Notre Dame football is a tradition of excellence. Whether you count up the Heisman Trophy winners over the team’s existence (that number would be 7, tying them with Ohio State and USC for boasting the most) or you use both hands and one toe to count up the national championships (including wire and other consensuses), you can be sure that this South Bend, Indiana based team is at the forefront of college football excellence.
Since some disparaging early, early days in the late 1880s, the Fighting Irish have managed to secure 11 national championships. This is quite a feat for an independent Catholic college carrying a football team. The first was in 1924, under legendary coach Knute Rockne. That year, in the middle of Rockne’s career there, the team managed a 10-0 record and a spectacular win at the Rose Bowl game. Two more namings were added to Rockne’s resume in 1929 and 1930. Both years, Rockne’s team remained undefeated.
Frank Leahy, who coached in the 1940s, led a team picked by the AP wire as national championships in 1943, 1946, 1947, and 1949. Except for one loss in 1943, Leahy also led perfect seasons. The next championship went to the Irish in 1966, as Ara Parseghian led a 9-0 team to gain the selection by the AP and Coaches polls. In 1973, Parseghian proved his mettle with an 11-0 record, culminating in a sweet win at the Sugar Bowl. In 1977, Dan Devine’s team won the Cotton Bowl and eleven other regular season games. Despite their one loss, the team was named champions. In 1988, Lou Holtz, who led the team for more than a decade, marched through the season to win all 12 games, plus masterfully winning at the Fiesta Bowl.
Notre Dame, football’s Gold-mine, has some incredible accolades among the NCAA historical texts. They have the 2nd highest winning percentage, with 73.6%, only two tenths behind Michigan. They have the 3rd most wins behind Michigan and Texas. Of their 120 years of football, they only lost 12 of those seasons; over 100 of them were winning. Although Ohio State also has seven Heisman trophies, they did it with six winners. Notre Dame and USC went 7 trophies for 7 winners. The college also has claim to 48 players and coaches in the College Football Hall of Fame, the most of any NCAA team.
Since 1962, nearly all of the Notre Dame football players have graduated in four years. Only 13 players have left without finishing their degrees. Also notable is the 90% graduation rate of the team’s African American players, third behind Navy and Boston College. Speaking of Navy, the US Naval Academy shares a stat with Notre Dame: namely, most consecutive wins (losses in Navy’s case) over one opponent. That number is 43, a streak that was snapped in 2007. The Irish also had to do something with beginning and ending Oklahoma’s 47 game winning streak. They beat the Sooners in 1953 and again in 1957, bookending the remarkable run with two Irish victories.
The team is something special, for sure, and continues to be a recognizable icon of determined grit in the college football landscape.
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