Notre Dame Fighting Irish football rivalries refers to rivalries of the University of Notre Dame in the sport of college football. Notre Dame rivalries encompass many teams. Because the Fighting Irish are independent of a football conference, they play a more national schedule, and have thus developed rivalries with many different schools. Also, because of Notre Dame's independent scheduling, some teams may have at one time been considered rivals to Notre Dame, but these rivalries have diminished over time when the two schools have taken a long hiatus from scheduling each other.

Notre Dame has long running historic rivalries with University of Southern California, Navy, Purdue, and Michigan State University and an intermittent historic rivalry with the University of Michigan.[1] Historically, USC, Michigan and Notre Dame have been among the top football programs in the country.[2] Michigan is college football's all-time leader in winning percentage, followed by Notre Dame,[1] while Notre Dame and USC are tops in national championships, and Heisman Trophies.[3] Notre Dame's scheduling priorities are USC, Stanford, Navy, Purdue, and the alliance with the ACC. [4] Finally, Notre Dame has minor rivalries with several schools. Because Notre Dame does not schedule these series on an annual basis, the intensity of these rivalries has varied over time and is debated by fans.


The Notre Dame–USC football rivalry has been played annually since 1926, except from 1943–45,[5] and is regarded as the greatest intersectional series in college football.[6] The winner of the annual rivalry game is awarded the coveted Jeweled Shillelagh, a war club adorned with emerald-emblazoned clovers signifying Fighting Irish victories and Ruby-emblazoned Trojan warrior heads for Trojan wins. When the original shillelagh ran out of space for the Trojan heads and shamrocks after the 1989 game, it was retired and is permanently displayed at Notre Dame. A new shillelagh was introduced for the 1997 season. Through the 2012 season, Notre Dame leads the rivalry series 44-34-5.[1]

The origin of the series is quite often recounted as a "conversation between wives"[7] of Notre Dame head coach Knute Rockne and USC athletic director Gywnn Wilson. In fact, many sports writers often cite this popular story as the main reason the two schools decided to play one another. As the story goes, the rivalry began with USC looking for a national rival.[7] USC dispatched Wilson and his wife to Lincoln, Nebraska, where Notre Dame was playing Nebraska on Thanksgiving Day.[7] On that day (Nebraska 17, Notre Dame 0) Knute Rockne resisted the idea of a home-and-home series with USC because of the travel involved, but Mrs. Wilson was able to persuade Mrs. Rockne that a trip every two years to sunny Southern California was better than one to snowy, hostile Nebraska.[7] Mrs. Rockne spoke to her husband and on December 4, 1926, USC became an annual fixture on Notre Dame’s schedule.[7]

However, several college football historians, including Murray Sperber, have uncovered evidence that somewhat contradicts this story. Of the most contradictory parts is the idea that Rockne was resistant to playing out west.[8] Sperber documents that USC offered to play Notre Dame back in 1925 at the Rose Bowl.[8] Notre Dame ultimately played Stanford that year because they were the Pacific Coast conference champs.[8] But due to the large alumni support for an annual season ending game in Los Angeles and the still existing interest for a home-and-home series, Notre Dame and USC started playing the series the following year in 1926.[8] The series creation was also likely aided by USC coach Howard Jones, whom Rockne recommended USC hire due to their long friendship.[8]

Since 1961, the game has alternated between Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend in mid-October and the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, which serves as USC's home field, in late November. Originally the game was played in both locations in late November, but because of poor weather during that time of the year at South Bend, USC insisted on having the game moved to October in 1961.

