FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — If Alabama loses Monday night's BCS championship game, Crimson Tide football fans can still cling to their 2009 and 2011 national title paraphernalia.
There aren't too many 1988 Notre Dame T-shirts or sweatshirts in circulation these days.
For the first time in a generation, the Fighting Irish are on the doorstep of a national crown. Notre Dame players will be competing for themselves, their coaches and their fans against the Crimson Tide, but will the tremendous legacy of yesteryear provide an unwanted stress?
"There might have been some of that when we found out we were going to be in this game," Notre Dame outside linebacker Danny Spond said Thursday, "but what's been great for me and the whole team is that we've been preparing like it's any other game. Obviously there is more pressure, and we've had some alums reach out and stuff like that, but this is what we play for and this is what we dreamed of as kids.
"We know that they're thinking of us, but we also know what's at stake for ourselves."
Ronald Reagan was still president, Johnny Carson was still hosting "The Tonight Show" and the Internet was years from existing when the Irish last ruled the sport, not that safety Zeke Motta needs much brushing up on the history.
Motta will be suiting up just two hours from his Vero Beach residence. When he goes home, Motta visits with former Notre Dame end Marty Ingwersen, a 1941 graduate, and former Irish linebacker Ed "Duke" Scales from the class of 1974.
Scales was a member of the 1973 national championship team that held off Alabama 24-23 in a thrilling Sugar Bowl on New Year's Eve at Tulane Stadium.
"They talk about just how special this is to them and about the tradition and everything like that," Motta said. "It means a lot to everybody. Hopefully I will be able to have the same opportunity to be a part of history."
In order to etch their names as champions alongside the likes of Ara Parseghian, Dave Casper, Joe Montana and Tony Rice, the Irish recognize they have to focus squarely on Monday's game. So far that way of thinking has resulted in 12 victories in 12 chances.
"We know it's a great opportunity for us, and we also know that Alabama is a great team," safety Matthias Farley said. "To be in this game is a huge accomplishment for us and an exciting thing, but I don't feel we should have any excess pressure."
Said Motta: "Up to this point, it's all been pretty awesome. I'm soaking it all up and enjoying every moment."
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...