Division I (NCAA)
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Notre dame fighting irish football spring game 2016
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team is the intercollegiate football team representing the University of Notre Dame in Notre Dame, Indiana. The team is currently coached by Brian Kelly. The team plays its home games at the campus's Notre Dame Stadium, with a capacity of 80,795. Notre Dame is one of four schools that competes as an Independent at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Football Bowl Subdivision level; however, they play five games a year against opponents from the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), which Notre Dame is a member of in all other sports (except ice hockey).
- Notre dame fighting irish football spring game 2016
- Early history 18871917
- Knute Rockne era 19181930
- Anderson and Layden 19311940
- Frank Leahy era 19411953
- Terry Brennan era 19541958
- Kuharich and Devore 19591963
- Ara Parseghian era 19641974
- Dan Devine era 19751980
- Gerry Faust era 19811985
- Lou Holtz era 19861996
- Bob Davie era 19972001
- George OLeary controversy
- Tyrone Willingham era 20022004
- Charlie Weis era 20052009
- Brian Kelly era 2010present
- National championships
- Appearances in the final Associated Press poll
- Number one vs number two
- Historic games
- Season records
- Bowl games
- Shamrock Series
- Heisman Trophy
- College Football Hall of Fame
- Notre Dame Stadium
- Cartier Field
- Guglielmino Athletics Complex
- Michigan State
- Game day traditions
- Irish in the NFL
- Pro Football Hall of Fame
- Current NFL players
- Current broadcast team
- Former commentators
- Future schedules
One of the most iconic and successful programs in college sports, have 13 national championships recognized by the NCAA, second out of all FBS schools in the NCAA era. A record seven Notre Dame players have won the Heisman trophy, and the program has produced 97 consensus All-Americans, 33 unanimous All-Americans, and 50 members of the College Football Hall of Fame, all NCAA records. With 486 players selected, Notre Dame is second to USC in the number of players chosen by NFL teams in the draft.
All Notre Dame home games have been televised on NBC since 1991, and Notre Dame is the only school to have such a contract. It was the only independent program to be part of the Bowl Championship Series coalition and its guaranteed payout, and it has one of the largest, most widespread fanbases in college football. These factors help make Notre Dame one of the most financially valuable football programs in the country, allowing them to remain independent of a conference.
Early history (1887–1917)
Football did not have an auspicious beginning at the University of Notre Dame. In their inaugural game on November 23, 1887, the Irish lost to Michigan by a score of 8–0. Their first win came in the final game of the 1888 season when the Irish defeated Harvard Prep by a score of 20–0. At the end of the 1888 season they had a record of 1–3 with all three losses being at the hands of Michigan by a combined score of 43–9. 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.
In 1908, the win over Franklin saw end Fay Wood catch the first touchdown pass in Notre Dame history. Notre Dame continued its success near the turn of the century and achieved their first victory over Michigan in 1909 by the 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.
Jesse Harper became head coach in 1913 and remained so until he retired in 1917. During his tenure the Irish began playing only intercollegiate games and posted a record of 34 wins, five losses, and one tie. This period would also mark the beginning of the rivalry with Army and the continuation of rivalries with Michigan State.
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. On November 1, 1913, the Notre Dame squad stunned the Black Knights of the Hudson 35–13 in a game played at West Point. Led by quarterback Charles "Gus" Dorais and end (soon to be legendary coach) Knute Rockne, 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. This game has been miscredited as the invention of the forward pass. 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.
Knute Rockne era (1918–1930)
Knute Rockne became head coach in 1918. Under Rockne, the Irish would post a record of 105 wins, 12 losses, and five ties. During his 13 years the Irish won three national championships, had five undefeated seasons, won the Rose Bowl in 1925, 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. Rockne's offenses employed the Notre Dame Box and his defenses ran a 7–2–2 scheme.
Rockne took over in the war-torn season of 1918, posting a 3–1–2 record, losing only to the Michigan Aggies. He made his coaching debut on September 28, 1918, against Case Tech in Cleveland earning a 26–6 victory. In the backfield was Leonard Bahan, George Gipp, and Curly Lambeau. With Gipp, Rockne had an ideal handler of the forward pass.