Navy (U.S. Naval Academy)Edit

The Navy–Notre Dame series has been played annually since 1927, making it the longest uninterrupted intersectional series in college football.[9] Notre Dame holds a 71-12-1 series edge.[1] Before Navy won a 46-44 triple-overtime thriller in 2007, Notre Dame had a 43-game winning streak that was the longest series win streak between two annual opponents in the history of Division I FBS football.[10] Navy's previous win came in 1963, 35-14 with future Heisman Trophy winner and NFL QB Roger Staubach at the helm. Navy had come close to winning on numerous occasions before 2007:

  • 1984: Notre Dame pulled out a last-second 18-17 win on a field goal that should have been disallowed because the play clock had expired before the ball was snapped and none of the officials noticed.
  • 1997: A Navy receiver was knocked out of bounds at the 1-yard line with no time left, keeping him from scoring the touchdown that would have ended the streak and preserving a 21-17 Notre Dame win.
  • 1999: Notre Dame needed a controversial first down call on 4th and 9 with 1:37 left to escape with a 28-24 win.
  • 2003: A last-second Fighting Irish field goal kept the game from going to overtime and gave Notre Dame a 27-24 victory.

Navy subsequently won the game again in 2009 and 2010.

Despite the one-sided result the last few decades, most Notre Dame and Navy fans consider the series a sacred tradition for historical reasons. Both schools have strong football traditions going back to the beginnings of the sport. Notre Dame, like many colleges, faced severe financial difficulties during World War II. The US Navy made Notre Dame a training center and paid enough for usage of the facilities to keep the University afloat. Notre Dame has since extended an open invitation for Navy to play the Fighting Irish in football and considers the game annual repayment on a debt of honor. The series is marked by mutual respect, as evidenced by each team standing at attention during the playing of the other's alma mater after the game, a tradition that started in 2005. Navy's athletic director, on renewing the series through 2016, remarked " is of great interest to our collective national audience of Fighting Irish fans, Naval Academy alumni, and the Navy family at large."[9] The series is scheduled to continue indefinitely; renewals are a mere formality.[9]

The series is a "home and home" series with the schools alternating the home team. Due to the relatively small size of the football stadium in Annapolis, the two teams have never met there. Instead, Navy usually hosts the game at larger facilities such as Baltimore's old Memorial Stadium or current M&T Bank Stadium, FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland, Veterans Stadium and later Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, or at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. During the 1960s, the Midshipmen hosted the game at John F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium in Philadelphia. In 1996 the game was played at Croke Park in Dublin, Ireland. The game returned to Dublin in 2012, where the Aviva Stadium hosted the event won by Notre Dame 50-10.[11] The game was also occasionally played at old Cleveland Stadium.

In years when Navy hosts (even-numbered), it is one of few non-Southeastern Conference games aired on CBS. In years when Notre Dame hosts (odd-numbered), it is carried on NBC as are other Notre Dame home games.


The Fighting Irish have a yearly rivalry with the Purdue Boilermakers, who are also located in the state of Indiana. This rivalry began in 1896 and the two squads have met each year without interruption since 1946.[1] The Fighting Irish lead the series 56-26-2 as of 2012.[1] The two teams play for the Shillelagh Trophy. The series has been marked by a number of key upsets. The Boilermakers ended Notre Dame's 39-game unbeaten streak in 1950 and posted upsets in 1954, 1967 and 1974.[1] They also hold the record for the most points scored in one game by an opponent in Notre Dame Stadium with 51 in 1960 while Notre Dame holds the record for scoring the most points by an opponent in Ross-Ade Stadium, Purdue's home field, with 52 in 1983. In addition, Purdue holds records for the most points scored against Notre Dame in the first quarter (24 in 1974) and second quarter (31 in 1960). On September 28, 1968, #1 ranked Purdue defeated #2 Notre Dame 37-22 behind the effort of Leroy Keyes, a two-way player for the Boilermakers.[12] It was the eleventh 1 vs 2 game (and the sixth involving Notre Dame).[13]

Michigan StateEdit

Notre Dame also has a rivalry with Michigan State University that began in 1897.[1] The 1966 Notre Dame vs. Michigan State football game is regarded as one of the Games of the Century and is still talked about to this day because of the way it ended - in a 10-10 tie.[14] Since polls began in 1936, this game marked the 10th matchup that paired the #1 ranked team against the #2 team, with Notre Dame having been involved in five of these ten games.[13] Currently the Fighting Irish are 46–32–1 vs. the Spartans.[1] However, MSU has won 10 of the last 14 meetings, including a streak of a record six consecutive wins in South Bend from 1997–2007.[1] The Spartans also beat Notre Dame eight straight times between 1955–63 (they did not meet in 1958) under coach Duffy Daugherty.[1] The two teams play for the Megaphone Trophy.


