Alabama’s soccer coach Paul « Bear » Bryant defeated 4-0. Notre Dame, including consecutive bowl losses to Ara Parseghian-coached teams. (Courtesy photo of Paul W. . Bryant Museum)
It may be hard for younger college soccer fans to understand that there was a time when Alabama v Notre Dame wasn’t taken for granted.
Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide now stands like a colossus over the college football landscape, with five national championships since 2009 and a handful of other near misses. One of these titles was at the expense of the Fighting Irish, who clubbed between 42 and 14 at the 2013 BCS National Championship Game in Miami (and it wasn’t that close).
Alabama appears well on its way to another national championship this season and Notre Dame could be another temporary inconvenience on the way to the title. The Crimson Tide (11-0) is almost a favorite with three touchdowns against the No.. 4 Fighting Irish (10-1) in the semi-final game of the Rose Bowl College Football Playoffs on Friday in Arlington, Texas.
But for those whose memories go back far enough, the mental scars of 1966 and 1973 and 1974 and 1977 have never really gone away. Notre Dame beat Alabama for national championships (or at least half of 1973) in each of those years – twice on the field and twice in the polls.
Tom Roberts is one of those people who remembers the 1966 controversy in real time. He was a student in Alabama when the undefeated but once-tied Notre Dame was the final No.. 1 received. Ranked # 1 in Associated Press and United Press International polls for the Crimson Tide, a two-time defending champion who finished 11-0.
« It was almost like a civil war, » recalls Roberts. “Those damn Yankee writers gave it to Notre Dame and messed up the southern team that should have been no. 1. I felt like it was one of the best teams Coach Bryant ever had. It was a phenomenal group that played so hard and hard all season and it was heartbreaking not to win that national championship. ”
Alabama had started the season on both polls but fell behind Michigan State before the Crimson Tide had even played a game. By mid-October, Notre Dame had also jumped Alabama, which settled in third place.
Michigan State and Notre Dame stayed 1-2 in a Nov showdown. . 19 at East Lansing, a game known to end in a 10-10 draw. Struggling Irish coach Ara Parseghian was widely upset for running out of time towards the end of the fourth quarter instead of trying to score. Sports Illustrated’s Dan Jenkins flatteringly rewrote the lyrics to the Notre Dame battle song in his story recapitulating the game. For those voting with 9-0-1 Notre Dame No. . 1 in the final leaderboard for the season (which came out before the bowls were played) a few weeks later.
« Talk about agony, » said Roberts. “I remember going to the game in Alabama that afternoon and we won to keep the undefeated team going. And then go to the Brotherhood house and watch the (highlights) and see Notre Dame playing ties. It was just amazing and then to see all the voters say the Irish as no. 1 team in the country, it was heartbreaking. I was really sorry that all the guys on that team deserved to win the national championship, not Notre Dame. ”
Alabama won consecutive national championships in 1964 and 1965, but was denied a third consecutive year in 1966 when pollsters Notre Dame No.. 1 chose. 1. (Photo of the Birmingham News file by Bill Ricker) The Birmingham News
The reason pollsters attacked Alabama remains unclear, although more than 50 years later, politics appears to have played a role. The all-white Crimson Tide has apparently been punished for its lack of integration with the SEC and for its home state’s hostility to the civil rights movement.
Legendary Los Angeles Times columnist Jim Murray became a symbol of this point of view when he wrote a December. 6 columns ridicule Bryant and Alabama, who won « the magnolia championship » and only decided to « go into the 20th century ». Entering Century « because they started losing votes for national championships.
The 1966 season remains very controversial in Alabama circles and was the subject of the popular 2006 book « The Missing Ring » by sports journalist and historian Keith Dunnavant. One change was that the Associated Press would no longer award their national champions until the bowls were played, although UPI was still doing its final voting at the end of the regular season.
Consequently, Alabama had already won a piece of the national championship when it finally hit Notre Dame on the field at the end of the 1973 season. The Fighting Irish had refused to play bowls for years and eventually faced Texas in the Cotton Bowl in January. 1, 1971.
Three years later, the Fighting Irish were 10-0 in first place. 3 in the AP poll when they competed against undefeated UPI champion Alabama at the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans on New Year’s Eve 1973 (Oklahoma was 10-0-1 and finished in 1st place). 2, but not suitable for a bowl game due to NCAA sanctions). In what was built as the game of the century, Notre Dame won 24-23 to win the AP half of the national title (and not unimportant to tarnish Alabama’s UPI half). .
« I remember how great it was to play in the sugar bowl, » said Ken Gaddy, then in the 8th grade. Great and now managing director of the Paul W. . Bryant Museum in Tuscaloosa. “It was such a good game that it scored few points compared to today. It was a great game, really one of the greatest in college football history, although we got to the short end. ”
Cheerleaders from Alabama feel sorry for themselves after losing 13:11 to Notre Dame in the Orange Bowl on Jan.. January. 1, 1975. It was the Crimson Tide’s second consecutive loss to the Fighting Irish in a bowl game. (Courtesy photo of Paul W. . Bryant Museum)
The following year, the two teams met again (this time at the Orange Bowl in Miami), with Alabama again unbeaten and ranking first. 1. After the UPI got an egg in its face in 1973 for awarding its championship to a team that then lost, it eventually gave in and waited until after the shells for a final vote.
Notre Dame had lost twice during the 1974 regular season, so it was out of the national championship race. But the Fighting Irish beat Alabama 13:11 to make the Crimson Tide dreams come true again.
