Miami Hurricanes vs. Notre Dame still a huge rivalry (as any dude can attest)

UM linebacker Shaq Quarterman (right) chases Notre Dame’s Torii Hunter Jr. during last season’s meeting, a 30-27 Irish victory in South Bend. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

CORAL GABLES — The fans are fired up for UM-Notre Dame. The players are fired up, too. But, Hurricanes left tackle Kc McDermott was asked, how can this be a rivalry when these teams no longer meet regularly? When the Hurricanes and Irish have played only four times in the past 27 years?

Faced with blasphemy, McDermott could hardly contain himself.

“There’s absolutely a rivalry,” McDermott said. “This is Miami-Notre Dame, dude. They did a ’30 for 30’ about this. This is a rivalry — there’s no questions about it.”

McDermott is right, dude. ESPN did do a “30 for 30” special on this rivalry entitled “Catholics vs. Convicts,” and if you’re too young to recall the meaning behind that phrase, just know that the Hurricanes weren’t the guys with the more flattering label of the two. And you should also know that to hype Saturday night’s UM-Notre Dame game at Hard Rock Stadium, ESPN is replaying that special so many times this week, you can’t avoid it regardless of how many Hail Marys you say.

UM offensive coordinator Thomas Brown will try. Having arrived at UM last season, he’s new to this rivalry but not ignorant to it. Although he managed to avoid mentioning the “convict” label specifically, he made it clear how much he takes exception to any derogatory terms about his players.

“I get irritated hearing some comments that people make about our players, historically, our players, currently, using the words like ‘thug,’ ” Brown said.  “That’s idiotic people. You don’t know our kids at all. Because they enjoy it, they show up and have a good time in a respectful way. We don’t get flags. We don’t do disrespectful stuff outside the football field. Judge us by that, instead of giving your own notion about what you think a thug is — because I could direct your attention toward the true thugs around this country that aren’t our guys at all.”

In this image from "Catholics vs. Convicts," Brent Musberger, who called Miami-Notre Dame in 1988, holds up the infamous t-shirt. (ESPN)

In this image from “Catholics vs. Convicts,” Brent Musberger, who called Miami-Notre Dame in 1988, holds up the infamous t-shirt. (ESPN)

Catholics vs. Convicts traces back to the heated 1988 meeting of these teams, when T-shirts with that slogan became a hot item in South Bend. The Irish won that meeting 31-30 but emotions ran so high that the schools decided to wipe the series from their schedules following the 1990 game.

At the time, no one would have questioned whether this was a rivalry. The schools had met for 14 straight years starting in 1972 and by the late ‘80s, the games were carrying extra meaning, not just in Indiana and Florida, but nationally.

UM coach Mark Richt needs no history lesson. He was a UM quarterback starting in 1978 and on Tuesday recalled memories of the rivalry.

Or at least he tried to.

“That’s a long time ago, when I was a player,” Richt said. “I got my heart broken in South Bend one time. Well, actually, one time I went there and got knocked out.”

Richt stayed upright for his final game in South Bend as a player. Not that he came away with a memory any more pleasant than before. Rather than a KO, Richt suffered something more akin to a 15-round split-decision defeat, 16-14.

“I think Blair Kiel was the quarterback and had, I think, a last-minute drive to set them in field-goal range to beat us. … Had a chance to win it. I remember checking to a quarterback sneak on third or fourth down and getting stuffed and gave them the ball and they got a chance to go down and score.”

That is how it played out. The Irish’s defensive alignment baited Richt into calling the audible. At the last second, the Irish defense shifted, which didn’t afford Richt a chance to kill the sneak call. Next thing Richt knew, Kiel was driving Notre Dame to the Miami 15, setting up the winning kick with 11 seconds left.

Today’s Hurricanes know little about those details. This is a need-to-know business, and with so many Hurricanes alums popping into town for this one, the most-pressing fact is being drilled into these Hurricanes.

“Once a Cane, always a Cane,” linebacker Shaq Quarterman said. “I know they’re looking down at us. Ed Reed was out here today, just watching practice. It’s a Canes family. So whenever it comes to Florida State or even the Fighting Irish, we have to win.”

Reed addressed some defensive players, so Brown wasn’t in the room to hear him speak. He didn’t need to be to know if the alums are “educating” the current players on the idea that Miami isn’t permitted to lose to Notre Dame.

“I can’t say personally I heard anybody say that,” Brown joked, “but I would doubt they didn’t mention a few words here or there.”

It’s a rivalry of streaks, like the 11 straight the Irish won from 1972-80, Miami’s four straight and six of eight starting in 1981, and Notre Dame’s current four in a row, including 30-27 last year in South Bend.

“It’s not a lot of great feelings between the two teams historically,” Brown said. “And I understand that. I understand why. But it’s a great matchup, two great football teams that take great pride in their programs.”

[Miami-Notre Dame thoughts give this Cane ‘chills

[Ed Reed helping Miami safeties this week]

[Updates from Richt’s press conference Tuesday]

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