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Electoral College: Is Notre Dame Football More Successful Under Democratic or Republican Presidents?

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The records, as it turns out, are remarkably similar.

Ronald W. Reagan;Knute Rockne [& Family] Photo by Diana Walker//The LIFE Images Collection via Getty Images

You may have heard about the bizarre, but coincidental, relationship between Notre Dame Fighting Irish and Triple Crown winners. Is there a similar trend line in presidential years? Or between Irish success and which party controls the White House? Let’s take a look.

Notre Dame’s first football season was 1887, during the first of Grover Cleveland’s two nonconsecutive terms. The Irish weren’t very successful before the Democrat ceded office to Benjamin Harrison, posting a 1-3 record. They were, however, successful during Cleveland’s entire tenure, going 15-9-1 during his split terms.

Notre Dame Game Results, by President

President Party Term in Office Win Loss Ties Pct. Claimed Tites Unclaimed Titles
President Party Term in Office Win Loss Ties Pct. Claimed Tites Unclaimed Titles
Grover Cleveland Democrat 3/4/1885-3/4/1889 1 3 0 0.250 0 0
Benjamin Harrison Republican 3/4/1889-3/4/1893 2 0 1 0.833 0 0
Grover Cleveland Democrat 3/4/1893-3/4/1897 14 6 1 0.690 0 0
William McKinley Republican 3/4/1897-9/14/1901 20 9 3 0.672 0 0
Theodore Roosevelt Republican 9/14/1901-3/4/1909 52 12 4 0.794 0 0
William H. Taft Republican 3/4/1909-3/4/1913 24 1 4 0.897 0 0
Woodrow Wilson Democrat 3/4/1913-3/4/1921 55 6 3 0.883 0 2
Warren G. Harding Republican 3/4/21-8/3/23 18 2 1 0.881 0 0
Calvin Coolidge Republican 8/3/23-3/4/29 47 9 2 0.828 1 1
Herbert C. Hoover Republican 3/4/29-3/4/33 32 4 1 0.878 2 0
Franklin D. Roosevelt Democrat 3/4/33-4/12/45 82 23 7 0.763 1 1
Harry S. Truman Democrat 4/12/45-1/20/53 61 10 6 0.831 3 0
Dwight D. Eisenhower Republican 1/20/53-1/20/61 48 31 1 0.606 0 1
John F. Kennedy Democrat 1/20/61-11/22/63 12 16 0 0.429 0 0
Lyndon B. Johnson Democrat 11/22/63-1/20/69 40 8 3 0.814 1 2
Richard M. Nixon Republican 1/20/69-8/9/74 45 8 1 0.843 1 1
Gerald R. Ford Republican 8/9/74-1/20/77 27 8 0 0.771 0 0
Jimmy Carter Democrat 1/20/77-1/20/81 36 10 1 0.777 1 0
Ronald Reagan Republican 1/20/81-1/20/89 55 36 1 0.603 1 0
George H.W. Bush Republican 1/20/89-1/20/93 41 8 1 0.830 0 1
Bill Clinton Democrat 1/20/93-1/20/01 64 31 1 0.672 0 1
George W. Bush Republican 1/20/01-1/20/09 55 43 0 0.561 0 0
Barrack Obama Democrat 1/20/09-1/20/17 65 37 0 0.637 0 1
Donald Trump Republican 1/20/17-present 33 6 0 0.846 0 0
Totals 929 327 42 0.732 11 11
@ndjrs / Twitter

WHEN DEMOCRATS CONTROL THE WHITE HOUSE

Notre Dame has had quite a bit of success when 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is controlled by those on the left of the political spectrum. The Irish are 430-150-22 (.733) during that time, including six claimed national championships.

The Irish were 61-10-6 during the Harry Truman administration, including three championships in 1946, 1947 and 1949. They were also 40-8-3 during Lyndon B. Johnson’s tenure, including a national championship in 1966.

The Irish also have seven “unclaimed” national championships while Democrats were in power, including two during Johnson’s term. (One Foot Down recognizes six of those, with the Coley Matrix championship “earned” during Barack Obama’s term being the sole exception.)

The Irish lost more than they won under just one president: John F. Kennedy. The team was 12-16 between September 1961 and Nov. 22, 1963.

WHEN REPUBLICANS CONTROL THE WHITE HOUSE

Notre Dame has also done very well when the Grand Old Party is in charge of the country. The Irish are 499-177-20 (.731) during those times, including five claimed national championships.

If looking solely at winning percentage, the team’s greatest run came during William Taft’s presidency, when the Irish were 24-1-4. But overall, the Irish probably consider the Herbert Hoover years to be their most successful under Republican reign. Notre Dame was 32-4-1, with national championships in 1929 and 1930.

DURING ELECTION YEARS

Notre Dame takes a slight dip during years in which we’re electing a president, going 227-86-8 (.720) during those times. They’ve had four perfect calendar years that coincided with an election year (1912, 1920, 1924 and 2012), but just once has the election of a president and the awarding of a national championship happened within the same calendar year (1924).

Notre Dame has done best in years when a Democrat has been elected (or re-elected) with a Democrat already in the White House, going 67-12-2 (.840) in those years.

The Irish have done the worst in years in which a Republican has been elected (or re-elected) with a Republican already in power, going 67-33-1 (.668) in those years.

Notre Dame is 50-21-3 (.696) when a Republican is elected to replace a Democrat, and 43-20-2 (.677) when the opposite occurs.

CONCLUSION

There is no correlation between Irish on-field performance and White House occupant. And while it was fun to cheer for a Triple Crown winner, I strongly recommend against basing your presidential vote on any data gleaned from this article.

This article was inspired by “Electoral College Football: USC Football in Presidential Election Years” by Erik Perea, which appeared in the Nov. 25, 2000 USC Trojans-Notre Dame football program.