NASHVILLE, Tenn. - In the history of Notre Dame football, lengthy losing streaks are rare…or at least they used to be.
Since Knute Rockne ruled the college football world from 1918-30, Notre Dame has lost at least three games in a row 21 times - 15 of which have come since Gerry Faust’s second year (1982).
Since Rockne, the losing streak has reached at least four 10 times, five of which have come since Bob Davie lost four in a row in 1997.
Since Rockne’s reign, Notre Dame has lost at least five in a row just four times.
Brian Kelly would prefer to avoid being No. 5.
Few would have thought two years ago when the Irish were on their way to a national title game against Alabama that Kelly would be involved in the conversation about such a dubious distinction.
But by falling to Arizona State, Northwestern, Louisville and USC, Kelly joins 10 other instances in which Irish coaches have lost at least four in a row - 1933 (Heartley “Hunk” Anderson), 1956 (Terry Brennan), 1960 (Joe Kuharich), 1962 (Kuharich), 1963 (Hugh Devore), 1997 (Bob Davie), 1999 (Davie), 2007 (Charlie Weis - twice), and 2009 (Weis).
Anderson’s 1933 squad lost four straight (Carnegie Tech, Pittsburgh, Navy, Purdue). Kuharich’s 1960 team fell eight times in a row (Purdue, North Carolina, Michigan State, Northwestern, Navy, Pittsburgh, Miami, Iowa). Kuharich’s 1962 unit dropped four in a row (Purdue, Wisconsin Michigan State, Northwestern). Devore’s 1963 team lost five straight (Stanford, Navy, Pittsburgh, Michigan State, Syracuse).
Davie lost four in a row in 1997 (Purdue, Michigan State, Michigan, Stanford) and 1999 (Tennessee, Pittsburgh, Boston College, Stanford). Weis lost five straight (Georgia Tech, Penn State, Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue to open the season) and four in a row (Boston College, USC, Navy, Air Force) in 2007, and then another four in a row in 2009 (Navy, Pittsburgh, UConn, Stanford to close the season).
Even Gerry Faust - who was just 30-26-1 in five seasons from 1981-85 - never lost more than three in a row, although he did it in each of his final four campaigns with the Irish.
Losing five in a row truly is a rare occurrence at Notre Dame. Only Brennan, Kuharich, Devore and Weis fall into that category, and those four coaches had a combined record of 93-77-1.
Kelly is an odd fit for this discussion, particularly two years removed from a 12-0 regular season, although by losing his last four, and five of his last six, his overall mark has fallen from 43-15 at the midway point of the 2014 season to 44-20. That drops his winning percentage with the Irish to .687 after rising to .741 with a 6-0 start.
Prior to this four-game losing streak, Kelly’s longest drought came during his first year at Notre Dame (2010) when the Irish lost to Michigan, Michigan State and Stanford following his debut victory over Purdue.
Rockne never lost more than two in a row, and that came in his 11th season at Notre Dame (1928 vs. Carnegie Tech and USC). He had a tie and a loss in back-to-back games in his head-coaching debut in 1918 and a tie and a loss in succession in 1927.
Elmer Layden (47-13-3 from 1934-40) never lost more than two in a row (Pittsburgh and Navy in 1934; Iowa and Northwestern in 1940), and neither did the legendary Frank Leahy (1941-43, 1946-53), who had just one two-game losing streak (1950 vs. Indiana and Michigan State) in 11 campaigns.
Ara Parseghian (1964-74) never lost more than two games in a row, and it happened just once (1972 vs. USC and Nebraska in the Orange Bowl). Dan Devine (1975-80) also never lost more than two in a row with back-to-back setbacks in 1978 (Missouri and Michigan to open the season) and 1979 (Tennessee and Clemson).
The only time Lou Holtz (1986-96) lost as many as three in a row was 1987 (Penn State, Miami and Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl) -- his second season at Notre Dame. He lost two in a row in 1986 (twice: Michigan and Michigan State to open the season; Penn State and LSU), 1991 (Tennessee and Penn State) and 1994 (Boston College and BYU).