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Return to glory: Notre Dame’s rise to relevance again

By | November 30, 2012 | Sports

Cheer, cheer for old Notre Dame!

Following their hard-fought and convincing victory against the USC Trojans, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish are back on top of the college football world.

A 22-13 victory against the disappointing Trojans guaranteed Notre Dame an undefeated 12-0 season and, more importantly, a berth in the BCS Title game. Both of these accomplishments haven’t been experienced in South Bend in nearly two decades.

The last time Notre Dame finished with an undefeated season was 1988. That year, Ronald Reagan was president. The Iran-Contra affair was the major political scandal of the year and “Die Hard” was one of the big blockbusters at the box office.

And in the world of sports, the city of Los Angeles coordinated two championship parades: for the Dodgers and the Lakers, the Washington Redskins reigned supreme as the Super Bowl champions and the Edmonton Oilers swept the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup Finals.

In the 24 years since Notre Dame last achieved the pinnacle of college football greatness, a program that is one of the most storied and cherished in the history of college athletics has had to endure more disappointing lows than inspirational highs.

But it used to be so different. Notre Dame was always in the national championship picture; it always had the best players and the best coaches. The myth of Touchdown Jesus would always bless them on game day. From players such as Hornung to Montana to coaches such as Parseghian and Rockne, the Fighting Irish never knew mediocrity. They have been to college football what the Yankees are to baseball, the Celtics to basketball and the Packers to football: winners.

However, until recently, Notre Dame has struggled to maintain its reputation among the best programs in college football. Always a winner in the realm of recruiting, Notre Dame has seen many top-rated prospects who would have signed with the Fighting Irish in the past take their talents to schools like Alabama, Florida, Michigan, Ohio State and many others.

And the coaches who’ve followed former coach Lou Holtz since 1996 have delivered broken promises, shattered dreams and a little bit of controversy.

The Bob Davie era was marked by disappointing play and NCAA recruiting violations that resulted in a two-year ban from postseason play and the loss of scholarships. The Ty Willingham era started promisingly, but eventually crashed and burned. As for Charlie Weis –OK, I won’t bring it up.

It has been a rocky 24 years indeed. But now, all of the futility and frustration experienced by players, coaches and fans seems to have been erased. When Notre Dame started the 2012 season undefeated at 6-0, everyone thought it was due to a comfortable schedule. And then, victories against programs like Stanford, Michigan and recently, USC. Maybe, these guys are for real.

This year’s Notre Dame squad is a team everyone can cheer for – even if you don’t like golden helmets and movies called “Rudy.” They’re led by inspirational Heisman Trophy candidate Manti Te’o, an up-and-coming quarterback in Everett Golson and a coach who believes in the fundamentals in Brian Kelly.

Assuming that things play out the way they’re supposed to in the mad, ridiculous world of the BCS, Notre Dame is set on a collision course against Alabama in the national title game. The Crimson Tide is the defending national champions and considered the best team in college football. The Fighting Irish want to be the defending national champions and the best team in college football again.

It may no longer be the glory years in South Bend, but Touchdown Jesus is smiling once again on Notre Dame. The Golden Dome of the Main Building is polished, and the victory chants are being sung. The Fighting Irish haven’t played like champions for 24 years – until now. What a difference a year makes.

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