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Unclaimed Glory: The Notre Dame Football Championship That Wasn’t - 1993

The One We Earned … But Did Not Receive

Florida State Seminoles v Notre Dame Fighting Irish
SOUTH BEND, IN - NOVEMBER 13: Notre Dame Fighting Irish players celebrate during the game against the Florida State Seminoles at Notre Dame Stadium on November 13, 1993 in South Bend, Indiana. The Irish defeated the Seminoles 31-24.
Photo by Bernstein Associates/Getty Images

Ask any Notre Dame fan which team should have won the national title in 1993 and the answer is a resounding: Notre Dame. Yes, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish lost to Boston College just a week after the stunning win over Florida State. But heading into the January 1 bowl games in 1994, somehow Notre Dame was ranked #4 behind a Florida State team (#1) they had already beaten, and two undefeated teams (Nebraska and West Virginia). It would seem as if the voters had already decided FSU was the best team and actual on the field results be damned.

Over the years I’ve talked to several of the guys who were on the 1993 Notre Dame squad about how that season ended. What do they have to say, you ask. Well here are some of their thoughts.

Oscar McBride

“Amid this ‘Great Reset’ there has been considerable time to reflect on family, life, spirituality and other things. I’ve been tasked with sharing a few thoughts about our 1993 Notre Dame Football Team. Agree or disagree with the following, these are my thoughts … and I will never issue an apology for them.”

“The failure of the AP and coaches’ polls to recognize the 1993 Notre Dame football team as not at least co-national champions is, in my opinion, one of the most unfortunate events in college sports media history (followed closely by Raghib ‘Rocket’ Ismail being overlooked as the 1991 Heisman Trophy winner). I still remember what our locker room felt like after the infamous BC game; shock, anger, total loss, sadness … devastation. However, as only a Lou Holtz-coached Notre Dame team could, we left that locker room with a renewed sense of purpose … fully determined … committed to show the college football world that we were the rightful national champions with our sights set on Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl.”

“The Aggies boasted the nation’s number one defense coming into the Cotton Bowl under then defensive coordinator Bob Davie and head coach RC Slocum. No problem … line ‘em up, we’ll knock ‘em down. After disassembling the Aggies (for the 2nd straight year) in the Cotton Bowl we were all certain that we would be crowned (at minimum) co-champs after easily handling FSU led by Heisman Trophy winner Charlie Ward head-to-head back in November at home.”

“We thought (or at least I did), it was like Coach Holtz said all long, ‘you do your job, work hard and then one morning you wake up as national champions.’ My teammates and I were looking forward to that day.”

“That day never came. What came was another level of disappointment and utter disgust that remains in some of us today. Some have said it was a media political power play for Bobby Bowden’s first natty. Others say everyone simply disliked Notre Dame and Coach Holtz. I’ve even heard some justify this ignorance by saying, ‘it was Bowden’s first one, Holtz already had one.’ Whatever the reason, the rightful national champions were never crowned.”

“There’s still some disbelief today when chatting with former teammates and Notre Dame Legends like Aaron Taylor, Clint Johnson, Bryant Young, Brian Hamilton, Oliver Gibson, Lake Dawson, Germaine Holden and Jeff Burris. Some have Super Bowl Championships and NFL Pro Bowls attached to their professional resumes BUT they all still remember ‘the one we earned but did not receive.’”

“I think what’s most disappointing about it is … everyone, including Florida State, knew we were the best team in the country … as a matter of fact they still do.”

Kevin McDougal

“Immediately following the (bowl) game, we definitely felt we would at least share the national title. We beat Florida State, and even though we lost to Boston College the next week, we still beat Florida State the prior week. How could they give the title to them (Florida State) when we beat them during the regular season? If they (the voters) didn’t want a shared title between Notre Dame and Florida State, they should have given it to someone else. It just didn’t make sense. The whole thing was very upsetting to us. I was on my way back to the airport with Coach Holtz to go back home when we found out and it was really sad. We could taste it, and then to have it taken away like that was devastating. At a minimum we thought we’d share it.”

