michigan is considered Notre Dame's first and oldest rivalry. The first meeting was a Michigan victory in 1887, followed by seven more Wolverine wins through 1908. The two schools have long competed for the best all-time win percentage in the FBS, which Michigan leads again since 2016. Following Michigan's initial 8 victories, Notre Dame leads the series 17-16-1.[615] Since the resumption of the rivalry in 1943, Notre Dame has won 8 wire service poll national championships and Michigan has won 2.[616] The rivalry was also colored and intensified by the inimical relationship between each school's early 20th century coaches, both later CFB Hall of Fame members, Michigan's Fielding Yost and Notre Dame's Knute Rockne.[617]

This rivalry stopped after the 2014 season, during which Notre Dame shut out Michigan for the first time in the rivalry's history. Shortly before the 2012 game, the Associated Press reported that Notre Dame had exercised a three-year out clause in their series contract. This series was the first casualty of Notre Dame's arrangement with the Atlantic Coast Conference, under which the Fighting Irish must play five games per season against ACC opponents after the school joined the ACC in all sports except for football and hockey in 2014.[618] In 2016, Michigan announced that the rivalry would resume for two consecutive seasons, in 2018 and 2019. The Irish won the first of the two by a score of 24-17 while Michigan prevailed in the second 45-14. Michigan leads the series 25–17–1 through the 2019 season.[619]

Michigan State

The Michigan State Spartans are one of Notre Dame's most important rivals with the two teams playing for the Megaphone Trophy. Notre Dame holds an all-time 48–28–1 series winning margin. The one tie was the Game of the Century, one of the greatest college football games ever played.[620] The Spartans' 28 victories over Notre Dame are second-most of any school after USC. The Megaphone Trophy series record is 32–26–1 in favor of Notre Dame. Michigan State won the Megaphone Trophy in 2010 after beating the Irish 34–31 in East Lansing on an overtime fake field goal play known as "Little Giants".[citation needed] In 2011, the Irish reclaimed the trophy with a 31–13 victory in which they led all the way.[621]

Gameday traditions

The band playing in a pre-game ceremony before a football game
The band playing in a pre-game ceremony before a football game

Due to its long and storied history, Notre Dame football boasts many traditions unique to Notre Dame. Some of these are:

  • The tradition of having 23.9 karat gold in the helmet paint continues, with the painting process provided by Hydro Graphics, Inc. and no longer by student managers. The gold particles that are used on the helmet were collected from the re-gilding on the Notre Dame dome in 2007. During the 2011 season, however, a new helmet paint scheme was introduced. While retaining the basic gold helmet and grey facemask look, the new gold is much more reflective than the old; there have already been several variations of this new "gold chrome" look, including brick and fish-scale texturing.[562]
  • Formerly, prior to the start of the game, the team attended mass in semi-formal attire at the Sacred Heart Basilica. At the conclusion of mass, fans formed a line that the team walked through from the chapel to the stadium.[622] However, in 2011 the team changed its movements prior the game, instead taking buses back to The Gug for final meetings.[623] In 2013, Mass was moved to Friday night; as a result, the walk now originates from the Gug.[624]
Team raising their helmets to the student section
Team raising their helmets to the student section
  • Earlier on game day, the Band of the Fighting Irish trumpet section plays Notre Dame, Our Mother & the Notre Dame victory march under the Golden Dome, with visitors standing at the bottom of the rotunda, and behind the band members on each upper floor.[625]
  • Coming out of the locker room, players slap the famous "Play Like a Champion Today" sign.
  • Prior to the start of the game, with around 15–30 seconds left on the pregame clock, a clip of Cathy Richardson singing "Here Come The Irish" is played, followed up by I'm Shipping Up To Boston, which continues to play until the football is kicked off.[626]
  • Between the third and fourth quarters of home games, the Notre Dame Marching Band plays the finale to the 1812 Overture, as the crowd reacts with a synchronized waving of arms, with their fingers in the shape of a "K" for Kelly. ("W" for both Weis and Willingham and "L" for Lou Holtz)
  • Starting in 1960, Sergeant Tim McCarthy of the Indiana State Police read out a driving safety announcement to the crowd during the fourth quarter. When Sergeant McCarthy began his announcement, the crowd went silent to hear his message, which invariably ended with a pun.[627][628] Sergeant McCarthy retired from this duty in the 2015 season after 55 years of fan-favorite messages. He was honored on the field on September 26, 2015, to deliver his last in-person address in which he repeated the same announcement he did on his first gameday.[629] He died on October 1, 2020.[630]
  • At the conclusion of every home game, the team turns to the student section to salute them by raising their helmets in the air. They do this after a win or after a loss.[622] Then, the band plays the Alma Mater, "Notre Dame, Our Mother". Those who stay link arms and sing the lyrics.