Mike Ray was born in 1965 and was in elementary school when Alabama lost to Notre Dame in bowl games for two consecutive years. He said he viewed the Fighting Irish as a « boogeyman » at the time. ”
« Growing up it was a big deal because we lost to her every time we played her, » said Ray, now a teacher at Austin High School in Decatur. “In the 1973 game there was a great expectation that we would beat them. We lost this one and it was a heartbreaker. But then next year we were no. 1, it would be our vengeance, and then it happens again. We just hated her.
« Even auburn wasn’t as big a deal as Notre Dame to some extent. Because we usually hit auburn. Notre Dame was like the boogeyman you hadn’t hit. ”
Alabama lost four times in a row to Notre Dame from 1973 to 1980, including a 7-0 defeat in Birmingham in 1980. (AP Photo / Joe Holloway Jr. . ) AP
The Crimson Tide and Fighting Irish met in 1976 in the regular season. Notre Dame won again 21:18 in South Bend. Another controversial vote took place a year later, which came after the mass murder in the bowls on New Years Day.
No.. 5 Notre Dame beat No.. 1 Texas 38-10 in the Cotton Bowl. No. 2 Oklahoma lost to Arkansas in the Orange Bowl and No.. 4 Michigan lost in the Rose Bowl.
No.. 3 Alabama routed No.. 9 Ohio State 35-6 in the Sugar Bowl, leading many to believe that the Crimson Tide would claim the national title. But when the final vote was released two days later, Notre Dame was no. 1, Alabama No.. 2.
« That’s not as much as 1966, but it’s just as frustrating, » said Gaddy. « You have to have someone who is the bad guy. I think one could argue that these are the two best programs in college football history, and that back and forth makes college football fun.
« It’s really difficult to explain the survey era to people who haven’t lived through it. People’s eyes are glassy. … But it made the shells important. They had four, five, sometimes six games that were important to the national championship. Now you have two. It certainly changed the landscape. ”
Alabama suffered another regular season loss to Notre Dame in 1980. That was a 7-0 defeat at Birmingham that ended any chance that Bryant’s once-beaten team could play for their third straight domestic title (essentially the Fighting Irish prevented a Crimson Tide three-peat on both the front and back Late 1977-80). It wasn’t until more than three years after Bryant retired and died that the Crimson Tide could finally breathe out at the end of a game with the Fighting Irish.
Alabama was 4-0 and finished No.. 2 national, as 1-2 Notre Dame on Oct.. to Legion Field in Birmingham on Oct.. . 4, 1986. In the Fighting Irish’s second offensive series, All America linebacker Cornelius Bennett forcibly sacked quarterback Steve Beuerlein and set the tone for a 28:10 victory that casts out demons for Ray, Roberts, Gaddy and thousands of others from among the Alabama believers.
« When (Bennett) hit him, the stadium went quiet, » said Ray, who was then a student in Alabama. « It was strange. It was like that short pause and then everyone went crazy. It was as wild as I ever heard it in Legion Field. It was a big deal for everyone to beat her back then. ”
Cornelius Bennett’s dismissal of Steve Beuerlein in the first quarter was the hallmark of Alabama’s 28:10 win over Notre Dame in October. 4, 1986, the Crimson Tide’s first victory over the Fighting Irish. (Photo of the Birmingham News File by Bernard Troncale) bn
At this point, Roberts was a member of the Alabama Football Radio Broadcast Team, with whom he served in various roles for nearly 40 years before retiring at the end of the 2014 season.
« I’m sure the locker room celebration was great, but it didn’t significantly outperform the broadcast booth celebration, » said Roberts. “It was one of those great ones that you will never forget. If you’re looking for the top 10 Alabama victories of all time, this one is sure to be among the best. ”
The Crimson Tide lost 38-6 in the 1987 second leg at South Bend, and that’s how the rivalry between Alabama and Notre Dame died down. There wouldn’t be a 10-year home-and-home streak like the one Alabama has seen with Penn State, not even the occasional bowl matchup like other power programs like Miami, Michigan or Ohio State.
Notre Dame won a national championship in 1988, with Alabama following in 1992. But well into the 21st. No program returned to the top in the 20th century.
Returning to fame under Nick Saban, Alabama knocked out another long-time enemy, Texas, to win the national championship at the end of the 2009 season. The Crimson Tide won it again in 2011 and finally gave Notre Dame its postseason the following year.
« For those of us old enough, the Miami win was just amazing, » said Roberts, « because we heard their fans, squad, coaches and players talk all week about how good they were. « . But we knew how amazing this Alabama team was, and then going out there and whipping them was just one of the most satisfying victories ever. ”
Eddie Lacy (42) and Alabama defeated Notre Dame 42-14 in the 2013 BCS national championship game, and eventually defeated the Fighting Irish with a title on the line. (AL. com photo by Vasha Hunt) AP
Ray was also in the stands at Hard Rock Stadium that night and reluctantly agreed to attend after some younger friends surprised him with a ticket. For years he’d subject them to what he calls « my ranting » about Notre Dame, explaining at length to the Fighting Irish, all the outrageous snubs at the national championship vote, all of the Crimson Tide’s dire postseason losses.
When Ray returned to Alabama to graduate in the mid-1990s, part of his curriculum was taking a public speaking course. One task was to deliver an « emotional, compelling speech » and Ray didn’t have to think long about his topic.
« I made that rant as a speech, » said Ray. “I kind of filled in everything and how important it was to everyone and how much we hated Notre Dame. I had to explain to them why you had to hate Notre Dame. And then, when it was over, my instructor was kind of horrified. He said, « You really shouldn’t hate people. « I said, » You’re not from here, are you? «
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