Notre Dame Fighting Irish Football History and Trivia

Notre Dame Stadium

When did Notre Dame begin its Football Program?

Founded in 1887, the University of Notre Dame's football program has become one of the most storied and iconic in college football. From legendary coaches to Heisman Trophy winners, the Fighting Irish have left an indelible mark on the sport.
The Notre Dame football story truly began to take shape in the early 20th century when Knute Rockne, an immigrant from Norway, arrived on campus. Rockne not only played a pivotal role as a coach but also revolutionized the game with innovative strategies and the implementation of the forward pass.

In 1913, Rockne became the head coach, and under his leadership, Notre Dame achieved remarkable success. The team's breakthrough moment came in 1913 when they upset the powerful Army team, marking the beginning of Notre Dame's ascent in college football.

Knute Rockne Notre Dame Head Coach
The 1920s witnessed the emergence of the famous "Four Horsemen" backfield—Harry Stuhldreher, Don Miller, Jim Crowley, and Elmer Layden. Coached by Knute Rockne, this quartet led Notre Dame to multiple undefeated seasons.
The legend of George Gipp, immortalized by Ronald Reagan in the film "Knute Rockne, All American," adds a touch of mythology to Notre Dame's history. Gipp's famous request to "win just one for the Gipper" became a rallying cry for the team.

Tragically, Knute Rockne's life was cut short in a plane crash in 1931. Despite this loss, his legacy endured. Notre Dame continued to be a football powerhouse, and Rockne's influence on the game persisted through his innovative strategies and motivational techniques.

After a period of transition, Notre Dame found success under head coach Ara Parseghian in the 1960s. Parseghian led the team to two national championships in 1966 and 1973, solidifying Notre Dame's status as a perennial contender.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Lou Holtz guided Notre Dame to a national championship in 1988. The team's success during this era included memorable moments such as the "Chicken Soup Game" in the 1991 Cotton Bowl, where Notre Dame overcame the odds to secure a victory.

In recent years, head coach Brian Kelly continued Notre Dame's tradition of excellence. Under his leadership, the team was consistently a contender for playoff spots, showcasing a strong commitment to both athletic and academic success.

On December 3, 2021, Notre Dame's defensive coordinator, Marcus Freeman, was promoted to the head coaching position to replace Brian Kelly, becoming the 32nd head coach in program history and Notre Dame's second African American head coach.

Notre Dame Football Trivia

The "Touchdown Jesus" Mural: The iconic mural on the Hesburgh Library, visible from Notre Dame Stadium, is nicknamed "Touchdown Jesus" due to the raised arms resembling a referee signaling a touchdown.

The Victory March: Notre Dame's Victory March, written by two Notre Dame graduates, has been the university's fight song since 1908. It's a staple of every Fighting Irish game day.

The Green Jersey Game: In a surprise move in 1977, coach Dan Devine had the team wear green jerseys against USC. Notre Dame went on to win, creating a memorable moment in the program's history.

Heisman Trophy Winners: Notre Dame boasts several Heisman Trophy winners, including Angelo Bertelli (1943), John Lattner (1953), Paul Hornung (1956), and Tim Brown (1987).

Notre Dame Stadium's Tradition: The tradition of players slapping the "Play Like a Champion Today" sign before heading to the field has become an iconic symbol of Notre Dame football.

The golden dome of the Main Building on campus is a distinctive feature often associated with Notre Dame football, and it serves as a symbol of the university.