Notre Dame Faces Miami in the Sun Bowl With Both Programs Searching

Tom EdringtonSenior Writer IDecember 6, 2010

At least the Irish have a head coach as they head to the Sun Bowl.
At least the Irish have a head coach as they head to the Sun Bowl.Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

There was a time when Notre Dame going against Miami had college football fans salivating.

The two programs are the latest invitees to the Sun Bowl out in the west Texas town of El Paso, and this game is about as far from relevant as South Bend and Miami are distance-wise from Shanghai.

Twenty-two years ago these teams faced each other in what was one of the greatest college games of all time. It was the classic "Catholics vs. Convicts" showdown on October 15, 1988 in South Bend.

The defending national champion Hurricanes of Jimmy Johnson were 4-0 and up against the 5-0 Fighting Irish of Lou Holtz, the team that wanted Miami's crown.

They were the two super heavyweights of college football and their showdown was simply awesome.

In the end, Miami scored to trail 31-30 with 45 seconds left and in a moment of true Jimmy Johnson bravado, the Hurricanes went for two and victory. There was no overtime back then.

"We always play to win," is what Johnson said afterward when the attempt failed and the victory launched Notre Dame to the national title. Miami would finish No. 2. It was the Hurricanes' only loss.

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Fast forward your magic remote 22 years and what we have today are two struggling programs who will play on New Year's Eve afternoon in a game that means who knows what.

Both teams are victims of identity theft if you will. Both beaten down by seasons that don't live up to those glory days of Holtz and Johnson. Both are on the ropes.

At least Notre Dame has a coach, albeit Brian Kelly, who will never be mistaken for Rockne or Holtz.

Miami doesn't even have a coach and it's not a stretch to say that that phone calls are not pouring into Kirby Hocutt's office from big names who want that job.

Used to be that 7-5 seasons were for the other guys, not for Notre Dame and Miami.

Sun Bowls are for teams that are so far from national contention that they may as well be playing somewhere in South Dakota.

This simply isn't what Notre Dame and Miami USED to be about.

These days, the road to the national title comes directly through the SEC. It's become the law of the land, the nature of the landscape in college football. The SEC has the Sabans, the Meyers, the Spurriers, the Miles and now has Gene Chizik as the next guy in line to possible wear a national championship ring.

Players in high school these days weren't even born when you could say the same of Notre Dame and Miami. In fact, most college players weren't around when the Catholics nipped the Convicts.

Miami's in the ACC, a conference that gets the best basketball players, not the best football players and Notre Dame still stands alone, continuing to assert that foolish independence that lends it to collect its very own television contract, if that matters much anymore.

No one is going to re-arrange their day on December 31st to watch that watered-down version of what used to be Notre Dame and Miami.

It's simply not "must see" viewing.

Sure, some Notre Dame alums will travel and take in the exciting night life of El Paso. Anyone from Miami gushing with excitement to head out there?

It's simply a sad fact of life that these two programs are staring up at college football's elite.

They've got a long way to go, a tough road to hoe.

Almost like trying to hitch a ride from South Dakota to Shanghai.

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