On Oct. 15, 1988, Notre Dame hosted the University of Miami in what many would call one of the greatest games in college football history.
It was a high drama matchup with the Fighting Irish ranked No. 4 and the Hurricanes at No. 1. It was also a coaching showdown with Lou Holtz against Jimmy Johnson. On Saturday at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN, 30 for 30: Catholics vs. Convicts (directed by Patrick Creadon) will explore the deeper narrative as the coaches and players open up about the fight that started the game, the highly debatable calls still being talked about and the insensitive aspects of the irresistibly popular t-shirt.
ESPN’s Dan Le Batard covered the Hurricanes during the ’80s and is featured in the documentary. Le Batard, who is looking forward to Saturday’s premiere since he hasn’t had a chance to see the film yet, talks to Front Row about the story behind this epic matchup.
ESPN’s Brent Musburger, who called the game for CBS, says in the film that he’d “never been more excited for the start of a college football game.” What made the 1988 Notre Dame/Miami game feel so much larger than life?
We don’t have anything like that now. Two national teams with vastly different histories, fan bases and styles at the top of the game. Conferences are largely regional concepts. This was two non-conference teams that were each their own solar system, and they hated the way the other did business. So much fun.
As you were the Hurricanes beat writer for the Miami Herald at the time, what kind of impact do you feel the T-shirt moniker “Catholics vs. Convicts” had on the fans?
It just inflamed things. Holtz says now that the shirts were inaccurate. . . because not everyone at Notre Dame was Catholic. Calling the Miami players criminals was offensive, but it worked as a narrative construct. It was holier than thou against the unholy menace of Miami, and Miami eventually embraced the hostility.
You’ve been in every 30 for 30 involving Miami football – “The U,” “The U: Part 2” and now “Catholics vs. Convicts.” Which doc is your favorite?
The first U movie is one of my favorites of all the 30 for 30s. . . So easy to watch. Those U teams changed the rules.
Jay Jay Nesheim contributed to this post.
In the video above, Steve Walsh (former Miami QB) and Tony Rice (former Notre Dame QB) discuss their experiences visiting ESPN on Dec. 9 to discuss the film and more. Jennifer Cingari produced the video above. The film’s trailer is below.