The 1919 team had Rockne handle the line and Gus Dorais handle the backfield. The team went undefeated and was a national champion.
Gipp died December 14, 1920, just two weeks after being elected Notre Dame's first All-American by Walter Camp. Gipp likely contracted strep throat and pneumonia while giving punting lessons after his final game, November 20 against Northwestern University. 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. It was while on his hospital bed and speaking to Rockne that he is purported to have delivered the famous,"win just one for the Gipper" line.
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. 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." Mohardt had both Eddie Anderson and Roger Kiley at end to receive his passes.
The national champion 1924 team included the "Four Horsemen" backfield of Harry Stuhldreher, Don Miller, Jim Crowley, and Elmer Layden. The line was known as the "Seven Mules". The Irish capped an undefeated, 10–0 season with a victory over Stanford in the Rose Bowl.
The 1926 team beat Army and was led by Christie Flanagan. For all his success, Rockne also made what an Associated Press writer called "one of the greatest coaching blunders in history." 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." 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.
The 1928 team lost to national champion Georgia Tech. "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."
Among the events that occurred during Rockne's tenure none may be more famous than the Rockne's Win one for the Gipper speech. Army came into the 1928 matchup undefeated and was the clear favorite. Notre Dame, on the other hand, was having their worst season under Rockne's leadership and entered the game with a 4–2 record. 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." The speech inspired the team and they went on to upset Army and win the game 12–6.
The 1929 and 1930 teams both went undefeated, winning national championships, and the 1930 team was led by the likes of Frank Carideo, Joe Savoldi, Marchy Schwartz and Marty Brill. 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 home games on the road while the new Notre Dame Stadium was being built. In 1930, "Jumping Joe" Savoldi scored the first Notre Dame touchdown in the new stadium on a 98-yard kickoff return. 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. The last game Rockne coached was on December 14, 1930 when he led a group of Notre Dame all-stars against the New York Giants in New York City. The game 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.
Rockne, aged 43, died in the plane crash of TWA Flight 599 in Kansas on March 31, 1931, while on his way to help in the production of the film The Spirit of Notre Dame. The crash site, located in a remote expanse of Kansas known as the Flint Hills, now features a Rockne Memorial. 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. During his 13-year tenure as head coach of the Fighting Irish, Rockne collected 105 victories, 12 losses, 5 ties and 3 national championships. Rockne also coached Notre Dame to 5 undefeated seasons without a tie.
Anderson and Layden (1931–1940)
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. Heartley "Hunk" Anderson took the helm of the Irish leading them to a record of 16 wins, nine losses, and two ties. 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 in 1934 and was replaced by Elmer Layden, who was one of Rockne's "Four Horsemen" in the 1920s. After graduating, Layden played professional football for one year and then began a coaching career. The Irish posted a record of 47 wins, 13 losses, and three ties in seven years under Layden, the most successful record of a Notre Dame coach not to win a national championship. He left Notre Dame after the 1940 season to become Commissioner of the National Football League.
Frank Leahy era (1941–1953)
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. 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. He then coached the Boston College Eagles to a win in the 1941 Sugar Bowl and a share of the national championship. 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.
Leahy coached the team for 11 seasons, from 1941 to 1943 and 1946 to 1953. He has the second highest winning percentage (.864) of any college coach in history. He led the Irish to a record of 87 wins, 11 losses, and nine ties including 39 games without a loss (37–0–2), four national championships, and six undefeated seasons. A fifth national championship was lost because of a tie in 1953 against Iowa, in a game featuring 1953 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Lattner that caused a minor scandal at the time, when it appeared that some Irish players had faked injuries to stop the clock. Leahy retired in 1954 reportedly due to health reasons. 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. The situation was so dire that a priest was called in to give Leahy the last rites. However, Leahy recovered, and the consequent diagnosis was that he was suffering from nervous tension and pancreatits.
