MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The Bowl Championship Series National Championship game is uncharted waters for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in recent years. The Fighting Irish haven’t won a national championship since the 1989 Fiesta Bowl.
For some perspective on how long ago that was, the number one song in the country the last time Notre Dame won the National Championship was Poison’s “Every Rose Has It’s Thorn.” (via ESPN.com’s Darren Rovell)
Lou Holtz was Notre Dame’s head coach at the time and he stepped down from the program in 1996. For more than a decade after that, the once storied program fell on hard times.
Bob Davie, Holtz’s defensive coordinator, took over as head coach in 1997. While Davie led the team for five seasons, his teams lost three bowl games and failed to qualify for bowl games in 1999 and 2001. Davie also led the Irish to the team’s first BCS invite to the 2001 Fiesta Bowl, which Notre Dame lost by 32 points.
Davie’s tenure also saw the Irish put on NCAA probation for the first time in school history.
After Davie was terminated, the Irish turned to Tyrone Willingham who was then the head coach at Stanford. After a solid star in 2002, Willingham’s teams quickly faltered and Notre Dame’s legacy quickly began to falter. The Irish terminated Willingham on November 30, 2004.
Notre Dame wanted to make a splash after the Willingham disaster and tried to hire Urban Meyer, who eventually went to the University of Florida. After the team failed to woo Meyer, Notre Dame hired Charlie Weis, who had been serving as the New England Patriots’ offensive coordinator during their Super Bowl run.
Weis famously arrived in South Bend and proceeded to tell the media that he would have a schematic advantage over any other coach he faced. Weis took the Irish to the Fiesta Bowl in his first season where the team lost by two touchdowns to Ohio State.
The Irish finished the 2006 season with a 10-2 record and a Sugar Bowl bid only to get mauled by the LSU Tigers 41-14. After that loss, the wheels completely came off the Irish program under Weis.
In 2007, the Irish finished the season with a record of 3-9, which were the most losses in one season in team history. Notre Dame finished the 2008 season with a 6-6 record and by the end of the 2009 season, Weis was fired after compiling a 35-27 record at Notre Dame.
But, the Irish finally hit gold with the hiring of Brian Kelly. He had built a national championship winning program at Division II Grand Valley State and took Cincinnati to two BCS games before taking over the Irish.
Since taking over at Notre Dame, Kelly posted two 8-5 seasons before the 2012 season. In 2012, Notre Dame ran through its schedule without a loss heading into the BCS National Championship game against the Alabama Crimson Tide.
If recent history is an indicator for the Irish, bowl games haven’t been kind to Notre Dame. Since 1995, the Irish are 2-12 in bowl games, but have won two of their last three. The lone recent loss in a bowl game for the Irish was last year against the Florida State Seminoles in the Champs Sports Bowl.
A victory for the Irish will mean the team is fully back on the national championship scene, but just by making it to the game, Kelly has helped awaken the echoes once again at Notre Dame.