|Notre Dame Fighting Irish
|Notre Dame played its first football game in an 1887 contest against Michigan and hasn’t looked back since. The Fighting Irish have laid claim
to an unprecedented 11 national championships under the direction of legendary coaching figures such as Knute Rockne, Frank Leahy, Ara
Parseghian, Dan Devine and Lou Holtz.
Famed sportswriter Grantland Rice, helped usher in the legendary status of Notre Dame’s first national championship team in 1924. Writing
for the New York Herald, Rice wrote about the dominating Four Horsemen backfield that led the Fighting Irish’s 13-7 victory over a powerful
“Outlined against a blue-gray October sky, The Four Horsemen rode again.”
“In dramatic lore they are known as famine, pestilence, destruction and death. These are only aliases. Their real names are Stuhldreher,
Miller, Crowley and Layden. They formed the crest of the South Bend cyclone before which another fighting Army team was swept over the
precipice at the Polo Grounds this afternoon as 55,000 spectators peered down on the bewildering panorama spread out on the green plain
Led by the Seven Mules who did the blocking, the Four Horsemen backfield continued to roll as Notre Dame gained its first recognized national
championship in 1924. The season concluded with a 27-10 Rose Bowl win over a Stanford team that featured two legendary figures, Coach
Pop Warner and Ernie Nevers. Because of a self-imposed bowl ban this bowl trip would be the last one taken by the Irish until 1970.
Notre Dame overcame great adversity in 1929 to claim its second national championship. Because their stadium was being built, the Fighting
Irish played no home games and Knute Rockne coached the team despite there being a 50-50 chance that phlebitis would take his life.
Whether it was from a phone in a hospital bed or while sitting in a wheelchair on the sidelines, Rockne coached his squad through a series of
dramatic victories and a national title.
While playing in new Notre Dame Stadium, the Irish won their second straight national title in 1930 after cruising to a 10-0 record. Under the
direction of Rockne, Notre Dame had pushed their winning streak to 19 games by season’s end. However, the Irish lost their Rock the
following winter when the legendary figure died in a plane crash.
A successful transition to the T-formation offense helped Frank Leahy’s 1943 squad claim a national title. The task was difficult since Notre
Dame returned only two starters from the year before and had seven teams scheduled from the previous season’s top 13 rankings. The Irish
outscored opponents 340-69 and won a national title despite losing to Great Lakes in the season finale.
Notre Dame established themselves as the team of the decade by winning three more national championships in the 1940s. A scoreless tie
with a dominating Army team was the only red mark on Notre Dame’s 1946 squad that outscored opponents by a 271-24 margin. The Fighting
Irish were even more dominating the next season, as Johnny Lujack’s Heisman winning performance helped propel the Golden Domes to an
undefeated season and the 1947 national title.
Frank Leahy’s squad added an exclamation point to the 1940s being the decade of the Irish when they won their fourth national title in 10
years. On their way to an undefeated 1949 season, Notre Dame rode the coattails of Heisman winner Leon Hart. By the time Notre Dame
upended SMU at the end of the 1949 campaign, the Irish had a 38 game unbeaten streak that dated back to 1946.
The Ara Parseghian era began in fine fashion when Notre Dame’s new coach led the school to a national championship claim in 1964.
Parseghian’s first campaign also produced Heisman winner John Huarte as the Irish went 9-1 after losing to USC in the season finale.
Notre Dame was near perfection in 1966 when they outscored their opponents 362-38 while tossing six shutouts. A late season contest
featuring the top ranked Irish against No. 2 Michigan State was fought to a 10-10 tie and hailed by many as the “Game of the Century.”
Ara’s final national title was gained in 1973 when the Irish swept through all 12 opponents before beating Alabama in a classic Sugar Bowl.
The game pitted the No. 3 ranked Irish against the nation’s top ranked team led by Bear Bryant. The lead changed six times before Notre
Dame sealed a 24-23 victory in the fourth quarter.
The Fighting Irish got a Divine performance in 1977 when they earned their second national title of the 1970s. Dan Devine’s squad had to
overcame a loss to Ole Miss in the second game of the season. A 49-19 whipping of fifth ranked USC in mid season followed by an upset win
over top ranked Texas boosted the Irish.
Notre Dame’s final national championship team was led by Lou Holtz in 1988. Holtz’s squad benefited from the luck of the Irish as they
narrowly beat Michigan 19-17 in the season opener and Miami 31-30 midway through the season. A 34-21 whipping of West Virginia in the
Fiesta Bowl sealed a unanimous title selection.
YEAR REC COACH POLLS
1924 10-0 Knute Rockne Unanimous
1929 9-0 Knute Rockne Unanimous
1930 10-0 Knute Rockne HAF, NCF
1943 9-1 Frank Leahy Unanimous
1946 8-0-1 Frank Leahy AP
1947 9-0 Frank Leahy Unanimous
1949 10-0 Frank Leahy Unanimous
1964 9-1 Ara Parseghian NFF
1966 9-0-1 Ara Parseghian AP, UPI, FWAA, NFF
1973 11-0 Ara Parseghian AP, UPI, FWAA, NFF
1977 11-1 Dan Devine Unanimous
1988 12-0 Lou Holtz Unanimous
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