From 1944 to 1945, Leahy served in the U.S. Navy and was honorably discharged as a Captain. Edward McKeever, Leahy's assistant coach, became interim head coach when Leahy left for the Navy. During his one year at the helm the Irish managed 8 wins and 2 losses. McKeever left Notre Dame in 1945 to take over as head coach of Cornell University. He was replaced by Hugh Devore for the 1945 season who led the Irish to a 7–2–1 record.
Terry Brennan era (1954–1958)
The departure of Leahy ushered in a downward slope in Notre Dame's performance, referred to in various circles as a period of de-emphasis. Terry Brennan was hired as the Notre Dame head coach in 1954 and would stay until 1958. He departed with a total of 32 wins and 18 losses. 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 at Notre Dame. His first two seasons the Irish were ranked fourth and ninth respectively. 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. 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. To date, Hornung is the only Heisman winner to win the award while playing for a team that had a losing record. The Irish would recover the following season, posting a record of 7–3 and including in their wins a stunning upset of Oklahoma, in Norman, that ended the Sooners' still-standing record of 47 consecutive wins. In Brennan's final season, though, the Irish finished 6–4. Brennan was fired in mid-December. 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.
Kuharich and Devore (1959–1963)
Joe Kuharich took over for Brennan in 1959, and during his 4-year tenure as coach the Irish finished 17–23, never finishing better than .500 in a season. Hugh Devore once again filled in the gap between coaches and led the Irish to a 2–7 record in 1963.
Ara Parseghian era (1964–1974)
Ara Parseghian was a former college football player for the Miami University Redskins until 1947 and became their assistant coach in 1950 and head coach in 1951, after a two-year stint playing for the Cleveland Browns. In 1956 he moved to Northwestern University, where he stayed for eight years.
In 1964, Parseghian was hired to replace Devore as head football coach and immediately brought the team back to a level of success comparable only to Rockne and Leahy in Irish football history. 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 two games during the ten game regular seasons of the era.
In his first year the Irish improved their record to 9–1, earning Parseghian 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. 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. It was under Parseghian as well that Notre Dame lifted its 40-plus year-old "no bowl games" policy, 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. The following year, Parseghian's 9–1 squad ended Texas' Southwest Conference record 30-game winning streak in the 1971 Cotton Bowl Classic.
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. The Irish also had two undefeated seasons in 1966 and 1973, had three major bowl wins in five appearances, and produced one Heisman Trophy winner. In 1971, Cliff Brown became the first African-American quarterback to start a game for the program. Parseghian was forced to retire after the 1974 season for medical reasons.
Dan Devine era (1975–1980)
Dan Devine was hired to take over as head coach upon Parseghian's resignation in 1975. Devine was already a highly successful coach and had led Arizona State, Missouri, and the Green Bay Packers. Devine had been a leading candidate for the head coaching job at Notre Dame in 1964, when Ara Parseghian was hired. When approached for the job following Parseghian's resignation, Devine accepted immediately, joking that it was probably the shortest job interview in history. 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. At Notre Dame he would lead the Irish to 53 wins, 16 losses, and a tie as well as three bowl victories.
His lasting achievement came midway through this run, when Notre Dame won the 1977 national championship, led by junior quarterback Joe Montana. 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. 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. The Irish continued to wear green for the rest of Devine's tenure at the school.
Gerry Faust era (1981–1985)
Gerry Faust was hired to replace Devine for the 1981 season. Prior to Notre Dame, Faust had been one of the more successful high school football coaches in the country. As coach of Moeller High School in Cincinnati he amassed a 174–17–2 record. Despite his success in the high school ranks, his success at Notre Dame was mixed and his record mediocre at best. In his first season the Irish finished 5–6. 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. His final record at Notre Dame was 30–26–1. Faust resigned at the end of the 1985 season (following fan cries of "Oust Faust") to take over as head coach for the University of Akron.
Lou Holtz era (1986–1996)
Lou Holtz had 17 years of coaching experience by the time he was hired to lead the Irish. He had previously been head coach of William & Mary, North Carolina State, the New York Jets, Arkansas, and Minnesota. Holtz began in 1986 where his predecessor left off in 1985, finishing with an identical record of 5 wins and 6 losses. 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 docket overall.