Notre Dame and Michigan first played in 1887 in Notre Dame's introduction to football.[1] The Wolverines proceeded to win the first eight contests, before losing in 1909, the final game in the series until 1942, when the Wolverines defeated the Fighting Irish. On October 9, 1943, top-ranked Notre Dame defeated second-ranked Michigan in the first matchup of top teams since the institution of the AP Poll in 1936. After that, the series again was halted. It resumed in 1978 and has been contested every year since, with the exception of hiatuses in 1983–84, 1995–96, and 2000–01. In the aftermath of the ACC deal, the current series with Michigan will terminate after the 2014 game. Including the 2012 game, Michigan leads the overall series 23–16–1; since 1978, the series is even at 14–14–1.[1] The rivalry is heightened by the two schools' competitive leadership atop the college football all-time winning percentage board, as well as its competition for the same type of student-athletes.


The Fighting Irish have a rivalry with the Stanford Cardinal for the Legends Trophy, a combination of Fighting Irish crystal with California redwood. The two teams first met in the 1925 Rose Bowl, then played each other in 1942 and again in 1963–64. The modern series began in 1988 when Notre Dame sought out a school to play out west over Thanksgiving weekend during the years that USC plays in South Bend. The series has been played annually except in 1995–96. The rivalry has become more competitive in recent years, during the coaching tenure of Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh. Notre Dame and Stanford are regularly ranked in the US News and World Report top 20 best colleges in America, and both share a mission to develop student athletes that can compete in the classroom and on the football field. As a result, both schools often compete for similar types of athletes in recruiting. Notre Dame leads the series 17–8.[1] When the game is played in Palo Alto, it is usually the last game on Stanford's schedule (as has been the case since 1999), one week after the Cardinal plays archrival Cal in The Big Game.

ACC rivals Edit

Notre Dame will join the ACC for all sports except football and hockey on July 1, 2013 when the Big East name returns to a basketball conference. Although the football team will remain independent, Notre Dame has agreed to a 3 year rotation with 5 ACC teams each year beginning in 2014.

Pittsburgh The Fighting Irish's longtime rivalry with the Pittsburgh Panthers, Notre Dame's fifth most played football opponent, began in 1909 and there have been no more than two consecutive seasons without two teams meeting each other except between 1913–29, 1938–42, and 1979–81. Since 1982, the Panthers have remained a relative fixture on the schedule. Notre Dame leads the series 45–20–1. The longest game in Notre Dame history occurred between the two schools in 2008, when Pitt defeated ND in a record 4 overtimes by a field goal. The 2012 contest saw Notre Dame erase a 20-6 deficit in the fourth quarter and force overtime. The Irish prevailed in triple overtime, 29-26 after the Panthers narrowly missed a game-winning field goal in the second overtime period.

Georgia Tech This series began in 1922. The Yellow Jackets were a longtime rival of the Fighting Irish and the two teams met periodically on an annual basis over the years. When Georgia Tech, who had been an independent since 1963 when they dropped out of the Southeastern Conference, joined the Atlantic Coast Conference beginning in 1982, they were forced to end the series after 1981 because of scheduling difficulties. Consequently the two teams have met very infrequently since then. Georgia Tech was the opponent in the inaugural game in the newly expanded Notre Dame Stadium in 1997, then a year later they met again in the Gator Bowl. The Fighting Irish and Yellow Jackets met in the 2006 and 2007 season openers and split both games. Notre Dame holds a 27–6–1 edge in the series.[1]

