1988 Notre Dame vs. Miami football game

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Catholics vs. Convicts
Non-conference game
1234 Total
Miami 02109 30
Notre Dame 714100 31
DateOctober 15, 1988
StadiumNotre Dame Stadium
LocationSouth Bend, Indiana
National anthemBand of the Fighting Irish
Halftime showBand of the Fighting Irish
United States TV coverage
AnnouncersBrent Musburger and Pat Haden

The 1988 Notre Dame vs. Miami football game, colloquially known as Catholics vs. Convicts,[2] was played on October 15, 1988 at Notre Dame Stadium. Both the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Miami Hurricanes came into the game undefeated. Notre Dame won the closely contested game 31–30.

The name "Catholics vs. Convicts," a T-shirt slogan created prior to the matchup by two Notre Dame students and friends, Joe Frederick and Michael Caponigro, was noticed by the press and reported.[3] The slogan was a play on Notre Dame's Catholic image and Miami's roster of flamboyant football players. Leading up to the 1988 season, several players from the Miami team were arrested and their scholarships taken away. These arrests were highly publicized and added to the development of the moniker.[4][5]

The game[edit]

The two teams met on October 15, 1988, in South Bend, Indiana, with both teams being undefeated. Miami, the defending national champions, came in ranked No. 1 holding a 36-game regular season winning streak while the Irish were ranked No. 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.[6]

After a closely contested game, Miami scored a touchdown with 45 seconds remaining to pull within one point of the Fighting Irish, 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."[citation needed] However, Hurricanes quarterback Steve Walsh's pass was batted down by Fighting Irish defender Pat Terrell, and Notre Dame won 31–30, resulting in Miami's first regular season loss since losing to Florida on September 7, 1985.

Notre Dame finished the season 12–0, beating No. 2 USC 27–10 on November 26 in the last game of the season and No. 3 West Virginia in the 1989 Fiesta Bowl 34–21 on January 2, 1989, to win the national title. Miami won the rest of its games and finished No. 2 behind Notre Dame in the polls.

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 inside the Irish 5-yard line for the first down. He caught the football, turned, was tackled and fumbled the football before he hit the ground. Notre Dame inside linebacker Michael Stonebreaker recovered the football. The referees ruled the play as a fumble, as Notre Dame took possession at the 2-yard line where the ball was recovered. After the game, Johnson was adamant that Gary was down before the ball came loose and Miami should have retained possession. In the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary Catholics vs. Convicts, safety George Streeter claimed he hit the ball loose from Gary's hand prior to him being down or across the goal line. In the same documentary, Gary disagrees with Streeter's account of events, claiming he was palming the ball with his right hand and the ball was across the goal line prior to his knee hitting the ground or the ball coming loose.

There was later controversy on Miami's final touchdown. On a desperation pass into the corner of the endzone to Miami receiver Andre Brown, the ball was trapped and then dropped by Brown. Although ruled a touchdown on the field, replay shows that the ball hit the ground in front of the receiver and was dislodged from Andre Brown's grasp even after trapping it. The two questionable calls continue to be argued by fans on both sides.


Notre Dame would go on to win their remaining five (5) games of the season, including defeating then #2 ranked USC in Los Angeles 27-10.[7] The Irish went on to beat the West Virginia Mountaineers 34-21 in the 1989 Fiesta Bowl and win their eleventh (11th) claimed National Championship.

Miami would win their remaining six (6) games of the season. They would be selected to play in the Orange Bowl against #6 Nebraska, which was played in their home stadium at the time, the Orange Bowl. Miami easily won the contest 23-3.[8][9] Miami would finish ranked #2 in both the AP[10] and Coaches polls behind Notre Dame.

The following season, #1 Notre Dame went into Miami with a 23-game winning streak. The seventh (7th) ranked Miami team ended the streak by beating the Irish 27-10.[11] Despite losing earlier in the season to Florida State, Miami would go on to win the 1989 National Championship.

In a 2005 poll conducted by the University of Notre Dame, the 31–30 win over Miami was voted the Greatest Victory in Notre Dame Stadium history.[12]

This game was featured in the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary titled "Catholics vs. Convicts", directed by Patrick Creadon. [13] Creadon was a senior at Notre Dame when the game took place. His roommate that year was one of the people behind the controversial t-shirt that gave the game its name. The film premiered on December 10, 2016 to over 2 million viewers.[14]


  1. ^ "{title}" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2017-12-22. Retrieved 2017-12-19.
  2. ^ "25 years of college football's memorable games". USA Today. 2007-12-01. Archived from the original on 2008-02-09. Retrieved 2009-10-10.
  3. ^ 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". Sports Illustrated. Archived from the original on 2017-12-01. Retrieved 2017-11-17.
  4. ^ "DISMISSED. Two University of Miami players arrested in..." tribunedigital-orlandosentinel. Retrieved 2017-11-29.
  5. ^ "A University of Miami football player has been suspended..." UPI. Archived from the original on 2017-12-01. Retrieved 2017-11-29.
  6. ^ "College football's best of the last 20 years". USA Today. November 19, 2002. Archived from the original on 2005-12-01. Retrieved December 16, 2009.
  7. ^ "Bowl Championship Series - Flashback: Notre Dame-USC 1988". www.espn.com. Archived from the original on 2017-09-03. Retrieved 2017-11-29.
  8. ^ "1989 Orange Bowl recap -- HuskerMax™". www.huskermax.com. Archived from the original on 2017-12-01. Retrieved 2017-11-29.
  9. ^ "1989 | Orange Bowl". game.orangebowl.org. Archived from the original on 2017-12-01. Retrieved 2017-11-29.
  10. ^ "1988 Final Football Polls - College Poll Archive - Historical College Football and Basketball Polls and Rankings". collegepollarchive.com. Archived from the original on 2017-11-20. Retrieved 2017-11-29.
  11. ^ WOJCIECHOWSKI, GENE (1989-11-26). "Miami Exacts Its Revenge, 27-10 : Hurricanes: Seventh-ranked squad ends Notre Dame's winning streak and reign as top-ranked team". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Archived from the original on 2015-09-21. Retrieved 2017-11-29.
  12. ^ "What was the greatest Fighting Irish football game in the history of Notre Dame Stadium?". Notre Dame Fighting Irish. August 29, 2005. Archived from the original on 2017-06-19. Retrieved May 5, 2017.
  13. ^ Creadon, Patrick (December 8, 2016). "CATHOLICS VS. CONVICTS". ESPN. Archived from the original on 2017-06-23. Retrieved May 5, 2017.
  14. ^ "Heisman Presentation, Catholics vs Convicts, North Dakota St-South Dakota St top cable sports TV ratings for Saturday December 10, 2016". Sports TV Ratings. 2016-12-13. Retrieved 2017-06-27.