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The last time the Notre Dame Fighting Irish won the national championship…

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Notre Dame played in its first College Football Playoff game last year and hope to make playoff appearances a regular occurrence in the years moving forward. But the search for a national championship continues on into its third decade in South Bend. The last time Notre Dame was crowned champion of the college football world was 1988 with Lou Holtz in his third season as head coach of the Fighting Irish.

Of course, the highlight of Notre Dame’s national championship season was their matchup with No. 1 Miami. Catholics vs. Convicts in South Bend was the ultimate clash of college football’s old school history and tradition against the new brash ways of the dominant Hurricanes. It became a game that inspired documentaries about it and took the college football world by storm. It was a magical time for the sport of college football with two national powers colliding with the stakes as high as they can get.

Only a couple of teams were capable of going toe-to-toe with Miami that season. No. 1 Florida State was dismantled in the opener, 31-0. No. 15 Michigan (after losing to the Irish, lost by one in Ann Arbor. No. 8 Arkansas kept it within two points. But only Notre Dame could send Miami home with a loss, even if it was with some controversy that is disputed to this day.

Notre Dame went on to take down No. 3 West Virginia in the Fiesta Bowl to put a cap on their national title run. With Barry Alvarez as the defensive coordinator, Tony Rice at quarterback, Ricky Waters at running back, Michael Stonebreaker at linebacker, Chris Zordich at defensive tackle, the Irish had a memorable run. Little did anyone know it would be the last time Notre Dame won it all.

Here’s what else was going down in 1988 as the Irish were on their way to their most recent national title…

Last National Championship: 1988 (31 years and counting)

Who was President?

Ronald Reagan was in his final year in the White House, wrapping up the last full year of his second term in office as President of the United States. His Vice President, George H.W. Bush would run for president and win the 1988 election with Dan Quayle as his running mate.

In 1988, current President Donald J. Trump was watching his first wife, Ivana Winklmayr become a naturalized United States citizen.

What was on TV?

There were some big debuts on the various networks in 1988. Roseanne, The Wonder Years, and Murphy Brown all made their debuts. Another show that made its debut on Disney Channel was Good Morning, Miss Bliss. That show would go on to evolve into Saved By The Bell, a fan favorite for a generation.

The year also saw some iconic shows come to an end, including St. Elsewhere, Magnum P.I. and The Facts of Life.

What movies were hot?

The big winner at the box office in 1988 wasn’t “Big” (that was No. 4 in the box office earnings), but “Rain Man” starring Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman. The Academy Award-winning film beat out “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” for the top spot in the box office charts that year, with Eddie Murphy and “Coming to America” coming in third.

But 1988 was also the year one of the greatest Christmas movies of all time was released in theaters, with Bruce Willis starring in “Die Hard.”

Tim Burton also directed one of his more iconic films, “Beetlejuice.” Meanwhile, Ron Howard bombed with “Willow.”

Baseball fans also got a couple of movies to soak in with “Bull Durham” and “Eight Men Out.”

What else happened in 1988?

Notre Dame defeated two conference champions in the 1988 season with victories over Michigan (Big Ten) and USC (Pac-10) book-ending the regular season. Other conference champions in 1988 included Clemson (ACC), Nebraska (Big Eight), Arkansas (Southwest), and Auburn and LSU splitting the SEC title in the pre-SEC Championship Game era.

Oklahoma State’s Barry Sanders ran away with the Heisman Trophy after rushing for 2,628 yards and scoring 37 rushing touchdowns in just 11 games (bowl game stats were not included in official records at this time). Current Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy was the starting quarterback for the Cowboys that season.

Current Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly was just a few years into his coaching career that would eventually lead him to South Bend. In 1988, Kelly was a graduate assistant and defensive backs coach for Grand Valley State. In just a few more years he would become the head coach of the program and lead them to Division 2 dominance as a national title contender.

For the first time ever, a night game is played in Wrigley Field between the Chicago Cubs and the New York Mets. Kirk Gibson and the Los Angeles Dodgers push past Jose Conseco and the Oakland Athletics in the World Series later that season.

The San Francisco 49ers would go 10-6 in the regular season but go on to win the first of back-to-back Super Bowls with a victory over the Cincinnati Bengals. Former Notre Dame quarterback Joe Montana continued to be among the best players in the NFL you did not want to bet against.

The Bad Boy Detroit Pistons won the first of back-to-back NBA titles a couple of years before Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls finally broke through for their title runs. The Calgary Flames would go on to defeat the Montreal Canadiens in the 1988-89 season. It remains the most recent time two teams from Canada played for the Stanley Cup.