Miami (Florida) The rivalry with the University of Miami Hurricanes began in 1955. They met three times in Miami during the 1960s (1960, 1965 and 1967), then played each other annually from 1971 to 1990 (they didn't meet in 1986). Throughout the 1970s, this series was dominated by Notre Dame. Traditionally, it was the season-ending game for the Fighting Irish in odd-numbered years, as they sought to end each season at a warm-weather site. Miami holds the distinction of being the only team to shut out Notre Dame during the Ara Parseghian (0-0 in 1965), Gerry Faust (20-0 in 1983) and Lou Holtz (24-0 in 1987) eras. During the 1980s, this once-docile rivalry became ferocious. Both teams were national contenders in the latter part of the decade, and both teams cost each other at least one national championship. Hostilities were fueled when the Hurricanes routed the Fighting Irish in the 1985 season finale, 58-7, with Miami widely accused of running up the score in the second half. The rivalry gained national attention and both teams played their most famous games from 1988–90, dubbed the "Catholics vs. Convicts" contests. The first game was won by the Fighting Irish 31-30, with Miami ending Notre Dame's record 23-game winning streak the following year, 27-10. The rivalry ended after the Fighting Irish crushed #2 Miami's hopes for a repeat national championship with a 29-20 victory in South Bend. The Fighting Irish and Hurricanes met again, in the 2010 Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas, where Notre Dame defeated Miami 33-17. In 2012, Notre Dame defeated Miami 41-3 at Soldier Field. Notre Dame holds a 17-7-1 edge.

Boston College

Boston College is considered by some to be a rival with Notre Dame based on both institution's connection to the Roman Catholic Church. The Fighting Irish and Boston College Eagles first met in 1975 in Dan Devine's debut as head coach. They met in the 1983 Liberty Bowl and during the regular season in 1987, then played each other annually from 1992–2004. The Fighting Irish and Eagles play for the Frank Leahy Memorial Bowl and Ireland Trophy. The matchup has become relatively popular and gained several nicknames including the "Holy War", "The Bingo Bowl" and "The Celtic Bowl". In 1993, the Eagles ruined Notre Dame's undefeated season with a 41-39 victory on a last second field goal as time ran out, overshadowing a furious fourth quarter rally by the Fighting Irish. Notre Dame leads the series 13-9,[1] winning the last four contests in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 after the Eagles won the prior six meetings. The series was scheduled to end after the 2010 season due in part to BC's move to the ACC; however, it was renewed in 2010. With Notre Dame's move to the ACC, they will continue to meet at least semi-regularly.

North Carolina The Irish and North Carolina Tar Heels first met in 1949 in Yankee Stadium with Notre Dame prevailing, 42-6 en route to a national championship. They met regularly throughout the 1950s and 60s and most recently split a home-and-home series in 2006 and 2008. The 1962 contest in South Bend featured the smallest paid crowd at Notre Dame Stadium (35,553) since 1943. Ara Parseghian's squads faced North Carolina three times (1965, 1966 and 1971) and managed to shut them out each time. The 1975 contest is perhaps the most memorable one. Trailing 14-6 in the fourth quarter on a brutally hot day in Chapel Hill, Joe Montana entered the game and engineered the first of his many comebacks, completing a game-winning, 80-yard touchdown pass to Ted Burgmeier with just over a minute left to play to secure a 21-14 victory. Notre Dame leads the series, 16-2.[citation needed]

