Unbeatable: Notre Dame's 1988 Championship and the Last Great College Football Season

Jerry Barca

St. Martin's Griffin

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Perhaps the best undefeated team in the history of college football—the dramatic true story of the 1988 Notre Dame Fighting Irish and their incredible unbeaten season

They were an unlikely crew tasked with a seemingly impossible mission: restore Notre Dame’s place as a college football power. In 1988, led by a scrawny, bespectacled coach who spoke with a lisp, a black Baptist quarterback from South Carolina, and a ferocious defense, they returned Notre Dame to the top.

Before Lou Holtz’s arrive, the one-storied program of Rockne, Leahy, Parseghian, and George Gipp and the Four Horsemen had become at best mediocre and, even worse, mentally and physically soft. The downward drift culminated in a 58-7 bashing on national TV against the University of Miami, a flashy upstart that stormed its way to the top spot in college football.

This is the first in-depth look at the players, the coaches, the campus, and the season that returned Notre Dame to its glory.

Throughout all of Notre Dame’s lore, no Fighting Irish team has had more characters than the ’88 squad. The starting linebackers, nicknamed the Three Amigos, were known for crazed antics such as leaving game tickets for Elvis Presley or smoking a reporter’s cigar during practice. The five-foot-nothing walk-on kicker used visualization and a sort of voodoo jazz-hands to ready himself for field goals. Tony Rice, the against-the-odds quarterback, was mocked because of his high school academic credentials and continually questioned by the media about whether he could ever truly succeed as a quarterback for Notre Dame. The team was also stacked with future NFL talent, including Ricky Watters and Raghib "Rocket" Ismail.

In a thrilling twist of fate, the season’s schedule served as a national championship elimination tournament. No game was bigger—or more hyped—than the matchup with No. 1-ranked Miami. In a game dubbed "Catholics vs. Convicts," the Irish won in the final seconds by a single point.

With original reporting, interviews with everyone from the players to the coaches, detailed research, and access to the Notre Dame archives, Jerry Barca tells the gripping story of an unbelievable season and a team that became legendary. More than a Notre Dame book, Unbeatable is the compelling narrative of one of the most incredible sports stories of the last century.

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Book Excerpts

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CHAPTER 1
Unflinching

 
There is an appointed time for everything,
and a time for every affair under the heavens …
A time to love, and a time to hate;
A time of war, and a time of peace.
—Ecclesiastes 3:1, 8
Shrieks and frenzied screams ricocheted off the locker room walls in a cacophony of rage and excitement. Tears rolled down some of the young men’s faces, an uncontrolled emotional response after launching into battle.
The days of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish playing the role of the nice weakling had ended.

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About the Author

Jerry Barca

JERRY BARCA’s writing has appeared on SI.com and in The Star-Ledger, Asbury Park Press, Home News Tribune, The Post-Standard (Syracuse, New York), and the Herald News. He has made regular appearances on SiriusXM’s Ron and Fez Show. He is a 1999 graduate of Notre Dame. He lives in New Jersey.

Jerry Barca

© Jason Towlen
Jerry Barca

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Available Formats and Book Details

Unbeatable: Notre Dame's 1988 Championship and the Last Great College Football Season
Jerry Barca

Trade Paperback

Trade Paperback
St. Martin's Press
St. Martin's Griffin
8/5/2014
Trade Paperback
ISBN: 9781250048653
ISBN10: 1250048656
5 1/2 x 8 1/4 inches, 320 pages, Plus one 16-page color photograph insert
$15.99

Hardcover

Hardcover
St. Martin's Press
August 2013
Hardcover
ISBN: 9781250024831
ISBN10: 1250024838
6 1/8 x 9 1/4 inches, 320 pages, Plus one 16-page color photograph insert
$26.99

e-Book Agency

e-Book Agency
St. Martin's Press
August 2013
e-Book Agency
ISBN: 9781250024848
ISBN10: 1250024846
320 pages, +40 color photos
$12.99
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