I grew up a fan of the Minnesota Gophers. My dad graduated from Minnesota and his dad graduated from Minnesota. So it was an easy call.
But the Minneapolis Catholic elementary school I attended had far more Notre Dame fans. Religion didn’t merely trump geography. It ran up the score.
Catholics who have never passed within 100 miles of the Notre Dame campus in South Bend, Ind., consider the Irish their team. Notre Dame’s fan base is large, loyal and national, and any athletic conference that can sign the school up wins. The ACC won Wednesday when it announced that Notre Dame would become a member.
The Irish won’t play a full football schedule. But they will play five conference teams a season. Anybody who expected them to play more simply doesn’t understand. Why would they give up an annual football game against Southern California to play Duke? The presence of the Irish is such that the conference still wins.
ACC football has been consistently dreadful, and anybody and anything that enhances the quality should be welcomed.
For those of you against further expansion, can you imagine ACC football without Virginia Tech?
Anybody in particular you want to play?
“I liked when we went down to Chapel Hill and played North Carolina,” says Carolina Panthers quarterback Jimmy Clausen, Notre Dame class of 2010. “There’s a great atmosphere down there, especially with women’s basketball and men’s basketball. I think it’s going to be competitive. And be real good to see.”
Panthers long snapper J.J. Jansen , Notre Dame class of 2008, loves the coming together of Notre Dame and the ACC.
“It’s a great academic conference,” he says. “There’s going to be a lot of good football. We’ve been in the Big East, which is a great basketball conference, and we’re going to another great basketball conference.”
In football, Jansen likes the matchups with Miami and Boston College.
The Hurricanes and Fighting Irish were long ago among college football’s best programs, and they played some vicious and legendary games – “Catholics vs. Convicts” – in the late 1980s.
Notre Dame and Boston College, meanwhile, annually play for the unofficial/official Catholic football championship of the U.S.
Jansen also loves the idea of driving to North Carolina and Duke to watch the Irish play basketball.
Another bonus: Trash talk in Carolina’s locker room is loud and long, and when Notre Dame plays an ACC school, Jansen and Clausen will get to participate.
“It’s just a lot of guys jawing back and forth,” Clausen says.
Which school’s supporters talk the loudest?
“It probably would be TD (linebacker Thomas Davis) and Georgia,” says Clausen. “And all the rest of the Georgia guys in here.”
I guarantee linebacker Jon Beason can compete with Davis. But two things work against him Wednesday. (1) Beason isn’t in the Panthers’ locker room when the media are and (2) his Hurricanes lost 52-13 to Kansas State Saturday.
But wait. There’s tight end Greg Olsen. He, too, is a Miami alumnus.
It’s time to renew the Miami-Notre Dame rivalry, Greg. You ready for the Irish?
“We’ll find out,” says Olsen. “Hopefully they’ll (the Hurricanes) do better than they did last week. We’ll see. I don’t know. I don’t have much insight down there. I haven’t been to that many practices.”
I tell Jansen and Clausen I can’t get Olsen to say anything bad about the Irish.
“Smart man,” Jansen says.
Fans of the ACC should be similarly intelligent.