Notre Dame has played Miami every year but one since 1971, and in recent years the series between these two independents has heated up to become the most interesting rivalry in college football. As a matter of fact, the Irish-Hurricane duels have produced the only new major rivalry in college football since the creation of the present-day conferences. But the series is scheduled to conclude next season, and while Miami is eager for it to continue, Notre Dame has balked, claiming that there is no room on its schedule until at least 2004.
Notre Dame officials are concerned that the intensity of the matchups may simply have gotten out of hand—as evidenced by the fight among players in the tunnel before last year's game. In fact, to keep the lid on feverish fans, both universities have agreed that no beer will be served during this fall's season finale, which is scheduled for a 6:30 p.m. start in Miami's Orange Bowl.
But that may not be Notre Dame's only misgiving about this blossoming rivalry. Notre Dame has succeeded in producing winning football teams while remaining faithful to the university's overall mission, which is, of course, to educate. To that end, Notre Dame has strived to fill its schedule with opponents—Michigan. Stanford, the service academies—that represent a compatible philosophy about intercollegiate sports, and some suggest that the school no longer regards Miami as a suitable opponent.
That's all well and good, but playing big-time sports makes for some hard choices. Notre Dame wants to play for the national title while keeping its nose clean, but it also welcomes the big money from the networks when its games are nationally televised. And why is there so much TV money to be had? Because fans tune in by the millions to watch games like Notre Dame- Miami. By choosing to participate in Division I-A football, Notre Dame must serve two masters: its own standards and the fans' desire to see the best teams square off. Notre Dame may believe it is striking a blow for integrity by nipping this exciting feud in the bud, but it may also deprive college football of one of its top attractions.
HOME, AT LAST
For years Alabama and Auburn have settled their differences in neutral Birmingham because their home stadiums couldn't accommodate as many fans or generate as much revenue as 75,962-seat Legion Field. But now that Auburn's Jordan-Hare Stadium has been renovated and expanded to hold 85,214, Alabama will make its first trip to the Tigers' home turf on Dec. 2, an event of historic proportions in the Heart of Dixie.
For Auburn's Pat Dye, who doubles as football coach and athletic director, playing Alabama at home is a mixed blessing. Wearing his AD's hat, Dye points out that Auburn has sold 15.000 more season tickets than ever before, simply because of the Alabama game. Switching to his coach's hat, Dye worries about the added pressure to win—especially from Auburn's older fans—that his team is bound to feel. "Our chances of winning that football game are just as good in Birmingham as at Auburn," says Dye.
Not surprisingly, that's not the way Alabama coach Bill Curry sees it. Pointing out that only 10,000 tickets will be available to backers of the Crimson Tide, Curry says, "I wish a lot of our fans would come and just stand around the stadium."