Following Flynt - Tradition Tuesday

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Fighting Irish Digital Media intern Josh Flynt ('11) continues to provide the inside scoop on the Notre Dame football program. Here is the first of his two entries on the history of the Notre Dame vs. USC series ...

Celtics vs. Lakers. Red Sox vs. Yankees. Packers vs. Bears. Ali vs. Frazier.

The sports world is full of great rivalries. But to Irish fans, Notre Dame vs. USC takes the cake.

The worlds of South Bend and Los Angeles have collided on the football field every fall since 1926 (except 1943-45 during World War II). The teams have played a total of 82 games against one another, with Notre Dame leading the series 43-33-5 (USC's 2005 win was vacated in June 2010). The Jewelled Shillelagh, introduced in 1952, is awarded annually, with emerald or ruby ornaments being added each year for the respective winner.

As legend has it, or better yet, as the "old wives' tale" goes, the series between Notre Dame and USC began following a conversation between Knute Rockne's wife and USC athletic director Gwynn Wilson's wife when the Irish were playing at Nebraska. Supposedly, Mrs. Wilson convinced Mrs. Rockne that a trip to sunny California every two years was better than a visit to cold and snowy Nebraska.

The more likely story suggests that perhaps Notre Dame's alumni had been looking to get Rockne to bring his team west, and that a pacific coast game could prove to be lucrative for the Irish. Notre Dame had first received an invitation from USC, but played Stanford in the 1925 Rose Bowl. Subsequently, Notre Dame decided to continue its trips to California, developing a home-and-home series with the Trojans.

The first meeting took place at the Los Angeles Coliseum, a close 13-12 victory for Rockne's squad, in which 145-pound fourth-string quarterback Art Parisien led a surprise winning drive.

In 1927 and 1929, the teams met at Soldier Field in Chicago with Notre Dame winning by a single point in each of those contests. The rivalry's early emergence as one of college football's best may have been due in part to the fact that the Fighting Irish and the Trojans were perennially among the major players in the chase for the national title.

Notre Dame won the championship in 1929 and 1930, while USC claimed that title in 1928, 1931 and 1932.

In 1938, USC spoiled Notre Dame's undefeated season with a 13-0 home victory. The Irish salvaged the national title in the Dickinson System, but may have cost themselves the Associated Press championship. Ten years later with the Trojans and Irish tied at 14-14, ending Notre Dame's 21-game winning streak. Frank Leahy's team won the national championship in 1946, 1947 and 1949, and probably could have in 1948 as well, if not for that tie on its resume.

One of the most notable games of Ara Parseghian's 1966 national championship season was the 51-0 blowout victory to close out the season in Los Angeles. The top-ranked Irish crushed the 10th-ranked Trojans, on their way to the university's eighth football title. To this day, it is the largest margin of victory in the storied history of the series.

The Notre Dame-USC series is simply too significant to cover in just one blog post and with a convenient bye this week, I will cover the more recent history of college football's greatest intersectional rivalry in next week's Tradition Tuesday.

- Josh Flynt ('11)

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