How close are the Irish to a title now?

Notre Dame has had their chances to grab another national championship over the past three decades. Most recently, the Irish played in the College Football Playoff last season, only to be run over by eventual national champion Clemson. And the Irish played in one of the final BCS championship games, getting steamrolled by Alabama at the end of the 2012 season. But you have to go back to the years closer to the last national title in 1988 to find when Notre Dame had a shot at the national championship.

The Irish ended the 1989 season ranked No. 2 after ending the season with a 21-6 victory over No. 1 Colorado in the Orange Bowl. As fate would have it, Miami ended the year ranked No. 1 with an 11-1 record that included a regular season-ending victory over the previously No. 1 Irish. A promising 1990 season saw the Irish start at No. 2 in the AP poll and move to No. 1 before a home loss to Penn State in November brought a run to a possible national title to a halt. A bumpy end to the 1991 season ensured a national title shot for the Irish, who had been no higher than No. 5, would remain out of reach. In 1992, a 33-16 loss to Stanford would be enough to prevent Notre Dame from sniffing a national title shot.

The 1993 season had promise as the Irish climbed to No. 2 going down the stretch of the regular season. A major showdown with No. 1 Florida State in Notre Dame Stadium was dubbed the Game of the Centruty. It was so big at the time that ESPN took its signature College GameDay show on the road for the very first time.

A wild 31-24 victory over the Seminoles bumped the Irish to No. 1 in the AP poll with just one final regular season game to be played.

Unfortunately for Notre Dame, that one game came against No. 17 Boston College, and the Eagles clipped the Irish in South Bend by a final score of 41-39.

Notre Dame could do nothing but watch as Florida State claimed the national championship with a victory over No. 2 Nebraska.

Today, Notre Dame is in a good situation even with all of the craziness that has happened through the realignment changes. The Irish are a program that will flirt with a national title shot every now and then, so winning one shouldn’t be out of the question. But their two most recent national title shots have left a stain that is impossible for many to forget about. But how much should Notre Dame be at fault for going up against two programs in Alabama and Clemson during times when they have been two of the most dominant programs the sport has seen in some time?

Notre Dame may one day celebrate a national championship, and it may even happen in the next few years. But this is certainly not the 1980s and 1990s anymore for Notre Dame. There are challenges that exist today that were not as inhibiting decades ago.

Oklahoma State losing QB Brendan Costello to the transfer portal

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Another quarterback with the Costello surname has hit the portal, although this one is from Oklahoma State football.

According to Pete Thamel of Yahoo! Sports, Brendan Costello has taken the first step in leaving the Cowboys by entering the NCAA transfer database.  Thus far, the Oklahoma State football program has not commented on the development.  Nor has the player on his personal Twitter account for that matter.

Now, for what’s seemingly becoming a daily disclaimer when it comes to transfers.

As we’ve stated myriad times in the past, a player can remove his name from the portal and remain at the same school. At this point, though, other programs are permitted to contact a player without receiving permission from his current football program.

NCAA bylaws also permit schools to pull a portal entrant’s scholarship at the end of the semester in which he entered it.

Barring the unexpected, Costello will have to sit out the 2020 season.  That would then leave him with three years of eligibility to use starting in 2021.

Costello was a three-star member of the Oklahoma State football Class of 2019.  The California product was rated as the No. 17 dual-threat quarterback in the country according to the 247Sports.com composite.

The 5-11, 194-pound quarterback didn’t see the field as a true freshman.  Obviously, Costello took a redshirt for the 2019 campaign.

Spencer Sanders is the incumbent under center for OSU.  As a redshirt freshman a year ago, Sanders threw for 2,065 yards and 16 touchdowns.  He also ran for another 628 and a pair of scores.  The Big 12 coaches named him as the conference’s Offensive Freshman of the Year.

This past cycle, Oklahoma State also added Shane Illingworth to its 2020 football recruiting class.  The four-star signee was rated as the No. 6 pro-style quarterback in the country.

Navy’s Tony Brown enters the transfer portal

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The on-again, off-again relationship Navy has had with the transfer portal is back on again.  Unfortunately for the service academy.

In late March, it was reported that Chelen Garnes had decided to enter the transfer portal. However, the defensive back subsequently pulled his name out of the database in a sign that he would be sticking with the Navy football team.  Earlier this month, though, Garnes opted to reenter the portal, the Capital Gazette reported.  Starting cornerback Michael McMorris, meanwhile, entered the database back in January.  Four months later, the Baltimore Sun reported last week that the defensive back has done a 180 and opted to remain with the Navy football team.

