The Notre Dame Fighting Irish baseball team did us all proud with its run in the College World Series. Although the Irish were ultimately defeated by the Texas A&M Aggies, they earned a ton of respect and acclaim by upsetting the heavyweight Tennessee Volunteers and Texas Longhorns. Aside from inaugurating the deadest of dead periods in the college sports world (which has absolutely nothing at all to do with the existence of this article), this conclusion also raises the question: which party should the Irish crash next?
Notre Dame has achieved a high stature in many sports. Football is obviously the most prominent and will always have a special place as the one that started it all, but many other great programs have emerged alongside it. From women’s basketball to men’s soccer, from hockey to fencing, the Irish can be found contending for titles throughout the year. Yet there are still areas (like baseball until the last couple years) where Notre Dame is or would be very much an underdog; still corners of the sports world where the Irish flag has not been planted. Let’s take a look.
Notre Dame men’s golf had some success in the old Big East, winning eight conference titles from 1995-2012, but since the move to the ACC has been middling in conference play, perpetually hanging around on the edges of national competition. That’s pretty much where the women’s team is as well, with its last NCAA championship appearance coming in 2011. The men’s team does have one national championship to its name, dating from 1944.
While there is nothing wrong with these results, the Irish have the potential to aim higher on the national stage. It has access to a great course nearby, and the sport is undeniably a culture fit. With Brian Kelly no longer hogging the links, it may be time for Jack to invest some more resources and take this program to the next level.
Rowing is the oldest intercollegiate sport in the United States. You know who loves old things? Old-school Notre Dame alumni and donors, that’s who. Unfortunately our gold-seated compatriots’ passion for antiquities has not translated into Irish rowing dominance. Men’s rowing is a club sport with a vibrant and fun campus culture, but does not compete at the NCAA level, while the women’s team is a varsity program but is a middling contender in the ACC.
With Notre Dame surrounded on all sides by lakes and rivers, this is a sport that is definitely viable at Notre Dame. Given its association with the old-school prep aesthetic and general elite-college vibes, it would likely make a lot of higher-ups at Notre Dame happy to see the Irish succeed in it. All that adds up to a prime candidate for revival.
Notre Dame has had some pretty solid tennis players over the years and consistently been an entrant to in NCAA tournaments, with the women’s team in particular making its presence felt in several solid postseason runs. However, there has never been enough sustained success to establish the Irish as a powerhouse program.
Similar to golf, this is a country-club sport that a lot of Notre Dame students either have played or will end up playing in their lives, so it makes sense as a culture fit and it has the added benefit of being playable indoors, meaning the harsh South Bend winter wouldn’t be an issue. Breaking through would just be a matter of finding the right personnel at the right time.
Notre Dame is one of the O.G.’s of intercollegiate rugby, with the oldest collegiate rugby club in the Midwest. The Irish were even awarded a national championship in 1966, and were consistently strong regional players for decades to come. However, consistent behavioral issues with the club culminated in its eventual disbandment in 1995 by the university. When the club was reinstated in 2007, it had a ton of work to do to catch up to a national landscape dominated by the California Golden Bears and BYU Cougars alongside a handful of service academies, Ivy League schools, and out-of-nowhere behemoths (holy sh*t Life University!) The Irish have made a lot of progress in re-emerging as a competitive threat, participating in every Collegiate Rugby Championship tournament since 2010 and recently joining National Collegiate Rugby.
All that good work is to be commended, but it would be truly awesome to see Notre Dame reclaim its place as a dominant national force in this sport, which it did so much to help popularize at the college level. The university has shown an interest in the raising the sport’s profile on campus, upgrading it from club to Olympic status and opening up more opportunities for funding. More than any others, rugby feels like a sport where Notre Dame should be a powerhouse - culturally, historically, etc. - and they are already making progress in that direction.
Yes, I know. South Bend is thousands of miles from anywhere beach volleyball is played seriously (or on a real beach). The weather is totally hostile to it and there isn’t much appetite for it among students or fans. But you know what school does love beach volleyball?
Great rivalries are built on sheer pettiness, and what could possibly be more petty than building an entire varsity sport from scratch for no other reason than to take it away from the other guy? So let’s do it, Jack. Bring in Tom Cruise and train the Irish in the art of seaside merriment. Train them at the Warren Dunes. Train them on the court behind Lyons Hall. Train them until they are ready to hit the beaches of Troy and conquer them.