| 4 years ago||
For the past several minutes, Jimmy Johnson has sat in his Tavernier home, just back from a fishing trip 17 miles offshore, and talked in measured and even tones about what the Miami-Notre Dame series meant to him.
Jimmy is 67 now. He enjoys the good life he's created. He's always embraced today rather than yesterday, anyhow, so he's reflecting on a quarter-century ago to be nice more than from any personal need.
But now the 1988 game is mentioned and there's a rise in Jimmy's voice and a tilt to his thoughts. The fire is coming back with the memory. This was the one loss he suffered to Notre Dame. And he doesn't consider a loss. Not really.
There's also the story Lou Holtz attaches to that day, the one where he speaks of firing up his Notre Dame players by saying they would f!ght Miami's players, one by one. But they were to save Jimmy for him.
"Scrawny Lou Holtz takes pride in telling that, doesn't he?" Jimmy says now. "It's funny, but you never heard those kind of stories come out of Notre Dame when they were losing those games.
"He should just be happy the Big Ten official gave him that game or he wouldn't have won his one national championship and I would've won my second. He should just be happy about that."
He chuckles and says again, "Scrawny Lou Holtz."
It's not today's Miami players and coaches getting on the plane, and flying to Chicago this weekend, that make this Notre Dame game the kind that has college football buzzing again.
It's the stories like that one packed on board with them. It's the memories made before any of these current players even were born, the kind that came when Jimmy's team and his personality came to define South Florida in a manner few teams and sports figures ever have.
It started his first season at Miami, 1984, with his first trip ever to South Bend.
"That was a thrill, beating the leprechaun there,'' he says.
The next year his team beat down Notre Dame so completely, 56-7, that former Irish coach and CBS analyst Ara Parseghian said Jimmy ran up the score. That was the real start of the rivalry.
"They couldn't stop our substitutes,'' Jimmy says. "The one play that got Parseghian hot was us blocking a punt. Bill Hawkins blocked it. We had so many substitutes on the field at the time we didn't even have 11 guys out there.
"We'd emptied the bench. We had a punt returned called but no one blocked Hawkins and so all of a sudden we're running up the score."
That started the brisk "Catholics vs. Convicts" T-shirt sales. It also put Jimmy in the villain's role nationally. Another T-shirt that sold well in South Bend was his picture with the words, 'Pork-Faced Satan."
"I got a kick out of it,'' he said. "It was the most watched game in those years, and I loved the big games. I could have cared less about playing teams nobody wanted to watch."
Some said the game got too big, he was told.
"It couldn't get too big for me,'' he said. "Those were the games I loved. Oklahoma. Florida State. Even the Florida game. I kid Emmitt (Smith, the running back) to this day, in his debut against us, he gained 11 yards. But they did score four points."
The next Notre Dame game in '87 wasn't defined by just another Miami win. There also was a pre-game f!ght in the tunnel.
"I'm going to defend our guys on that,'' Jimmy says. "The way it's situated, both teams had to go through the tunnel. And because of where they stretched in the end zone, you had to walk by them to get to the other side of the field.
"As our guys are walk by, there's some jawing back and forth. You know our guys. They're not going to back down. There's some hollering, a little altercation, and that led to what happened."
That made the final game even bigger, the stakes even greater, the referee's whistle in 1988 that ruled Cleveland Gary fumbled rather than scored a touchdown all the more lasting.
"If they used replay back then, it's a touchdown,'' Jimmy says. "You look at it now, he's across the goal line, hits the ground and then the ball comes out."
What's Notre Dame say? Wake up the echoes? They're woken to the point a rivalry that was built for Jimmy matters again. Or maybe it was built by him.
As he says, "We beat 'em four times with an asterisk."
jimmy the goat