College GameDay 2017, Opinion

Catholics vs. Convicts: Notre Dame rivalry reminds fans of Canes history

Ask any Miami Hurricanes football fan which teams they hate and you’ll get three responses: the Florida Gators, the Florida State Seminoles and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

These games, in which emotions run high on and off the field, must be won to confirm the Canes are truly “back.” To be an elite team, we must dominate not only our division or conference but also the rivalry games – whether they’re played annually or not.

I wrote a column recently about the changes that need to be made to improve the football culture among students. Rivalries are extremely important for UM community involvement in the football program because they hold significance to our school’s history and identity.

Recent Canes converts may not be familiar with the Notre Dame rivalry, though they’ve likely heard the “Catholics vs. Convicts” slogan. The notorious name of the rivalry was created by Notre Dame students printing unsanctioned game day T-shirts. They wanted to portray their team as righteous and the Canes as thugs, playing into popular stereotypes of the teams.

To recap, here’s a brief history of the rivalry:

On the road to prominence, Miami defeated Notre Dame a handful of times – most notably, a 58-7 blowout that ended the 1985 regular season and head coach Gerry Faust’s tenure at Notre Dame. Jimmy Johnson and the Canes ran up the score on Notre Dame, especially during Faust’s last game, which was seen as disrespectful by some but awesome by most.

In 1987, the Canes would again defeat Notre Dame on the road to a national championship.

The real excitement began in 1988 – the so-called “Catholics vs. Convicts” game. Notre Dame won narrowly, 31-30. The Fighting Irish finished the season undefeated and won the 1988 national championship.

The two most recent meetings, a 2012 blowout in which Miami lost 41-3 and a heartbreaking loss in 2016 by a three-point margin, are seared into fans’ minds.

Having traveled to both most recent meetings and watched the Canes lose in person – which is much more painful than watching a loss on TV – I am ready to see us lay a beatdown on the Golden Domers.

Their Irish fans, their traditions and most of all their winning record in the series never fails to get under Canes fans’ skin. It’s about defending our honor. We’re not convicts. We’re a serious school that can play a great game of football. And Notre Dame needs to know that.

Rivalries have the ability to motivate students and the team. To truly be “back” and reclaim our rightful place atop the college football elite, we must beat rivals not only for the postseason implications but for our history, our team and our students.

Dana McGeehan is a senior majoring in history and media management.

November 6, 2017


Dana McGeehan

ONE COMMENT ON THIS POST To “Catholics vs. Convicts: Notre Dame rivalry reminds fans of Canes history”

  1. Bob Rodes says:

    I never thought much of Jimmy Johnson back in the 80s. Seemed to me that he was a guy who was short one moral compass, the sort of guy who would get your children in trouble if you let them spend time with him. (Then there was that hair … ) But I’ve always respected Miami as a football team, even if I didn’t like the way they behaved. Now that I’m older and wiser, I don’t mind that either (and I guess Jimmy Johnson is ok, too).

    If you want to take some team’s buttoned-down, holier-than-thou, always at least pretend to respect your opponent attitude, and respond with trash talking and backing it up, running up a score because you can, dancing over opponents you’ve just knocked over, sticking your butt out at the fans in the end zone, refusing to shake hands during the coin toss, etc. then by all means go right ahead. I don’t think it takes you anywhere you want to go, but I’m no better judge of that than anyone else.

    Nevertheless, “popular stereotype” is a bit of revisionist history that ignores the facts of the time. No, you’re not convicts now. And you’ve always been a serious school. But some of your players and staff were in fact convicts back when that t-shirt was going around. More of them would have been, too, if they hadn’t been protected from prosecution. And back then, football players’ participation in your serious school was pretty much optional; if a player needed to pretend to be a student because he couldn’t, or didn’t want to, cut it, there were plenty of people around whose job it was to make that happen.

    So I’m sorry, but whatever the creators of the t-shirt wanted to portray, the slogan wasn’t saying anything that was untrue. That doesn’t excuse the animosity on either side, but it is the way it was. If it hadn’t been, then you wouldn’t have needed to change it.

    Miami started cleaning up its act when John Shannon took over in ’07. Shannon tried to pull his players out of the hole that they had gotten into, although he didn’t get much help from Paul Dee, let alone Nevin Shapiro. By the time all that Shapiro stuff broke in 2011, and the sanctions happened in 2013, things were beginning to go in the right direction. Now, with Mark Richt in charge, and the sanctions over and done with, Miami is beginning to put a great team on the field again. And I’m very glad to see it.

    If our tradition gets under your skin, you might keep in mind that a big part of your tradition has been to go out of your way to get under other teams’ skins. You all were damn good at it, too. You weren’t the “wronged party,” any more than Notre Dame was. It just got to the point where both sides were focusing so much on their mutual dislike for one another that they weren’t focusing on playing the game. Furthermore, the animosity between the fans was beginning to turn violent, and it was only a matter of time before something serious happened.

    It would be better for both fan bases to leave all that behind. It’s water under the bridge, and we don’t need the next generation dredging it up again. Miami can find ways honor its tradition of thumbing its nose at the Notre Dame type of snootiness in the college football world without indulging in the excesses of the past. (The “turnover chain” is a great beginning.)

    As for the “Catholics vs. Convicts” nickname, it’s way too catchy to reasonably expect it to go away. Rather than feeling insulted by the moniker, you could embrace it. Even turn it into an unofficial nickname. After all, there’s nothing wrong with being a “convict,” and you’ve “done your time.” Maybe you all can be the Oakland Raiders of college football. It looks like the job is available, and college football can certainly use a set of “miscreants” like that one to turn it on its stodgy ear.

    Maybe we can leave the mutual disrespect of the past in the past. You might win on Saturday, and you might not, but whoever loses is still a damn good team that deserves the other’s respect. You all will have mine whether you win or lose.

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