Clint Johnson

“As a member of the 1993 Notre Dame Football team, the expectations were high going into the season. This team was comprised of the #1 recruiting class in the nation from 1990. The team was loaded with experienced players, and a collection of standout talent at every position.”

“This team played with chemistry, heart, and togetherness. With a refuse to lose mentality, and a thirst to secure another national championship for Notre Dame, this team had a date with destiny. Week-after-week, and win-after-win, we marched through the season.”

“After defeating Florida State, in the so-called, Game of the Century, it was almost a forgone conclusion that we would be national champions. So, needless to say, the last second loss by field goal to Boston College was crushing. We gave away our destiny, our place in Notre Dame Football history, a ring, a trip to the White House, and countless hours of hard work, blood, sweat and tears. It still hurts 25+ years later.”

Randy Kinder

“Coach Holtz always said back then that you didn’t win a national championship, you wake up one day and you find out you are. This was, of course, back in the pre-playoff days when the polls mattered and even sometimes disagreed. I remember that night after winning the Cotton Bowl thinking that we were at least going to end up #1 in one of the polls. ‘There’s no way they will take this from us.’”

“Then I woke up and saw the news. To tell the truth, at the time, I wasn’t that angry. Don’t get me wrong, I was extremely disappointed, but I was sure that we would be be right back that next year to win it all, and possibly the year after that. We are Notre Dame, winning championships is what we do. Maybe next year.”

Lee Becton

“Coming into the 1993 season we felt like we had the opportunity to do something really special. We had the majority of our defense coming back, along with the majority of our offensive line coming back. We knew those pieces of our game would be really strong. The new piece of the puzzle was going to be our offensive backfield. As the season wore on and we started to gel, we truly thought no one out there was going to be able to beat us.”

“Then when you go up against a team (FSU) that everyone in the country is saying is ‘the best team ever,’ and you win, it’s incredibly difficult to see the voters not take that into account when they decided who won the national title.”

“As we beat Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl, we thought worst case scenario that we’d share the national title. Worst case scenario. Historically they had awarded co-champions in the past and it just made sense. Waking up the next day and not being champions; that was devastating. To give it our all, all season long, only to have the voters make their decision based on emotions and not based on what they saw on the field; that was a pretty hard pill to swallow.”

Charles Stafford

“I’m not going to make myself sad, but I really thought that we had achieved that elusive national championship in 1993. Every year before that 1993 season, they would have split the polls and had co-champions. But not for us. Not for us. It’s funny, we played Florida State again during my fifth year at Notre Dame, and we had a luncheon the Friday before the game. They had fake football helmets sitting on all of the tables as centerpieces. Each helmet was painted with ND colors on one side, and Florida State colors on the other side. And so I took the helmet from my table and had Coach Holtz sign the ND side, and Coach Bowden sign the Florida State side. Yep, I was that guy, ‘Hey coach, I realize we’re going to play you tomorrow, but can you sign this for me.’ Yeah, I didn’t care. So I have a helmet in my house to this day that has both coaches’ signatures on it. And I still think that was such a great idea. And then I think, one day my kid is going to be smiling when he sells this. And I’m going to be shaking my head somewhere.”

Pete Bercich

“After we beat Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl, we thought we’d win the coaches poll and Florida State would win the AP poll, and that we’d be co-national champions. We didn’t think we’d win it outright, but we did feel slighted that we got nothing at all. We had a good idea of what the media felt about us during the week going into the Notre Dame - FSU ‘Game of the Century.’ There was a certain color that everything was looked through. ‘There is no way ND can beat FSU. Why do they think they can beat FSU?’ That week was a bit of an awakening for a lot of us. The great football minds at large didn’t give us any chance to beat FSU. Just like when we played Florida in the Sugar Bowl in ’92. The big joke was, ‘What’s the difference between Notre Dame and Cheerios? Cheerios belong in the bowl.’ And that team did not let the media stop them from getting the job done either.”

As they’ve all echoed, it still hurts that the voters didn’t give Notre Dame the national title in 1993. What say you? Should Notre Dame have won the national championship, or at least been co-champions in 1993?

Cheers & GO IRISH!