In contrast to Faust, Holtz was well known as a master motivator and a strict disciplinarian. 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. 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. 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. His move was vindicated when the Irish defeated USC anyway.
Holtz was named national coach of the year (Paul "Bear" Bryant Award) in 1988, the same season he took Notre Dame to an upset of No. 1 Miami in the Catholics vs. Convicts series and a win over No. 3 West Virginia in the Fiesta Bowl, thus capturing the national championship. His 1989 and 1993 squads narrowly missed repeating the feat. Overall, he 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. Holtz retired from Notre Dame in 1996.
Bob Davie era (1997–2001)
Bob Davie, who had been Holtz's defensive coordinator from 1994 to 1996, was promoted to head coach when Holtz retired. 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. On Davie's watch, the team suffered three bowl game losses (1997 Independence Bowl, 1999 Gator Bowl, and 2001 Fiesta Bowl), 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 champion. Davie also posted a 25–24 home victory over USC in 1999. Davie nearly defeated top ranked Nebraska in 2000, with the Irish comeback bid falling short in overtime 27–24. 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, but would finish No. 15 in the AP Poll, Davie's highest ranking as head coach. The 2001 squad was awarded the American Football Coaches Association Achievement Award for its 100% graduation rate.
On December 17, 1999, Notre Dame was placed on probation by the NCAA for the only time in its history. The association's Committee on Infractions found two series of violations. 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." 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. 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." 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." 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.
Following the 1998 season, the team fell into a pattern of frustrating inconsistency, alternating 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, then saw the team start 0–3 in 2001 – the first such start in school history. Disappointed by the on-field results, coupled with the Joe Moore and Kim Dunbar scandals, the administration decided to dismiss Davie. His final record at Notre Dame was 35–25.
George O'Leary controversy
On December 9, 2001, Notre Dame hired George O'Leary away from Georgia Tech. to replace Davie. However, New Hampshire Union Leader reporter Jim Fennell – while researching a "local boy done good" story on O'Leary – uncovered misrepresentations in O'Leary's resume that had influenced the administration's decision to hire him. 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. O'Leary's tenure is the shortest of any head coach in FBS history. O'Leary would go on to become the head football coach at UCF.
Tyrone Willingham era (2002–2004)
Once again in need of a new head coach, the school turned to Tyrone Willingham, the head coach at Stanford. Bringing a feeling of change and excitement to campus, Willingham led the 2002 squad to a 10–2 regular season record, including an 8–0 start with wins over No. 7 Michigan and No. 11 Florida State, 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, then lopsided losses to USC and North Carolina State (in the Gator Bowl). The program faltered over the next two seasons under Willingham, compiling an 11–12 record. 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. Citing Notre Dame's third consecutive four-touchdown loss to arch-rival USC 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.
Charlie Weis era (2005–2009)
Charlie Weis left the New England Patriots, where he served as offensive coordinator, to become head football coach for the Irish beginning with the 2005 season. In his inaugural season he led Notre Dame to a record of 9–3, including an appearance in the Fiesta Bowl, where they were defeated by the Ohio State Buckeyes 34–20. 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. 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 contender. Weis and the Irish went into the 2006 season with a No. 2 preseason ranking in the ESPN/Coaches Poll. They finished the regular season with a 10–2 record, losing only to Michigan and USC. Notre Dame accepted a bid to the 2007 Sugar Bowl, losing to LSU 41–14. This marked their ninth consecutive post-season loss, the longest drought in NCAA history. As a result, Notre Dame dropped to No. 17 in the final rankings.
In the wake of a graduating class that sent eleven players to the NFL, the 2007 season (3–9) included various negative milestones: the most losses in a single year (9); two of the ten worst losses ever (38–0 losses to both Michigan and USC); and the first 6-game losing streak for home games. The Naval Academy recorded their first win over the Irish since 1963, breaking the NCAA-record 43-game streak.
