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Notre Dame Football: What Is A Rival? Not Boston College

You keep using that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means.

NCAA Football: Georgia at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

What is a “rivalry”? According to the dictionary, the definition is as follows:


Competition for the same objective or for superiority in the same field.

Please make a note of that definition and we will move forward.

You will probably hear that word tossed around quite a few times this week as the Notre Dame Fighting Irish prepare to take on the Boston College Eagles. It’s quite easy to do. They are the only Catholic schools that play major college football... and... well that’s about it, really.

That can’t be it - right? Well, I suppose we could add these spices to the batter:

  • Frank Leahy. Leahy coached BC from 1939-1940 and got the Eagles their only national championship. Notre Dame hired him away in 1941 and the rest is history. Imagine if Leahy never came back home to Notre Da- STOP THINKING ABOUT IT!
  • Trophies! Hell, there are actually two traveling trophies for this one game. The Frank Leahy Memorial Bowl and the Ireland Trophy.
  • Clever names and not so clever names. The game has a long list of names attached to it such as; Holy War, Frank Leahy Memorial Bowl, and the Vatican Bowl.

Such spice!

Notre Dame has only played Boston College 23 times. The first time was in 1975, and they met again in the Liberty Bowl in 1983. There was a game in 1987, and then they played annually from 1992-2004. They did another series from 2007-2012, and then BC became a part of the Shamrock Series spectacle in 2015.

Given the nature of both schools, the series would have continued to be more of an annual gig if it weren’t for the Eagles being in the ACC and the Irish having their deal with the ACC (99% the latter).

All this series is really known for is the part about BC playing the spoiler.

  • BC beat Notre Dame in 1993 on a last second field goal which gave the media the right to give Bobby Bowden his first national championship. Like - they just handed him the damn trophy.
  • BC beat Notre Dame in 2002 when the Irish were 8-0 and ranked #4.
  • They continually beat Tyrone Willingham and Charlie Weis teams (who didn’t?).

Given all of that, why do Notre Dame fans refuse to consider Boston College a rival? Go back to that definition one more time.

“Competition for the same objective or for superiority in the same field.”

Notre Dame and Boston College, for all their similarities academically, are on completely different ends of the spectrum when it comes to standards in athletics (except for hockey - don’t get them started). Notre Dame is out to win a national championship each year (whether that’s remotely possible or not) and BC basically just wants to go to a bowl game. That’s not the same objective, it’s not the same field - shit, it’s not the same sport.

Why does this matter? It doesn’t, really. But, in the words of Rayford Gibson, we gotta keep it real. These are not rivals. They may hate eachother (fans more than players) but these are two programs with different objectives and different paths. This is just something that needed to be said before any talking head starts in with their “rivalry” bullshit.