The best rivalry in college football is Ohio State/Michigan. Maybe Alabama/Auburn. But according to Jerry Barca, the producer of “Catholics vs Convicts,” a 30 for 30 film that debuts Dec. 10, neither of those rivalries – or any rivalry – will ever touch the Notre Dame/Miami rivalry of the 1980s.
That’s because, at its core, there was an inherent culture clash between the programs.
“Everybody picked a side in this,” Barca said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “I know there are great college football rivalries. I know we watch Michigan and Ohio State, but I’m just going to be honest with you: There’s no rivalry like this one because everyone in the country picked a side. You loved or hated the Canes and what you thought they represented, and you loved or hated Notre Dame and what you thought they represented. So everybody had a horse in that race, there’s no doubt about it.”
The “Catholics,” of course, were the Fighting Irish, while the “Convicts” were the Hurricanes. Not every player for each team fit that mold, but that didn’t matter. Perception was reality.
“The stereotyping was in high gear at this point,” Barca said. “Whether it was accurate or not, I don’t know. Miami did dance on the field a lot, the gyrations. This also coincides with the rise of hip hop in the country at this time. They got into fights during games. Notre Dame, at the same time, with those golden helmets and Touchdown Jesus, they represent something. Notre Dame also is very much willing to get into a fight before the game with Miami, and the Notre Dame players in the film will admit, ‘Hey, we weren’t angels.’ But the stereotyping was there, and it did have the trimmings of that.”
The mounting tension boiled over on Oct. 15, 1988, with No. 4 Notre Dame beating No. 1 Miami, 31-30, in South Bend. It is considered by many Irish fans the greatest win in program history.
While the rivalry was short-lived, it left an indelible mark on college football.
“You’re never going to see it again,” Barca said. “I think there’s too much money in the sport. People are too protective of their brand to let it get to the place where these programs got.”