The 1988 Notre Dame vs. Miami football game, colloquially known as "Catholics vs. Convicts", 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 some Notre Dame students created and sold t-shirts carrying the slogan prior to the legendary matchup between the two teams at Notre Dame Stadium.
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.
After a closely contested game, Miami scored a touchdown with 45 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter to pull within one point of Notre Dame, 31–30. Rather than kick the extra point and likely end the game in a tie, Miamihead coachJimmy Johnson decided go for the two-point conversion, later reasoning that "We always play to win." However, Steve Walsh's pass on the play was knocked down by Pat Terrell, and Notre Dame snapped Miami's winning streak and 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. Regardless, Notre Dame's quarterback fumbled three plays later giving Miami the ball on ND's twenty-one yard line from which they scored the game's final touchdown four plays later. On the other hand, Notre Dame fans believe that a Miami touchdown late in the first half never should have occurred. Miami tight end Rob Chudzinski appeared to catch a pass and take two steps before Notre Dame players jarred the ball loose and recovered the apparent fumble. The play, however, was ruled an incomplete pass, and Miami scored a touchdown two plays later.
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.