It may not be "Catholics vs. Convicts" but this weekend's Fighting Irish-Hurricanes game figures to be an emotionally charged affair
Lehigh has played Lafayette in football 152 times. Minnesota and Wisconsin have met up 126 times to claim Paul Bunyan’s Axe, the most contested matchup in the FBS. And this Saturday, Hampden-Sydney will battle Randolph-Macon for the 122nd time in the oldest small-school rivarly in the South.
In those terms, Miami-Notre Dame pales in comparison. The Fighting Irish and the Hurricanes have played just 26 times and in reality, most of those contests were just two teams playing a game. Early on, Notre Dame dominated the series and also has won the three games played since 2010. Miami under head coach Howard Schnellenberger owned the Gerry Faust-led Irish teams of the early '80s. In 21 of the 26 meetings, at least one of the two programs was not a contender in any way, shape, of form.
But those other five games were scorching hot and are the reason that with Notre Dame heading to Miami for Week 11’s biggest matchup, the ESPN family of networks will be showing 30 for 30 episodes of "Catholics vs. Convicts" and "The U" on a loop all week long.
On the Saturday after Thanksgiving in 1985, Jimmy Johnson's Hurricanes ran up the score on the Irish to the tune of 58-7. Whether Johnson’s decisions were right or wrong is open for debate; that he piled on points late in a game that was well in hand is not.
But had Johnson been content with a 37-7 victory and eased up on the Irish in the fourth quarter, would things have been different? Miami still would have been the big bully on the college football block, a program with all the swag except a turnover chain, but probably only because the 'Canes didn’t think of it at the time. At Notre Dame, Lou Holtz still would have replaced Faust and built Notre Dame into a power once again.
The memorable moments also would have remained. Pat Terrell still would have batted the ball down to preserve the 1988 win and Miami still would have converted on 3rd-and-43 to end Notre Dame’s 23-game winning streak.
But without the complete embarrassment of Nov. 30, 1985, would there still be the same hatred? Would the famous/infamous Catholics vs. Convicts shirt have been made? Would the rivalry have become so bitter that it had to be stopped after the 1990 meeting in South Bend? And would this weekend’s game be more than just another important game in determining the 2017 College Football Playoff participants?
Obviously, we have no way of knowing. Miami won that night by 51 points and the rivalry was truly born. On Saturday night, Notre Dame will once again hate Miami and Miami will once again hate Notre Dame. And it will be beautiful.
— Written by Jon Kinne, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a college football fanatic. Kinne has been writing about recruiting for the Irish Sports Daily for 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.