The Athletic Names Notre Dame Fighting Irish Football 11th-Most Dominant Team Of The Last 50 Years
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Notre Dame Named Among 15 Most Dominant Programs Of The Last 50 Years

Notre Dame has reached college football’s pinnacle three times in the last 50 years.

The Fighting Irish won national titles in 1973, 1977 and 1988. They are one of 13 teams with multiple championships since 1970. They have come near that pinnacle a few other times, notably 1989, 1993, 2012 and 2018.

The last half-century, though, also delivered some of their longer lulls in program history. There were six straight seasons without finishing in the Associated Press top 25, including all five years of Gerry Faust’s tenure. There were two losing seasons in Bob Davie’s five years and the brief peak, fast fall tenures of Charlie Weis and Tyrone Willingham.

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Lou Holtz led Notre Dame to a national title in 1988, one of its three championships since 1970.
Lou Holtz led Notre Dame to a national title in 1988, one of its three championships since 1970. (Notre Dame Media Relations)

All told, it has been a more fruitful period than most college football programs can say. The Athletic’s ranking of the 25 most dominant programs of the last 50 years aimed to find out just how much more (or less). After ranking the 65 Power Five teams in 23 categories and combining them for a “dominance score,” it found Notre Dame was the 11th most dominant team since 1970.

“Dominance eluded Notre Dame for much of the past 25 years,” The Athletic’s Matt Brown wrote ($). “The Irish did play for the BCS title in 2012 and make the Playoff in 2018, so they’ve still had moments to support their candidacy. But they have struggled in big games and had a handful of truly forgettable seasons. Notre Dame ranks seventh in top 10 wins in the past 50 years, but just seven of its 46 top-10 wins have come since 2000.”

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Notre Dame’s average ranking in the 23 categories used to calculate the dominance score was 10.26. All seasons were weighed equally, with no preference given to recent trends.

The unmatched dominance of the early and mid-1900s may be behind Notre Dame, but its recent run has delivered stability not seen since Lou Holtz’s departure after the 1996 season. The .846 win percentage (33-6) by the Irish since 2017 is their best three-year stretch since 1988-90, when they went 33-4 for a .892 mark. They had not won 10 games in three straight years since 1991-93.

This year’s schedule, if it is played in full, has a prime chance to add a top-10 win. Clemson, winners of two national titles since 2016, comes to Notre Dame Stadium on Nov. 7. The Tigers are likely to open the season as the No. 1 team in the AP top 25.


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