Why Notre Dame is such a big deal in college football

Notre Dame quarterback Brandon Wimbush passes during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Temple Saturday, Sept. 2, 2017, in South Bend, Ind. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Younger Bulldog football fans may wonder what’s the big deal about Notre Dame football.


Well, the Indiana school is one of the most successful programs in college football, not just historically, but recently.

Part is just fan support.

Notre Dame has such strong fan support that it has its own national network TV contract, unlike every other college football power. Other schools belong to conferences like the SEC (UGA’s conference) and participate in their leagues’ contracts.

Notre Dame’s greatest success came in the 1940s, but stretches years before that and on into the recent past.

Below are some reasons why Notre Dame is so revered:

Notre Dame’s first game was Nov. 23, 1887, an 8-0 loss. But since then, they’ve won a few more - 875 more, according to the website Winsipedia. Georgia’s first season was a few years later, in 1892 - a two-game season that began with a 50-0 thumping of Mercer and ended with a loss to Auburn. The Bulldogs have also won a few subsequent games - 795 more, according to the website. Those totals place Notre Dame sixth on the all-time wins list and Georgia at No. 11.

Both schools have played at an elite level off and on for a long time. Notre Dame last played for the national championship in 2013, when the Fighting Irish fell 42-14 to Alabama. Georgia’s last appearance in a national championship game was in 1982, when the Bulldogs fell to Penn State 24-17 in the Sugar Bowl.

Depending on how you count, Notre Dame has eight, 11 or 13 national championships, most recently with the school’s 1988 team, coached by Lou Holtz. UGA has two or five, again depending on how you count - most recently the Vince Dooley-coached 1980 team.

As of 2016, Georgia, with 45, had more active players in the NFL than Notre Dame, at 39. But all-time, Notre Dame has produced far and away more NFL players than Georgia or any other college at 543. With 297 players, UGA is No. 16 on that list.

Notre Dame has had seven Heisman Trophy winners, most recently Tim Brown in 1987. Only two other schools match that total — Ohio State and Oklahoma. UGA has had two — Frank Sinkwich in 1942 and Herschel Walker in 1982.

No college has more alumni in the Pro Football Hall of Fame than Notre Dame’s 13, according to the Hall of Fame website. Georgia has two, Charley Trippi and Fran Tarkenton, though some legitimately question why Bill Stanfill is not in there.

With 97, Notre Dame has produced more consensus All-Americans than any other college, according to Winsipedia. UGA falls at No. 20 on that list, tied with Colorado and Michigan State, with 31 each.

The University of Georgia has 13 players and two coaches (Wally Butts, Vince Dooley) enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame, according to that hall’s website. Notre Dame has 50, more than any other college.

There’s one notable category in which UGA holds a decided edge on the Fighting Irish, albeit with a small sample size. UGA is undefeated in head-to-head competition with Notre Dame. One game is the sample size, but it was a big one — the national championship on Jan. 1, 1981, for the Bulldogs’ second national championship.

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