Davie: Southern Cal rivalry is special
By TIM CASEY
Notre Dame fans can thank the game of golf for saving one of its most successful football coaches.
After suffering a loss at USC in his coaching days, Ara Parseghian considered jumping out the window of his hotel in Los Angeles, according to Bob Davie.
Parseghian reconsidered when he thought about the consequences.
"When he [Parseghian] went back to the hotel after losing the USC game, he felt so bad that he contemplated jumping out the window on the 15th floor," Davie said at Tuesday's press conference, recalling a conversation he had with Parseghian, "He said he would have jumped but he didn't want to mess up his golf game."
And you thought Notre Dame-USC was merely another football rivalry?
"All of us have been involved in a lot big games," Davie said on Tuesday, "Certainly every week we play a big football game here. But I think this one is the biggest one I've been involved with in my coaching career."
While coaching at Texas A&M, Pittsburgh, Tulane and Arizona prior to coming to Notre Dame, Davie was a part of sectional rivalries. Texas, Penn State, LSU and Arizona State, respectively, were all major games for Davie's previous teams. But because of its national scope, Davie believes that no rivalry compares to Notre Dame-USC.
"I think everyone of us, regardless of where we grew up, wherever we were at that time, has had some access or some chance to see a USC-Notre Dame game," Davie said, "It doesn't matter whether you were in Arizona, Florida or Indianapolis, you had access to that. I think that makes it unique."
Through the years, the likes of O.J. Simpson, Marcus Allen, Mike Garrett, Anthony Davis and Frank Gifford have wreaked havoc on Irish defenses.
There have been games that decided national championships, games that live in the lore of Notre Dame history and others that were lopsided.
Older Notre Dame fans can vividly remember the Irish blanking the Trojans 51-0 en route to the 1966 national title or holding Simpson to a career-low 55 yards rushing in 1967. They recall being denied national titles by the Trojans in 1964 and 1970.
When television played second fiddle to the radio and long before the current contract with NBC, Irish fans could always see their team battle with the Trojans. In fact, the first game ever televised coast-to-coast was Notre Dame's 19-12 victory over USC in 1951.
The newer generation of Notre Dame Nation have had mixed emotions about their rivals from out west. From 1983-95, the Irish never lost to the Trojans, recording a 12-0-1 record in that span. The only blemish was a 17-17 tie in 1994.
But in the last three years, it's been a different story.
In Lou Holtz's last game as coach in 1996, six days after the hiring of Davie, the Irish suffered a 27-20 overtime defeat at the hands of the Trojans. Notre Dame led 14-6 with 11 minutes and 40 seconds remaining but two lost fumbles — one at the USC 1-yard line and another at the Notre Dame 12-yard line —prematurely stalled offensive series. The Irish were still ahead 20-12 but Jim Sanson kicked the extra point wide to the left to give the Trojans hope. USC tied the game and went on to win 27-20 in overtime. Instead of going to the Fiesta Bowl, the Irish season and Holtz's tenure had ended.
"We had a lot riding on that football game," Davie, the defensive coordinator in '96, recalled, "It was hard, particularly on the defense because we had played really well in that game and then we ran out of gas at the end. That was a devastating loss."
Two years ago, in the midst of a 2-4 start, the Irish hung with the Trojans until an Adam Abrams' field goal sealed the 20-17 USC victory. And then last year, with two backup quarterbacks who had little experience running the offense, the Irish saw their BCS chances fade away in a 10-0 loss.
Regardless of their current records, the Notre Dame and USC players and coaching staffs continue to mark their calendars for their annual showdown. Though neither team is ranked, this year's match-up will still have significance for both squads.
"This is a one-year, one-time event of people from all over the country," Davie said on Tuesday, "You think about the L.A. Coliseum and Notre Dame Stadium. You think about who's on those sidelines. There's some glitter with it, there's some glamour with it and there's been some big-time players."
All Sports Stories for Wednesday, October 13, 1999