This week, however, 247Sports.com is reporting that Tony Brown has opted to enter his name into the NCAA transfer database.  As a junior, Brown would likely not be leaving the academy as a graduate.  That would mean the striker would have to sit out the 2020 season.  Barring a waiver from the NCAA of course.

Now, for what’s seemingly becoming a daily disclaimer when it comes to transfers.

As we’ve stated myriad times in the past, a player can remove his name from the portal and remain at the same school. At this point, though, other programs are permitted to contact a player without receiving permission from his current football program.

NCAA bylaws also permit schools to pull a portal entrant’s scholarship at the end of the semester in which he entered it.

Brown was a two-star member of the Navy football Class of 2018.  The Sicklerville, New Jersey, product was the No. 55 player regardless of position in his home state. Brown attended the Naval Academy Prep School during the 2017-18 academic year.

As a true freshman in 2018, Brown appeared in two games.  He started three of the 13 games in which he played in 2019.  The 6-3, 201-pound hybrid linebacker/defensive back returned a fumble eight yards for a score in one of those appearances.

Ex-Georgia WR Josh Moran transfers to New Mexico State

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One former Georgia Bulldog has found himself a new college football home.  Unofficially, of course.

Earlier this offseason, Josh Moran opted to enter the NCAA transfer database.  Tuesday, the wide receiver announced that he will be continuing his collegiate playing career at New Mexico State.  Moran divulged the news on his personal Twitter account.

“Thank you Jesus for these past four years at Georgia which have been nothing short of amazing,” Moran wrote. “Yes, the SEC Championship, Rose Bowl win, and National Championship runs were unbelievable, but looking back nothing compares to the lifelong brothers I now have leaving this place.  To my coaches, trainers, and teammates I love you guys and y’all will forever hold a special spot in my heart.

“I want to thank Coach [Doug] Martin and the entire coaching staff at NMSU for believing in me and making the recruiting process as easy as possible during this pandemic. I can’t wait to get to Las Cruces and compete with the guys! God bless and Go Aggies!”

As a graduate transfer, Moran will be eligible to play immediately in 2020.  This will be his final season of eligibility.

Moran was a three-star member of the Georgia football Class of 2016.  The Alpharetta, Ge., native held offers from, among others, Air Force, Army, Cal, Louisville, Navy and West Virginia.  Instead of accepting a scholarship, however, Moran opted to become a walk-on at Georgia.

During his time with the Bulldogs, though, Moran didn’t see any game action.  He spent his entire four years in Athens as a scout team player for the Bulldogs.

NMSU is coming off a 2-10 2019 campaign in its second season as a football independent.  The Aggies had previously been members of the Sun Belt Conference.  That relationship ended following the 2017 season.

South Alabama announces home-and-home with Ole Miss

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Thanks to Ole Miss, we have some football scheduling news you don’t normally see.  An SEC school agreeing to a straight home-and-home with a Group of Five program.

South Alabama Monday confirmed that it has reached an agreement on a home-and-home series with Ole Miss in football.  The Jaguars will travel to Oxford Sept. 2, 2028.  The Rebels will make the five-hour trek to Mobile Sept. 1 of the following season.

The 2029 game will mark the first time an SEC school travels to the Sun Belt Conference program since Mississippi State in 2014.  That was actually the first and only time since USA became an FBS member.

South Alabama and Ole Miss have met once in football. That came back in 2017, with the Rebels claiming a 47-27 win in Oxford.

“We are very excited to sign this home-and-home contract with Ole Miss,” USA head coach Steve Campbell said in a statement. “They have a proud program and tradition, it will be great to have them play in Hancock Whitney Stadium; hopefully they will be the first of many Power Five schools to make that trip to play here in Mobile. Mississippi has been very good for us as far as recruiting, we have brought in a lot of talented student-athletes from the state, I know it will be exciting for those future recruits to play Ole Miss.”

USA’s new stadium, incidentally, is set to open this coming season.  That site will also serve as the new home of the Senior Bowl.

In its history, USA has played six games against SEC schools.  They are 1-5 in those games.  The lone win?  Against Mississippi State in 2016.

Outside of Ole Miss, USA has five future games against members of the SEC.  Those are:

  • Florida (2020)
  • Tennessee (2021)
  • LSU (2024)
  • Auburn (2025)
  • Kentucky (2026).