Army and Air ForceEdit


The first Army–Notre Dame matchup in 1913 is generally regarded as the game that put the Fighting Irish on the college football map.[8] In that game, Notre Dame revolutionized the forward pass in a stunning 35–13 victory.[8] For years it was "The Game" on Notre Dame's schedule, played at Yankee Stadium in New York.[8] During the 1940s, the rivalry with the U.S. Military Academy Black Knights reached its zenith. This was because both teams were extremely successful and met several times in key games (including one of the Games of the Century, a scoreless tie in the 1946 Army vs. Notre Dame football game). In 1944, the Black Knights administered the worst defeat in Notre Dame football history, crushing the Fighting Irish 59–0. The following year, it was more of the same, a 48–0 blitzkrieg. After meeting every year since 1919, Army decided to end the annual series after 1947 because they felt it was becoming too one-sided in favor of the Fighting Irish. The game was played in South Bend for the first time and the Fighting Irish prevailed, 27–7. Since then, there have been infrequent meetings over the past several decades, with Army's last win coming in 1958. Like Navy, due to the small capacity of Army's Michie Stadium, the Black Knights would play their home games at a neutral site, which for a number of years was Yankee Stadium and before that, the Polo Grounds. In 1957, the game was played in Philadelphia's Municipal (later John F. Kennedy Memorial) Stadium while in 1965, the teams met at Shea Stadium in New York. They last met at Yankee Stadium in 1969. The 1973 contest was played at West Point with the Fighting Irish prevailing, 62–3. In more recent times, games in which Army was the host have been played at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Notre Dame leads the series 38–8–4,[1] most recently playing Army at the new Yankee Stadium in 2010, winning 27-3.

Air Force The Fighting Irish and Falcons first met in 1964 with the Fighting Irish prevailing 34–7, and proceeded to play each other annually from 1972–91 (they didn't meet in 1976). Notre Dame won the first 11 contests before Gerry Faust's teams lost four straight in the early 1980s. One of the most memorable games was the 1975 contest in which Notre Dame, trailing 30–10 in the fourth quarter, rallied behind Joe Montana for a 31–30 comeback win. In the match-up in 2007, the Fighting Irish came into the game matching their worst start in Notre Dame history with a 1-8 record. The Falcons won for the first time since 1996 41–24, the largest margin of victory for Air Force in six wins over the Fighting Irish, the biggest by a military academy since Navy beat the Fighting Irish 35–14 in 1963 behind Roger Staubach and it marked the first time they had ever scored 40 points in a game against Notre Dame. It marked the first time Notre Dame had lost to two service academies in the same season since 1944 and it was also a school-record sixth straight home loss for the Fighting Irish. Notre Dame leads the series 23–6.[15] In 2010, Notre Dame and Air Force agreed to a home-and-home football series starting with the 2011 season. The series began when Air Force visited Notre Dame Stadium on October 8, 2011, with Notre Dame prevailing 59–33. The series finale will take place when the Fighting Irish visit Falcon Stadium during the 2013 season.[16]

Other Big Ten rivalsEdit

Notre Dame has traditionally played Division I-A football independent from any conference affiliation. In its early years joining a conference, in particular the geographically-contiguous Big Ten Conference, would have provided stability and scheduling opportunities.[8] Conferences have periodically approached Notre Dame about joining,[17] most notably the Big Ten in 1999.[18] Notre Dame elected to keep its independent status in football, feeling that it has contributed to Notre Dame's unique place in college football lore. Even so, many Big Ten teams appear on the Fighting Irish's schedule. In fact, Notre Dame has faced every Big Ten team at some point in its history. In recent years, an average of three Big Ten opponents appear on the Fighting Irish schedule each season, but it has varied by as few as two (1983–84) to as many as five (1962, 1968).

Northwestern It began in 1889, one of the oldest in Fighting Irish football annals. It has been suggested that the nickname, "Fighting Irish," originated during that first meeting when Northwestern fans chanted, "Kill those Irish! Kill those fighting Irish!" at halftime. Northwestern University and Notre Dame had a yearly contest from 1929–48, with the winner taking home a shillelagh,[19] much like the winner of the Notre Dame–USC contest now receives. The Northwestern-Notre Dame shillelagh was largely forgotten by the early 1960s. Northwestern ended the series after 1948, as did several other schools who were getting tired of being beaten year in and year out by Notre Dame, and the two schools would not meet again until 1959. By then, Ara Parseghian was coaching the Wildcats, who notched four consecutive victories over Notre Dame between 1959–62. After Ara came to Notre Dame, he posted a 9–0 docket against his old team. In fact, the Fighting Irish did not lose to Northwestern again until their most recent meeting in September 1995, which was the beginning of a Rose Bowl season for the Wildcats. The series will be renewed in 2014 when the Wildcats will travel to South Bend for the first time in nearly 20 years and the Irish will repay the visit in 2018 when they will travel to Evanston.[20] Notre Dame holds a 37-8-2 edge against the Wildcats[1]

