Notre Dames Triple Crown ‘Horse Power
Good things happen to Notre Dame football in years where horse racing has a rare Triple Crown winner. The two sports share some common history:
• The Fighting Irish have won 11 consensus national titles since their first in 1924, and there also have been 11 Triple Crown winners since the initial one in 1919.
• Both have experienced their longest recent slumps - Notre Dame 26 years (1989-2014) without a national title, and horse racing sans a Triple Crown winner for 36 years (1979-2014).
• Many in college football have wondered whether in the sport's current landscape Notre Dame can ever win another national title. The same with the Triple Crown. Last year California Chrome was vying for it, but when he fell short, his co-owner Steve Coburn railed against other owners who didn't run horses in the previous races so they could rest up for the Belmont. The 61-year-old said that in his lifetime he won't see another Triple Crown winner.
• In 2012, I'll Have Another was on the threshold of winning the Triple Crown and was favored to - but the dreams were shattered when he had to be scratched from the Belmont in the 11th hour because of tendonitis. Later that football season, 12-0 and No. 1 Notre Dame was on the threshold of a national title - but in the BCS National Championship Game, similar to I'll Have Another, the dreams were crushed by Alabama.
American Pharoah will attempt to break the spell Saturday afternoon at the Belmont Stakes.
In the years with a Triple Crown winner, Fighting Irish football is 97-8-5 (.905 winning percentage) overall. It never finished out of the Associated Press top 10 in those seasons, and eight of the 11 resulted in unbeaten seasons or national titles, if not both. Here's the breakdown:
1919 Horse: Sir Barton
Notre Dame: Knute Rockne's second Irish team, led by George Gipp, wins at Nebraska to propel his first unbeaten campaign (9-0) and is declared "Western Champions."
1930 Horse: Gallant Fox
Notre Dame: Rockne's final team - "the best I've ever had" - captures its third consensus national title with a 10-0 mark.
1935 Horse: Omaha
Notre Dame: Highlighted by the miraculous 18-13 win at Ohio State - voted the top college game in football's first century (1869-1969) - the Irish finish 7-1-1.
1937 Horse: War Admiral
Notre Dame: In a defensive season where the Irish outscore the opposition 77-49, Notre Dame finishes 6-2-1 and No. 9 in the Associated Press (the second year of the poll).
1941 Horse: Whirlaway
Notre Dame: First-year head coach Frank Leahy has the first of his six unbeaten campaigns (8-0-1) in 11 seasons to finish No. 3.
1943 Horse: Count Fleet
Notre Dame: The 9-1 Irish defeat the teams that finish No. 2 (Iowa-Pre-Flight), No. 3 (Michigan) and No. 4 (Navy) to capture the first of four national titles under Leahy.
1946 Horse: Assault
Notre Dame: Despite the scoreless tie with two-time reigning national champ Army, the 8-0-1 Irish get the nod over the Black Knights for No. 1.
1948 Horse: Citation
Notre Dame: A third straight unbeaten season (9-0-1) results in a No. 2 finish behind unbeaten, untied Michigan.
1973 Horse: Secretariat
Notre Dame: The Irish improve from 8-3 to 11-0, highlighted by a 24-23 Sugar Bowl win over No. 1 Alabama to capture the national title.
1977 Horse: Seattle Slew
Notre Dame: After sputtering out of the gate, the Irish (11-1) win their last 10 games and capture the title with a 38-10 drubbing of No. 1 Texas in the Cotton Bowl.
1978 Horse: Affirmed
Notre Dame: The 9-3 Irish win nine of their 10 last against the nation's No. 1-ranked schedule to finish No. 7 (No. 6 in the UPI), capped with the miraculous comeback and 35-34 conquest of Houston in the Cotton Bowl.