Few college football teams are steeped in more lore and history than the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. The tradition of football in South bend is more than 100 years old with their inaugural game being played in 1887. Notre Dame had moderate success in the following years but they didn’t enter the national consciousness until 1913 with the help of a split end named Knute Rockne. Notre Dame was playing national power Army at the beginning of the 1913 season. They went into the game underdogs but came out victorious thanks to a new offensive strategy that involved quarterback Charles “Gus’ Dorais throwing the ball to Knute Rockne and hitting him in stride. Up until that point receivers stood still and waited for the ball. This strategy would change offenses forever.
Notre Dame had gotten respect but they didn’t become a national power until Knute Rockne returned to South Bend, this time as the coach. He would lead the Fighting Irish to their first bowl win in the 1925 Rose Bowl, 27-10 over Stanford. With Rockne as the head coach, Notre Dame would rack up 105 wins and be crowned national champions three times. While he finished his career with the highest winning percentage of any coach, Rockne is probably best remembered for his “Win on for the Gipper” speech. The Rockne era ended abruptly when he died in a plane crash in 1931. That didn’t stop Notre Dame from winning championship though as they would win four more in the 1940s.
After that 1925 Rose Bowl Notre Dame wouldn’t play in another bowl game until the 1969 Cotton Bowl, which ended 45 years without a bowl appearance. They would lose that game but would return to the Cotton Bowl a year later to face Texas again and this they defeated Texas snapping their 30 game winning streak in the process. Through the 1970s the Fighting Irish were bowl fixtures and captured two more national championships. The 1977 championship once again went through Texas and Heisman winner Earl Campbell in the Cotton Bowl. Notre Dame won decisively, 38-10, thanks in part to their junior quarterback named Joe Montana.
Lou Holtz would take over in 1986 and would quickly lead them to the 1988 national championship. He would coach the team for 11 years and would retire with a career record of 100-30-2. Notre Dame wouldn't continue to have the post season success it was accustomed to in the mid 1990s. They would lose nine straight bowl games from 1994 to 2006. Brian Kelly’s arrival in South Bend to coach the Irish seems to have turned the tide. He would lead them to an undefeated season in 2012 and a national championship matchup with Alabama.