2019 Notre Dame Football Preview

Digital Edition

Blue & Gold Illustrated: 2019 Notre Dame Football Preview

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Page 143 of 163

142 ✦ BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED 2019 FOOTBALL PREVIEW BY LOU SOMOGYI T he 1960s are recalled as perhaps the single most impactful decade in the cultural, social and technological revolution inside the United States. In 1969, the upheaval reached a crescendo that included demonstrations against the Vietnam War that divided the country, the Woodstock music festival and, above all, achieving the once unfathomable notion set earlier in the decade that man would one day land on the moon. The University of Notre Dame ending its 44-year ban (1925-68) from participat- ing in college football bowl games did not resonate nearly as much nationally, and was even overshadowed in the world of athletics by New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath's guarantee of a Super Bowl win in January and the Miracle Mets' World Series crown in October. However, it did signal a new era in college football — which was celebrating its 100- year centennial from 1869-1969 that season. Notre Dame's bowl ban was voluntary because national titles in college football had been voted on by the Associated Press since 1936, and then also the coaches in 1950 in what would first be the United Press poll fol- lowing the conclusion of the regular season (1965 was an exception among the coaches). In essence, bowl games were nothing more than glorified exhibitions in NCAA football. When the AP poll began in 1936, there were only six bowl games in existence at warm-weather sites, all played on Jan. 1: Rose, Sugar, Orange, Cotton, Sun — and the Bacardi Bowl in Havana, Cuba. By 1950 when the UP poll commenced, the number had expanded to nine, but the postseason events remained non factors in final polling. For Notre Dame, not including bowl games in the final tally amongst voters had its pros and cons that were especially re- flected in 1947, 1953 and 1966. In 1947, the AP voted Notre Dame No. 1, the third of its four national titles under head coach Frank Leahy during the 1940s. The Irish finished 9-0 after crushing No. 3 USC 38-7 in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Dec. 6. It easily outpointed No. 2 and 9-0 Michi- gan 107-25 in the final count amongst the voters. The Wolverines protested that they were just as good, and then promptly destroyed that same USC team 49-0 in the Rose Bowl. Out of curiosity, an informal vote by the AP afterwards had 226 writers vote Michi- gan No. 1 while only 119 selected Notre Dame. However, it was inconsequential be- cause only the final ballots after the regular season mattered, so the Fighting Irish re- mained the champions. Six years later, bowls not counting worked against Notre Dame when Leahy's final edi- tion at the school finished 9-0-1 and No. 2 behind Maryland. In the Orange Bowl at the end of that season, the 10-0 Terrapins lost 7-0 to 8-1-1 Oklahoma — whose lone defeat came at home to Notre Dame in the opener, 28-21. Logic dictated that the Irish therefore should be elevated to No. 1. However, this time the fact that national titles were awarded at the end of the regular season worked against Leahy and his lads. Maryland was still the Golden AnniversAry In a dramatic year of upheaval, 1969 also marked the end of the non-bowl era at Notre Dame Led by head coach Ara Parseghian (left), the Fighting Irish ended their voluntary 44-year bowl ban with a matchup against Darrell Royal's No. 1 Texas squad in the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 1, 1070. The Long- horns scored a late touchdown to knock off Notre Dame 21-17. PHOTO COURTESY FIGHTING IRISH MEDIA

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