Irish in the NFL

Since the NFL began drafting players in 1936, 495 Notre Dame football players have been selected by NFL teams. Additionally, Notre Dame has had 65 players selected in the first round of the NFL draft, including five overall number one picks. Of the 46 Super Bowls competed, only 14 teams have won the event without an Irish player on the roster.[631] Looking at both participating team rosters, there have only been five Super Bowls that did not feature at least one former Notre Dame player on either team's roster – Denver vs. Atlanta, 1999; Dallas vs. Buffalo, 1994; Washington vs. Denver, 1988; Dallas vs. Denver, 1978; and Baltimore vs. Dallas, 1971.[631] Eleven former players have won multiple Super Bowls: Mark Bavaro, Rocky Bleier, Nick Buoniconti, Eric Dorsey, Dave Duerson, David Givens, Terry Hanratty, Bob Kuechenberg, Joe Montana, Steve Sylvester and Justin Tuck.[631]

Pro Football Hall of Fame

Thirteen former Notre Dame players/alumni have been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, ranking it first of all college football programs.[632][633]

*McNally graduated from St. John's (MN), but started his career at Notre Dame and is listed as a hall of famer under both schools in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.[634]

Current NFL players

As of May 20, 2021.[citation needed]

Name Year Debuted Position Team
Josh Adams 2018 RB New York Jets
Chase Claypool 2020 WR Pittsburgh Steelers
Sheldon Day 2016 DT Cleveland Browns
Scott Daly 2021 LS Detroit Lions
Matthias Farley 2016 S Tennessee Titans
Will Fuller 2016 WR Miami Dolphins
J. J. Jansen 2008 LS Carolina Panthers
Jamir Jones 2020 LB Los Angeles Rams
Tony Jones Jr. 2020 RB New Orleans Saints
Khalid Kareem 2020 DE Cincinnati Bengals
Nick Martin 2016 C Las Vegas Raiders
Zack Martin 2014 OG Dallas Cowboys
Romeo Okwara 2016 DE Detroit Lions
Julian Okwara 2020 DE Detroit Lions
James Onwualu 2017 LB Las Vegas Raiders
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah 2021 LB

Cleveland Browns

C. J. Prosise 2016 RB Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Theo Riddick 2013 RB Las Vegas Raiders
Kyle Rudolph 2011 TE New York Giants
KeiVarae Russell 2016 CB Green Bay Packers
Harrison Smith 2012 S Minnesota Vikings
Jaylon Smith 2016 OLB Dallas Cowboys
Ronnie Stanley 2016 OT Baltimore Ravens
Golden Tate 2010 WR
Manti Te'o 2013 LB Chicago Bears
Stephon Tuitt 2014 DE Pittsburgh Steelers
Quenton Nelson 2018 OG Indianapolis Colts
Mike McGlinchey 2018 OT San Francisco 49ers
Durham Smythe 2018 TE Miami Dolphins
Equanimeous St. Brown 2018 WR Green Bay Packers
Liam Eichenberg 2021 OT Miami Dolphins
Aaron Banks 2021 G San Francisco 49ers
Ian Book 2021 QB New Orleans Saints
Drue Tranquill 2019 LB Los Angeles Chargers
Jerry Tillery 2019 DT Los Angeles Chargers
Alohi Gillman 2020 S Los Angeles Chargers
Dexter Williams 2019 RB Green Bay Packers
Cole Kmet 2020 TE Chicago Bears


