The renewal of the college football rivalry between Notre Dame and Miami, who meet in their first regular-season matchup in over 20 years on October 6, doesn't exactly have the intensity of the "Catholics vs. Convicts" intensity so prevalent in the 1980s. But the two schools, each trying to climb back into the upper echelons of college football, hope it is the beginning of a series that will feature plenty of drama in the years to come.
The Fighting Irish and the Hurricanes square off at Soldier Field in Chicago, not exactly the most disinterested of neutral sites, for the first in-season game since 1990, though Notre Dame topped Miami in the postseason Sun Bowl in 2010, 33-17.
It is the first of what promises to be more frequent matchups between the two schools, which battled back-and-forth for college football supremacy in the late stages of their 20-year rivalry in the late 1980s. Notre Dame and Miami will play in Florida in 2016 and in South Bend in 2017. After that, expect the two schools to meet more often when the Irish begin scheduling five games per year against teams from the Atlantic Coast Conference, which ND is joining in all sports except football.
For Notre Dame fans, and alumni like me, the Miami rivalry stirs memories of a time when the Irish consistently competed for the national championship. In fact, the thrilling 31-30 victory by Notre Dame over the Hurricanes in 1988 paved the way for the Irish to win their last national title. Since then, success has been harder to come by, for Notre Dame if not for Miami.
But does the long history mean anything for today's players, most of whom were not even born the last time the two schools met in the regular season?
"I've been waiting for this game since freshman year," says Miami quarterback Stephen Morris. "It's going to mean a lot to me and my family. It's going to mean a lot for this program. So we're going to make sure that we're ready for this game."
Morris showed the first glimpses of his promise as a passer in the Sun Bowl meeting between the schools, coming off the bench to throw for 282 yards and two touchdowns in the loss. That potential was on full display in the Hurricanes' last game, when Morris set an ACC record by throwing for 566 yards in a win over N. C. State.
"These guys weren't born, so it's always important to impart a little bit of the tradition to our players," Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly says. "I think they're very much aware of Miami and the tradition and the rivalry, dating back to 1985, where, obviously, Notre Dame was beaten handily in that game, and then of course coming back in and having a great victory against them. So they know a little bit about the history and tradition of the Miami game because everybody talks about the history and tradition. But they're focused on this team more than the tradition and the history because if they're not, they're going to get beat."
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Rick Blaine, an award-winning broadcaster and columnist, holds two degrees from Notre Dame. Follow him on Twitter @RickBlaineCT.
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