1988 Notre Dame vs. Miami football game

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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 played each other at Notre Dame Stadium. 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.[2] The slogan was a play on Notre Dame's Catholic image and Miami's notoriously wild party image.

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.[3]

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 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.

Many Miami fans still question the accuracy of a Cleveland Gary fumble on the 1-yard line, which they believe 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 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. Later, video replays showed that the on-field call was incorrect. 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 the Andre Brown's grasp even after trapping it. The two questionable calls continue to be argued by fans on both sides.

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.[4]

This game was featured in the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary titled Catholics vs. Convicts, directed by documentary filmmaker Patrick Creadon. [5] The film premiered on December 10, 2016 to over 2 million viewers.[6]


  1. ^ "25 years of college football's memorable games". USA Today. 2007-12-01. Retrieved 2009-10-10. 
  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". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 2009-10-10. 
  3. ^ "College football's best of the last 20 years". USA Today. November 19, 2002. Retrieved December 16, 2009. 
  4. ^ "What was the greatest Fighting Irish football game in the history of Notre Dame Stadium?". Notre Dame Fighting Irish. August 29, 2005. Retrieved May 5, 2017. 
  5. ^ Creadon, Patrick (December 8, 2016). "CATHOLICS VS. CONVICTS". ESPN. Retrieved May 5, 2017. 
  6. ^ "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.