The Fighting Irish are unique among sports teams in the United States, as they are the only team, professional or college, to have all their games broadcast nationally on the radio, as well as the only team to have all of their home games broadcast nationally on television.[635] Notre Dame famously left the College Football Association, a consortium that administered television broadcast rights on behalf of over 64 schools, in 1990, in order to establish its own broadcasting deal with NBC. From 1968 to 2007, Westwood One served as the official radio partner for the Irish, broadcasting their games for 40 consecutive years.[636]

Until the 2006 Air Force game, Notre Dame had a record 169 consecutive games broadcast nationally on either NBC, ABC, ESPN, or CBS.[637] The 2006 ND vs. Air Force game was broadcast on CSTV, a college sports channel owned by CBS who had an exclusive contract with the Mountain West Conference, of which Air Force is a member.


NBC has been televising Notre Dame Home football games since the 1991 season.[7] Notre Dame is the only FBS football team to have all of its home games televised exclusively by one television network. In addition to TV broadcasts, NBC also maintains several dedicated websites to ND football and Notre Dame Central,[638] which provides complete coverage, full game replays and commentary of the Notre Dame team. NBC's television contract with Notre Dame was renewed in April 2013 and is set to continue through the 2025 football season.[639] It also aired football games on NBC's streaming service Peacock started in the 2021 season, with the home opener on September 11, 2021 against Toledo aired exclusively on the streaming service.[640][641]

Current broadcast team


Radio rights to the Fighting Irish are held by Skyview Networks, who began distributing the broadcasts as part of a multi-sport arrangement in 2020.[642]

Current broadcast team

Former commentators

Future schedules

Although the Notre Dame football program is not a full member of the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), it has an agreement to play an average of five ACC schools per season. In return Notre Dame has access to the non-College Football Playoff ACC bowl line-up.[643][644] Notre Dame utilizes a format of six home games in South Bend, five away games, and one major metropolitan area neutral site "Shamrock Series" home game for scheduling.[645] This includes preserving traditional yearly rivalries with USC, Stanford, and Navy,[646] five rotating ACC opponents (two away ACC games will coincide in even years with away games at Navy and three away ACC games will coincide in odd years with home games against Navy),[647] two home and home series (one home game and one away game), one one-time opponent home game, and the traveling "Shamrock Series" home game.[648][649]


September 3at Ohio State[650]
September 10Marshall[651]NBC
September 17California[652]
  • Notre Dame Stadium
  • South Bend, IN
September 24at North Carolina[653][654]
October 8BYU[655]NBC
October 15Stanford[656]
  • Notre Dame Stadium
  • South Bend, IN
October 22UNLV[657]
  • Notre Dame Stadium
  • South Bend, IN
November 5Clemson[653]
  • Notre Dame Stadium
  • South Bend, IN
November 12at Navy[654][658][659][660]ABC/ESPN
November 26at USC[661]
TBABoston College[653]
  • Notre Dame Stadium
  • South Bend, IN
TBAat Syracuse[653]


September 16Central Michigan[662]NBC
September 23Ohio State[650]
  • Notre Dame Stadium
  • South Bend, IN
October 14USC[661][654]
  • Notre Dame Stadium
  • South Bend, IN
October 28Wake Forest[653][654]
  • Notre Dame Stadium
  • South Bend, IN
November 4at Clemson[653][654]
November 11Navy[658][663]
  • Notre Dame Stadium
  • South Bend, IN
November 25at Stanford[656]
  • Notre Dame Stadium
  • South Bend, IN
TBAat Duke[653]
TBAat Louisville[653]
TBAat North Carolina State[653]

TBA: An additional non-ACC home game will be scheduled.