Nebraska The Fighting Irish and Nebraska Cornhuskers first met in 1915 and played each other annually through 1925. During the years of Notre Dame's famed Four Horsemen backfield from 1922–24, the Fighting Irish compiled a record of 27-2-1, with their only losses coming to Nebraska in Lincoln (1922 & 1923). The Fighting Irish won in 1924 in South Bend and Nebraska won in 1925 in Lincoln, evening up the series at 5–5–1 (the 0-0 tie occurring in 1918). The Huskers were replaced on Notre Dame's schedule with USC. They met twice during the Frank Leahy era in 1947 and 1948 (with the Fighting Irish winning 31–0 and 44–13, respectively) and squared off in the 1973 Orange Bowl, a game in which the Huskers handed the Fighting Irish their worst defeat under Ara Parseghian, 40–6. More recently, there was a home-and-home series in 2000-01 (with the Huskers winning 27–24 and 27–10, respectively). The 2000 game was a memorable one, as #1 Nebraska escaped a Fighting Irish defeat in overtime on a touchdown run by Heisman winner Eric Crouch. Nebraska leads the series 8–7–1.[1]

Penn State Notre Dame and Penn State first met in 1913. After subsequent games in 1925, 1926 and 1928, the two schools would not meet again until the 1976 Gator Bowl, by which time an annual home-and-home series beginning in 1981 had been agreed upon. The Fighting Irish held a 4–0–1 edge going in to 1981, but the Nittany Lions proceeded to win 6 of the next 7. The coaches were one source of the rivalry. Lou Holtz and Joe Paterno were both long serving and successful coaches. Their friendly rivalry helped expand the Notre Dame–Penn State rivalry to new dimensions. The series ended after the 1992 season, coinciding with formerly independent Penn State's affiliation with the Big Ten. It had been scheduled to continue through 1994 and Notre Dame approached Penn State about extending it even further, but Penn State's admittance to the Big Ten in 1990 made it more difficult to fit the games on the schedule. However the Fighting Irish and Nittany Lions recent successes and other factors led to the renewal of the rivalry in 2006–07, in which the teams split both games. The series stands at 9–8–1 in favor of Notre Dame. Penn State did win in 2007, but due to NCAA sanctions in 2012, the win was vacated.[1]

Wisconsin Notre Dame and Wisconsin first met in 1900 with the Badgers prevailing, 54-0. When they met again four years later, Wisconsin put it to the Irish again, 58-0. In the process, they became the only team ever to score 50 points against Notre Dame twice. They played each other sporadically through the 1920s, 30s and 40s and have not met since 1964, in Ara Parseghian's debut as head coach. In that game, the Notre Dame defense set a still-standing school record as they held Wisconsin to minus 51 yards rushing in a 31-7 victory. Notre Dame leads the series, 8-6-2.[1]

Iowa The Irish and Hawkeyes first met in 1921. They met annually from 1945 through 1962, then the 1963 contest was canceled when President Kennedy was assassinated the day before. The 1953 game was notable in that both of Notre Dame's touchdowns came after a player had faked an injury, a widely used ploy in those days. The current rule that bans faked injuries was adopted in response to that game. Traditionally the Hawkeyes were the next-to-last opponent on the Irish schedule. They were scheduled to meet in that slot through 1966, then in 1960 Iowa dropped the Irish after 1964. Needing a tenth game to fill out their 1965 and 1966 schedules, Notre Dame added Michigan State, setting the stage for their memorable 1966 meeting. The Irish and Hawkeyes met in 1967 and again in 1968 and have not played each other since. Notre Dame leads the series, 13-8-3.[1]


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