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1988 Notre Dame vs. Miami football game

Catholics vs. Convicts
1 2 3 4 Total
Miami 0 21 0 9 30
Notre Dame 7 14 10 0 31
Date October 15, 1988
Season 1988
Stadium Notre Dame Stadium
Location South Bend, Indiana
Attendance 62,602
United States TV coverage
Network CBS
Announcers Brent Musburger and Pat Haden

The 1988 Notre Dame vs. Miami football game, colloquially known as "Catholics vs. Convicts",[1] was played on October 15, 1988. The two teams were undefeated when they met at Notre Dame Stadium. Notre Dame won the closely contested game 31–30.

The name "Catholics vs. Convicts" was seized on by the press after 2 Notre Dame students and friends Joe Frederick and Michael Caponigro created and sold t-shirts carrying the slogan prior to the legendary matchup between the two teams at Notre Dame Stadium.[2]

The game

The two teams met on October 15, 1988 in South Bend, Indiana, with both teams being undefeated. Miami, the defending national champion, came in ranked #1 holding a 36-game regular season winning streak while the Irish were ranked #4. The game, which was preceded by a pregame fight between the two teams in the entrance tunnel, was named by USA Today as one of the greatest college football games of the period 1982–2002.[3]

After a closely contested game, Miami scored a touchdown with 45 seconds left in the game to pull within one point of Notre Dame, 31–30. Rather than kick the extra point and likely end the game in a tie, Miami head coach Jimmy Johnson decided to go for two, later reasoning that "We always play to win." However, Steve Walsh's pass was batted down by Pat Terrell, and Notre Dame won 31–30.

Notre Dame would finish the season 12–0, beating #2 USC 27–10 on November 26 in the last game of the season and #3 West Virginia in the 1989 Fiesta Bowl 34–21 on January 2, 1989 to win the national title. Miami would win the rest of its games and finish #2 behind Notre Dame in the polls.

Miami fans still question the accuracy of a Cleveland Gary fumble on the 1-yard line, which they allege was an incorrect call. With Miami trailing 31–24 and facing a critical fourth-and-7 from deep in Irish territory midway through the fourth quarter, Walsh connected with Miami running back Cleveland Gary streaking across the middle of the field at the Irish 11-yard line for an apparent first down. He caught, turned, was hit and dropped the football. Notre Dame inside linebacker Michael Stonebreaker recovered the football. The referees appeared to improperly rule the play as a turnover on downs, thinking it was fourth-and-goal rather than fourth-and-seven. In addition, many thought Gary had broken the goal line for a touchdown before losing possession of the ball. After the game, Johnson was adamant that Gary was down before the ball came loose and Miami should have retained possession with a first-and-goal at the Notre Dame 1 yard line. As the game was broadcast, Pat Haden and Brent Musburger seemed certain that the call was correct based on the replays. In its recap of the game, the Notre Dame student newspaper, The Observer, also agreed Gary appeared down before the fumble.[4]

In a 2005 poll conducted by the University of Notre Dame, the 31–30 win over Miami was voted the Greatest Victory in Fighting Irish history by a landslide.[5]


  1. ^ "25 years of college football's memorable games".  
  2. ^ Telander, Rick (1988-10-24). "Pluck of the Irish – Spunky Notre Dame laid claim to the top spot in the national rankings by outlasting No. 1 Miami 31-30".  
  3. ^ "College football's best of the last 20 years". USA Today. 2002-11-19. Retrieved 2009-12-16. 
  4. ^ "Irish top No.1 Miami en route to '88 title". Observer Online. 1999-11-05. Retrieved 2009-12-16. 
  5. ^ Greatest Victory poll
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