USC vs. Notre Dame: A Primer to the Fighting Irish


Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

This Saturday in South Bend, takes place the last of a four-game stretch that we dubbed as “the four games that will define the season” for USC. And as expected when such a claim is professed, we don’t know much more now about these Trojans than we did a month ago.

Having said that, we do know that USC’s tilt against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish is sort of a big deal when it comes to iconic college football pageantry. So to get your feet wet with The Greatest Intersectional Rivalry in College Football, let’s wake up the echoes and feed you countless random facts and stuff about Regis Philbin’s alma mater.

Four cool things you didn’t know about Notre Dame:

  • Some of the greatest things in the sports world are replicas. Take the Rose Bowl and Coliseum for example, patterned off the Yale Bowl and Roman Colosseum, respectively. Notre Dame Stadium isn’t much different, as it was built as a spoof of Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, on the wishes of Knute Rocke. Both venues are rectangles instead of the classic bowl shape of the Rose Bowl, and originally lacked the light rigging to host night games. Notre Dame Stadium now has lights after an expansion in the late 90s, while Michigan Stadium installed a video board, which is still missing in South Bend.
  • Ask someone to mention the first thing they know about Notre Dame, and they’re likely to mention Rudy.  The biopic followed Rudy Ruettiger’s journey on the Notre Dame football team in 1975, and has become a classic sports movie since its release in 1993. Ruettiger, a walk-on, was shown sacking a Georgia Tech quarterback on the last play of a 24-3 Irish victory with the crowd at Notre Dame Stadium chanting his name while his teammates carried him off the field, making it the ultimate feel-good sports movie. That’s how Ruettiger remembers it going down. That’s how director David Anspaugh drew it up. In reality, it didn’t quite happen like that. According to multiple ‘truthers’ including this video and Joe Montana, Ruettiger got the sack and was carried off the field because that’s what Notre Dame did with walk-ons on Senior Day, as a way playing around and having fun. The chant and the drama of the sack were all overblown, Montana told Dan Patrick back in 2010. Ironically, the film led to USC’s own version of the story, surrounding wide receiver Rocky Brown in 1999.  Brown, a walk-on receiver, got on the field against Louisiana Tech on Senior Day, with the entire student section chanting “Rocky! Rocky!’
  • After the 1924 season, USC fired Gloomy Gus Henderson as the Trojans’ head football coach, after he had previously held the position of basketball and baseball coach at USC too. After Henderson took the Trojans to their first Rose Bowl in 1923, the expectations under USC President Rufus B. von Kleinsmid were pushed to the max, as he wished to turn USC into a graciously-endowed university by using football and the Greek system to boost public support and a strong alumni base. To do so, he set his sights on Knute Rockne. The Notre Dame head coach had just led the Irish to a win in the 1925 Rose Bowl, which gave the Irish the 1924 national championship. Rockne, the Vince Lombardi of college football, was the Nick Saban of his day, signalling a lofty reach for USC. He ultimately turned down a shot to head to Los Angeles and instead suggested that Howard Jones take the job instead. Jones, who played football at Iowa just ahead of Rockne, came to USC and won four national championships. From that point on, USC was the elite national program that von Kleinsmid envisioned, while Rockne stayed in South Bend to help create the USC-Notre Dame rivalry and become the most iconic coach in college football history.
  • Notre Dame football shares a lot of history with USC, in addition to the Rockne-Jones connection. Both teams have 11 national championships, have won seven Heisman Trophies and they’ve each beaten each other more so than anyone else. They’re also two of three teams to never have faced a team from the FCS. The other team? UCLA, the Trojans’ other rival.

Factoids on Notre Dame:

Full name: University of Notre Dame du LacLocation: Norte Dame, INFounded: 1842Enrollment: 11,733Endowment: $8.3 billionAcceptance Rate: 22.3%School colors: Gold and BlueHome stadium: Notre Dame Stadium (c. 80,795)Media Monopoly: NBC SportsTV Broadcast Team: Dan Hicks, Mike Mayock, Alex FlanaganUniform outfitter: AdidasBest local burger: Between the Buns*Best local Irish pub: O’Rourke’s Public HousePopular place for a ND student to find a date: Saint Mary’s CollegeBest place for a ND student to find a date: Chat Roulette

Most infamous Notre Dame grad:

Most infamous ND dropout:

Everett Golson (Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports)

Most infamous ND résumé:

George O’Leary (USA TODAY Sports)

Most infamous USC-ND transfer:

Amir Carlisle (Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports)

Amir Carlisle (Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports)

ND’s Fight Song:

“Victory March”Rally sons of Notre Dame: Sing her glory and sound her fame,Raise her Gold and BlueAnd cheer with voices true:Rah, rah, for Notre DameWe will fight in ev-ry game,Strong of heart and true to her nameWe will ne’er forget herAnd will cheer her everLoyal to Notre Dame

Cheer, cheer for old Notre Dame,Wake up the echoes cheering her name,Send a volley cheer on high,Shake down the thunder from the sky.What though the odds be great or smallOld Notre Dame will win over all,While her loyal sons are marchingOnward to victory.

Notre Dame Tweeps:

Blogs and Sites to Follow:

* Seriously, that’s the name.