In the 25 days leading up to college football's championship game between No. 1 Notre Dame and No. 2 Alabama at Sun Life Stadium in Miami, the Chattanooga Times Free Press is counting down the traditions and memorable moments involving the Irish and the Crimson Tide. Today is No. 2.
In 1988, Lou Holtz won a national championship in his third season as Notre Dame head coach.
Tradition dictates that he was supposed to.
Knute Rockne (1920), Frank Leahy (1943), Ara Parseghian (1966) and Dan Devine (1977) all led the Irish to national titles during their third seasons in South Bend, though Rockne won one in his second season as well. Holtz had the biggest turnaround of that bunch, as Notre Dame went 5-6 in his first season and 8-4 in his second.
"We had as much talent in '86 as we had in '88, but we had recruited for our system," Holtz said. "We had Tony Rice, who was a very mobile quarterback compared to [Steve] Beuerlein my first year. We were able to take a Pat Terrell and move him from wide receiver to safety, and you know the importance that he made.
"We had a Raghib Ismail all of a sudden split out for us, and Barry Alvarez becoming the defensive coordinator brought the chemistry of the team together."
Brian Kelly will try to become the sixth Notre Dame coach to win a national title in his third season at the expense of Alabama counterpart Nick Saban, who led the Crimson Tide to a BCS crown in his third year and another one in his fifth. Wallace Wade (1925) and Gene Stallings (1992) won national titles in their third seasons with the Tide; Bear Bryant won one (1961) in his fourth.