In 2008, the Irish started 4–1, but completed the regular season with a 6–6 record, including a 24–23 home loss to Syracuse, the first time that Notre Dame had fallen to an eight-loss team. Despite speculation the university might fire Weis, it was announced he would remain head coach. 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. 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. Notre Dame started the first part of the season 4–2, with close losses to Michigan and USC. Many of their wins were also close, aside from a 35–0 victory over Nevada and a 40–14 defeat of Washington State. Sitting at 6–2, however, Notre Dame lost a close game at Notre Dame Stadium to an unranked Navy team, 23–21. This loss was the second to Navy in the last three years. Weis was fired on November 30, 2009, exactly five years after his predecessor.
Brian Kelly era (2010–present)
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. In his first season, Kelly led the Fighting Irish to an 8–5 record. 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. Dayne Crist started the season at quarterback but was injured for a second consecutive year, this time in the Tulsa game. Kelly turned to freshman quarterback Tommy Rees, who led the Irish to victories in the last three games against No. 14 Utah, Army in Yankee Stadium, and breaking an eight-year losing streak to USC in the LA Coliseum. 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. With senior wide out Michael Floyd returning for his senior season and an outstanding recruiting class that included several highly touted defensive linemen, 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, and a last second loss to Michigan in Ann Arbor left the Irish at 0–2 to start the season. The Irish bounced back to beat No. 15 Michigan State and had two 4-game winning-streaks, with the only loss during that stretch coming at the hands of the USC Trojans. The Irish also broke Navy's 2-game winning streak over Notre Dame (2009–10). Notre Dame finished the season with an 8–4 record but lost 18 – 14 to Florida State in the 2011 Champs Sports Bowl, concluding the 2011 campaign with and 8–5 record overall, identical to the 2010 season. 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.
On September 12, 2012, Notre Dame announced that it would leave the Big East Conference for the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), excluding the football and hockey programs. 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.
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. After defeating the University of Southern California Trojans on November 24, 2012, 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 the Alabama Crimson Tide 42–14.
Coming off the previous year's title appearance, the Fighting Irish were dealt a blow when 2012 starting quarterback, Everett Golson, was suspended from the University due to an academic violation. Senior Tommy Rees then took over. Notre Dame's 2013 season ended with a record of 9–4 and a victory over Rutgers in the Pinstripe Bowl. Notre Dame finished No. 20 in the AP poll.
The 2014 season started off with 6 straight victories and a No. 5 ranking heading into a showdown with No. 2 ranked Florida State. FSU won that game 31–27, on a controversial offensive pass interference call that brought back a last second Notre Dame touchdown. The Fighting Irish bounced back with a win against Navy 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.
The 2015 Fighting Irish 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. 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, a ranking of #11 in the AP and #12 in the Coaches' Poll and a Fiesta Bowl appearance.
The 2016 season ended with an 4-8 record. Brian Kelly's worst win/loss record at Notre Dame up to that point. After just 4 games into the season, Brian Kelly fired defensive coordinator Brain VanGorder. At the end of the season, starting Quarterback DeShone Kizer declared for the NFL draft and backup Quarterback Malik Zaire announced he would be transferring in the winter after graduation.
The following is a list of Notre Dame's 11 claimed national championships:
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. Notre Dame has finished the year ranked in the final Associated Press poll of the season 49 times:
Number one vs. number two
Notre Dame has participated in ten "#1 vs #2" matchups since the AP poll began in 1936. 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:
Notre Dame has played in many regular season games that have been widely regarded by both the media and sports historians 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, 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:
Notre Dame's all-time record at the end of the 2013 season stands at 874 wins, 305 losses, and 42 ties. The winning percentage of .733 is First All-Time. Its 874 wins are third behind Michigan and Texas, while its 305 losses are the lowest of any college programs that have been playing football for 100 years or more.
Notre Dame has made 35 Bowl appearances, winning 17 and losing 18. 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; 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. It has played in the BCS National Championship Game (1 loss), Rose Bowl (1 win), the Cotton Bowl Classic (5 wins, 2 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) and the Pinstripe 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.
Since 2009, 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, 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.
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.
Seven Notre Dame football players have won the Heisman Trophy, more than any other university (Ohio State has 7 trophies won by 6 players; USC has 6 trophies, following Reggie Bush's forfeit of the 2005 award due to NCAA violations).
