CORAL GABLES, Fla. — We'll still have the Celtics-Lakers, Bears-Packers and Simpsons-Cosbys. But another great rivalry will end Saturday when Miami plays at Notre Dame.
The teams have met in 19 of the last 20 seasons, and the winner of the last three games has gone on to the national championship. Second-ranked Miami and sixth-ranked Notre Dame, both 4-1, are in title contention again this year.
Notre Dame officials have declined Miami's repeated requests to continue the series, and the schools are not scheduled to play again.
"We hate to see the rivalry ending," Hurricanes Coach Dennis Erickson said. "The last one may be the best one."
It could be a high-scoring send-off. Miami quarterback Craig Erickson will be looking at a Notre Dame pass defense that yielded 63 points to air-minded Stanford and Air Force the last two weeks. Miami shut out Kansas 34-0 last Saturday, but yielded at least 21 points in its four previous games.
The series, labeled Catholics vs. Convicts by Notre Dame students, has strained relations between the schools. Coach Jimmy Johnson was widely accused of running up the score after Miami won 58-7 in 1985. A pregame fight between the teams two years ago increased tension, and Notre Dame players have complained about taunting by the Hurricanes.
"I do think there has been a certain charge, a certain passion to the series," Notre Dame Athletic Director Dick Rosenthal said. "Perhaps a year or two off is not without its benefits."
It's worth noting that Miami has won five of the last six meetings, outscoring the Fighting Irish 190-61.
"Miami has a great team, and Notre Dame's history is to play great teams," Rosenthal said. "There's every prospect that the series will be renewed at some time."
Notre Dame's schedule is nearly complete through 2004, Rosenthal said. An opening recently developed in 1993 and 1994, but rather than approach Miami, the Fighting Irish added games with Florida State, one of the Hurricanes' top rivals.
"I wish they would've contacted us and told us they were doing it," Miami Athletic Director Sam Jankovich said. Jankovich said he has written several letters to Notre Dame about extending the series and received no response.
Receiver Lamar Thomas is only a sophomore but has already discovered what Miami-Notre Dame means.
"I'd love to keep playing them every year," Thomas said. "It's a game you look forward to. You know it's going to be on national TV. You get a chance to show your stuff.
"But with the type of teams we have, we'll probably meet them in a bowl game somewhere down the line."