MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The University of Alabama and Notre Dame University are two of the most storied schools in the history of college football. But, with 25 national championships between them, some fans are struggling with trying to figure out who to cheer for based on who is the lesser evil.
“I don’t like Alabama more than I don’t like Notre Dame,” said fan Ryan Gardner.
Notre Dame hasn’t won a national championship since 1988 and has been largely irrelevant since that time. But this year, head coach Brian Kelly led the Irish to an undefeated season. Alabama had been ranked number one but lost to Texas A&M before winning the SEC title to get to the national championship game.
“We are going to have to deal with the lore again, God help us,” Charles Pierce wrote grudgingly last month in a piece for Grantland.com.
Still, Notre Dame may get some fans this season if for no other reason than many across the country are sick of the dominance of the Southeastern Conference. The SEC has won the last six national championships in a row and an Alabama victory could fill Sun Life Stadium with “S-E-C” chants.
“The question is, who are you less sick of?” said David Bazzel, who played at Arkansas during the 1980s and now hosts a radio show for KABZ of Little Rock. “The hatred of Notre Dame. … If you don’t have that hatred of Alabama as much, it’s that we’re tired of them winning.”
That’s part of Gardner’s rationale. Alabama’s BCS title last season was the sixth in a row for the Southeastern Conference.
“I’m not really an SEC-affiliated fan. I actually went to an SEC school (Tennessee) for my first couple years of college, but I never really got attached to SEC sports,” Gardner said. “It’s a powerful conference — but never rooted for them.”
“Notre Dame is obnoxious for all the reasons that Notre Dame is obnoxious, but they’ve been down for so long,” said Peter Bean, a 2003 Texas graduate who runs the blog Burnt Orange Nation. “It’s been 15 years of schadenfreude with the Irish, so it kind of feels like you’re throwing them a bone.”
The Irish could be double-digit underdogs at kickoff, making Notre Dame — gulp — a sentimental favorite?
“It’s kind of bizarre to be honest,” said Joe Hettler, a 2005 Notre Dame grad who hopes to attend the championship game. “I’ve been a fan since I was literally 6 years old. Nobody ever roots for us.”
Perhaps that’s the next step for the Irish. Does Notre Dame need to win a national championship or two to rebuild the animosity of the neutral fan?
“Hopefully, we’ll be hated back to the level that we’re accustomed to,” Hettler said.
Bean can certainly see that happening.
“This is the one opponent that’s more hated than they are,” he said. “Give the Irish fans a chance to squander the goodwill.”
It may be only a matter of time before it’s chic to loathe Notre Dame again, but for now, public scorn will have to be shared with those bullies from the South.
“Most of the Ohio State people that I talk to down here are going to root for Notre Dame,” said Shawn Murnahan, president of OSU’s alumni club of Atlanta. “One of these two teams is going to be national champions. Which would you rather it be?”
Of course, there’s a flip side to that statement.
One of these teams also has to lose.
“Somebody’s going to be sad,” Bean said. “So we all win.”
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