College Football Hall of Fame
45 former Notre Dame players and 6 coaches have been inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, located in Atlanta, Georgia. Notre Dame leads all universities in players inducted.
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.
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. 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 will begin wearing uniforms and footwear supplied by Under Armour.
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 which 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. 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). 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.
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 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 80,795, Notre Dame Stadium is one of the most renowned venues in college football. The Sporting News ranks Notre Dame Stadium as # 2 on its list of "College Football Cathedrals". With no JumboTron and just two modest scoreboards, 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. Three buildings will be attached to the west, east, and south sides of the stadium, and the seating capacity of the stadium will decrease by 2,000-3,000 seats. The project is expected to be completed by August 2017.
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 brand new athletics complex. The Gug houses the new football offices, a brand new state-of-the-art weight room, and practice week locker rooms for the football team. The Gug is utilized by all Notre Dame athletes. The complex was underwritten by Don F. Guglielmino and his family.
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, 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, and is often called the greatest rivalry not dictated by conference, affiliation, or geography. Other than during World War II, the teams have played each other since 1926. Notre Dame leads the series 46–36–5.
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 1-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.
Michigan is considered Notre Dame's first and oldest rivalry, first meeting back in 1887, although the two teams did not play each other for many years. The series has been quite frequent in the near past since the rivalry was reunited beginning in 1978. It is heightened by the two schools' competition for all-time win percentage, which Michigan leads again since 2016. The most recent meeting in 2014 was won by Notre Dame 31–0 in South Bend. Michigan leads the all-time series 24–17–1, with 6 of the Wolverine victories coming before 1900.
This rivalry ended during the 2014 season when 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 future arrangement with the Atlantic Coast Conference, under which the Fighting Irish will play five games per season against ACC opponents once the school joins the ACC in all sports except for football and hockey in 2014.
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. 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". In 2011, the Irish reclaimed the trophy with a 31–13 victory in which they led all the way.
Game day traditions
Due to its long and storied history, Notre Dame football boasts many traditions unique to Notre Dame. Some of these are:
Irish in the NFL
Since the NFL began drafting players in 1936, 487 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. 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. 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.
Pro Football Hall of Fame
Thirteen former Notre Dame players/alumni have been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, ranking it 1st of all College Football Programs.
*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.
Current NFL players
As of 18 March 2017
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. 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.
Until the 2006 Air Force game, Notre Dame had a record 169 consecutive games broadcast nationally on either NBC, ABC, ESPN, or CBS. 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. The deal was considered to be a major coup for NBC, given the high popularity of Notre Dame football at the time.
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, 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.
Current broadcast team
Radio rights to the Fighting Irish are currently held by IMG Sports, who began a 10-year deal with the team in 2008. The new deal displaced its previous broadcast partner, Westwood One, who had broadcast Notre Dame football nationally on radio for 40 consecutive years (after taking over from the Mutual Radio Network). Notre Dame ended its relationship with Westwood One at the conclusion of the 2007 football season citing financial reasons.
Current broadcast team
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. Notre Dame currently 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. This includes preserving traditional yearly rivalries with USC, Stanford, and Navy, 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), 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.
The 2017 schedule was officially released on May 12, 2016. The yearly Shamrock Series game will take a hiatus to allow for 7 home games to be played in South Bend after completion of the Campus Crossroads project, which includes many Notre Dame stadium upgrades and improvements.
The 2018 schedule was officially released on March 2, 2017. One currently scheduled home game may be moved to a neutral site as part of the "Shamrock Series" - TBA.
The 2019 schedule was officially released on March 2, 2017. One currently scheduled home game may be moved to a neutral site as part of the "Shamrock Series" - TBA.
TBA: An additional 2 non-ACC home games will be scheduled.
TBA: An additional 2 non-ACC games will be scheduled (1 home, 1 away).
TBA: An additional 4 non-ACC home games will be scheduled.
TBA: An additional 2 non-ACC home games will be scheduled.
TBA: An additional 3 non-ACC home games will be scheduled.
TBA: An additional 2 non-ACC games will be scheduled (1 home, 1 away).