August 31at Texas A&M[664]
September 14at Purdue[665]
October 12Stanford[646][654]NBC
October 19at Georgia Tech[653][666]
Octpber 26at Navy[658][667]
November 16Virginia[653][668]
  • Notre Dame Stadium
  • South Bend, IN
Novemberat USC[646]
TBAFlorida State[653]
  • Notre Dame Stadium
  • South Bend, IN
  • Notre Dame Stadium
  • South Bend, IN

TBA: An additional 3 non-ACC home games will be scheduled.


September 20Purdue[665]NBC
September 27Texas A&M[664]
  • Notre Dame Stadium
  • South Bend, IN
October 4at Arkansas[669]
  • Notre Dame Stadium
  • South Bend, IN
Novemberat Stanford[646]
  • Notre Dame Stadium
  • South Bend, IN
TBANC State[653]
  • Notre Dame Stadium
  • South Bend, IN
  • Notre Dame Stadium
  • South Bend, IN
TBAat Boston College[653]
TBAat Miami[653]
TBAat Pittsburgh[653]

TBA: An additional non-ACC home game will be scheduled.


September 5Wisconsin[670]
September 26at Purdue[665]
October 17Virginia[671][668]
  • Notre Dame Stadium
  • South Bend, IN
Novemberat USC[646]
TBAat Navy[658]
  • TBA
  • TBA
  • Notre Dame Stadium
  • South Bend, IN
  • Notre Dame Stadium
  • South Bend, IN
TBAat Florida State[671]
TBAat North Carolina[671]

TBA: An additional 2 non-ACC home games will be scheduled.


September 4Purdue[665]
  • Notre Dame Stadium
  • South Bend, IN
Novemberat Stanford[646]
  • Notre Dame Stadium
  • South Bend, IN
TBAGeorgia Tech[671]
  • Notre Dame Stadium
  • South Bend, IN
TBAVirginia Tech[671]
  • Notre Dame Stadium
  • South Bend, IN
TBAat Clemson[671]
TBAat Duke[671]
TBAat Wake Forest[671]

TBA: An additional 3 non-ACC games will be scheduled (2 home and 1 away).


September 16Arkansas[672]
September 23at Purdue[665]
  • Notre Dame Stadium
  • South Bend, IN
November 4at Virginia Tech[671][673]
Novemberat USC[646]
TBAat Navy[646]
  • TBA
  • TBA
TBABoston College[671]
  • Notre Dame Stadium
  • South Bend, IN
  • Notre Dame Stadium
  • South Bend, IN
  • Notre Dame Stadium
  • South Bend, IN
TBAat Pittsburgh[671]

TBA: An additional 2 non-ACC home game will be scheduled.


September 1Alabama[674]
September 15at USF[675]
  • Notre Dame Stadium
  • South Bend, IN
Novemberat Stanford[646]
  • Notre Dame Stadium
  • South Bend, IN
TBAGeorgia Tech[671]
  • Notre Dame Stadium
  • South Bend, IN
TBAWake Forest[653]
  • Notre Dame Stadium
  • South Bend, IN
TBAat Florida State[671]
TBAat North Carolina State[653]
TBAat Syracuse[653]

TBA: An additional 2 non-ACC home games will be scheduled.


September 1Indiana[676]
September 15at Alabama[674]
  • Notre Dame Stadium
  • South Bend, IN
Novemberat USC[646]
TBAat Navy[646]
  • TBA
  • TBA
  • Notre Dame Stadium
  • South Bend, IN
TBAFlorida State[653]
  • Notre Dame Stadium
  • South Bend, IN
TBANorth Carolina[671]
  • Notre Dame Stadium
  • South Bend, IN
TBAat Boston College[653]
TBAat Louisville[653]

TBA: An additional 2 non-ACC home games will be scheduled.


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