Catholics vs. Convicts
Non-conference game
1234 Total
Miami 02109 30
Notre Dame 714100 31
DateOctober 15, 1988
StadiumNotre Dame Stadium
LocationNotre Dame, Indiana
National anthemBand of the Fighting Irish
Halftime showBand of the Fighting Irish
United States TV coverage
AnnouncersBrent Musburger and Pat Haden

The 1988 Notre Dame vs. Miami football game (known colloquially as Catholics vs. Convicts)[2] was a college football game played between the Miami Hurricanes of the University of Miami and the Fighting Irish of the University of Notre Dame on October 15, 1988, at Notre Dame Stadium in Notre Dame, Indiana.

Both the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Miami Hurricanes came into the game undefeated. Notre Dame won the closely contested game 31–30.


The phrase "Catholics vs. Convicts", a T-shirt slogan created prior to the matchup by Notre Dame students and friends Joe Frederick, Michael Caponigro, and Pat Walsh was reported by the press.[3] The slogan was a play on Notre Dame's Catholic image and Miami's roster of flamboyant football players. Before the 1988 season, several players from the Miami team were arrested and their scholarships taken away. These arrests were highly publicized and added to the development of the moniker.[4][5]

The game

The two teams met on October 15, 1988 in South Bend, Indiana. Both teams being undefeated. Miami, the defending national champions, came in ranked No. 1 holding a 36-game regular season winning streak while the Irish were ranked No. 4. The game, which was preceded by a pregame fight between the two teams in the entrance tunnel, was named by USA Today as one of the greatest college football games of the period 1982–2002.[6]

With Miami trailing 31–24 and facing a critical fourth-and-7 from deep in Irish territory midway through the fourth quarter, Walsh connected with Miami running back Cleveland Gary streaking across the middle of the field inside the Irish 5-yard line for the first down. He caught the football, turned, was tackled and fumbled the ball at the one-yard line. Notre Dame inside linebacker Michael Stonebreaker recovered the football. The referees ruled the play as a fumble and Notre Dame took possession at the 2-yard line where the ball was recovered. After the game, Johnson was adamant that Gary was down before the ball came loose and Miami should have retained possession since Gary was tackled and downed at the first down marker.

Near the end of a closely contested game, Miami scored a touchdown with 45 seconds remaining on a 4th down 10-yard pass from Walsh to receiver Andre Brown to pull within one point of the Fighting Irish, 31–30. Rather than kick the extra point and likely end the game in a tie, Miami head coach Jimmy Johnson decided to go for two, later reasoning that "We always play to win."[citation needed] However, Hurricanes quarterback Steve Walsh's pass was batted down by Fighting Irish defender Pat Terrell, and Notre Dame won 31–30, resulting in Miami's first regular season loss since losing to Florida on September 7, 1985.

In the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary Catholics vs. Convicts, safety George Streeter claimed he hit the ball loose from Gary's hand prior to him being down or across the goal line. In the same documentary, Gary disagrees with Streeter's account of events, claiming he was palming the ball with his right hand and the ball was across the goal line prior to his knee hitting the ground or the ball coming loose.[7]

Also, in the documentary, it was shown that Andre Brown never had control of the ball on the touchdown catch that made the score 31–30. Walsh and former Miami offensive lineman Leon Searcy both admitted the ball was not caught during the documentary.[8]


Notre Dame would go on to win their remaining five games of the season, including defeating then #2 ranked USC in Los Angeles 27–10.[9] The Irish went on to beat the West Virginia Mountaineers 34–21 in the 1989 Fiesta Bowl and win their eleventh claimed National Championship.

Miami would win their remaining six games of the season. They would be selected to play in the Orange Bowl against #6 Nebraska. Miami easily won the contest 23–3.[10][11] Miami would finish ranked #2 in both the AP[12] and Coaches polls behind Notre Dame.

In a 2005 poll conducted by the University of Notre Dame, the 31–30 win over Miami was voted the Greatest Victory in Notre Dame Stadium history.[13] Miami fans have adopted the "Convicts" title for their own use. At a 2017 Notre Dame-Miami game, a Hurricanes fan held up a sign stating "I'm Catholic but Today I'm a CONVICT".[14]

This game was featured in the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary titled Catholics vs. Convicts, directed by Patrick Creadon.[15] Creadon was a senior at Notre Dame when the game took place. His roommate that year was one of the people behind the controversial t-shirt that gave the game its name. The film premiered on December 10, 2016 to over 2 million viewers and remains the most watched 30 for 30 film since its broadcast.[16]

In 2020, this game contributed to the naming of the Mormons vs. Mullets game between BYU and Coastal Carolina.[17]


  1. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original on December 22, 2017. Retrieved December 19, 2017.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  2. ^ "25 years of college football's memorable games". USA Today. December 1, 2007. Archived from the original on February 9, 2008. Retrieved October 10, 2009.
  3. ^ Telander, Rick (October 24, 1988). "Pluck of the Irish – Spunky Notre Dame laid claim to the top spot in the national rankings by outlasting No. 1 Miami 31-30". Sports Illustrated. Archived from the original on December 1, 2017. Retrieved November 17, 2017.
  4. ^ "DISMISSED. Two University of Miami players arrested in..." tribunedigital-orlandosentinel. Retrieved November 29, 2017.
  5. ^ "A University of Miami football player has been suspended..." UPI. Archived from the original on December 1, 2017. Retrieved November 29, 2017.
  6. ^ "College football's best of the last 20 years". USA Today. November 19, 2002. Archived from the original on December 1, 2005. Retrieved December 16, 2009.
  7. ^ "Catholics vs. Convicts - Video". December 10, 2016. Archived from the original on May 20, 2020.
  8. ^ "Catholics vs. Convicts - Video". December 10, 2016. Archived from the original on May 20, 2020.
  9. ^ "Bowl Championship Series - Flashback: Notre Dame-USC 1988". Archived from the original on September 3, 2017. Retrieved November 29, 2017.
  10. ^ "1989 Orange Bowl recap -- HuskerMax". Archived from the original on December 1, 2017. Retrieved November 29, 2017.
  11. ^ "1989 | Orange Bowl". Archived from the original on December 1, 2017. Retrieved November 29, 2017.
  12. ^ "1988 Final Football Polls - College Poll Archive - Historical College Football and Basketball Polls and Rankings". Archived from the original on November 20, 2017. Retrieved November 29, 2017.
  13. ^ "What was the greatest Fighting Irish football game in the history of Notre Dame Stadium?". Notre Dame Fighting Irish. August 29, 2005. Archived from the original on June 19, 2017. Retrieved May 5, 2017.
  14. ^ Cote, Greg (November 12, 2017). "Hurricanes thinking national title, and rightly, after epic night in Miami sports history". Miami Herald. Retrieved October 4, 2021.
  15. ^ Creadon, Patrick (December 8, 2016). "CATHOLICS VS. CONVICTS". ESPN. Archived from the original on June 23, 2017. Retrieved May 5, 2017.
  16. ^ "Heisman Presentation, Catholics vs Convicts, North Dakota St-South Dakota St top cable sports TV ratings for Saturday December 10, 2016". Sports TV Ratings. December 13, 2016. Retrieved June 27, 2017.
  17. ^ Blondin, Alan (December 5, 2020). "Who wants a 'Mormons vs. Mullets' T-shirt? It's a thing heading into the BYU-CCU game". The Sun News. Retrieved December 5, 2020.