Unbeatable: Notre Dame's 1988 Championship and the Last Great College Football Season
Perhaps the best undefeated team in the history of college football―the dramatic true story of the 1988 Notre Dame Fighting Irish and their incredible unbeaten season
Unbeatable is the first book to tell the complete story of the incredible 1988 season that brought the fledgling Fighting Irish back to the top of college sports in what many consider to be the greatest unbeaten season of college football ever played. With a completely unlikely but forever memorable cast of characters―including the slight, lisping coach Lou Holtz; the star quarterback, Tony Rice; five foot nothing Asian kicker, Reggie Ho; NFL-bound Ricky Watters; and a crazed and ferocious defensive line, among others―Notre Dame whipped millions of fans into a frenzy. This roller coaster season of football includes the infamous Catholics vs. Convicts game (Notre Dame vs. Jimmy Johnson's #1 ranked Miami Hurricanes). The two teams were undefeated when they met at Notre Dame Stadium, with the Irish winning in the final seconds by a final score of 31-30.
With original reporting and interviews with everyone from the players to the coaches, detailed research, and access to the Notre Dame archives, Jerry Barca tells a gripping story of an unbelievable season and the players who would become legends. More than a Notre Dame book, Unbeatable is a compelling narrative of one of the most incredible sports stories of the last century―the unlikely tale of an underdog team coming together and making history.
Barca begins his vibrant look into Notre Dame's 1988 season with Lou Holtz, who took over after the Fighting Irish after suffering four inglorious years under Gerry Faust. Everyone was hungering for a return to glory, including Holtz, a winner who preached repetition and toughness: I'm here to win football games for the University of Notre Dame, Holtz told his players at one point. Not some of our games and not most of our games; I'm here to win all of our games. In season three, everything came together—a process that veteran sports journalist Barca (a 1999 Notre Dame graduate) covers with gusto. In talking to the key figures of that championship team—including Holtz, defensive coordinator Barry Alvarez, and many players—Barca reveals the players' emotional mind-set and the lure of Notre Dame (the latter sometimes gets lost in the football program's powerhouse trappings). In short, Barca celebrates the fun of college, while stripping Notre Dame football of its rah-rah mysticism. 16-page color photograph insert. Agent: Scott Gould, RLR Literary. (Aug.) The Notre Dame football program has an unparalleled history, except lately. But the school’s gridiron success in 2012 resuscitated Fighting Irish Nation. Given the renewed national interest, what better time to relive the exploits of the last Notre Dame team to win a national title, the 1988 Irish under Lou Holtz? Journalist Barca conducted dozens of first-person interviews with players, coaches, and administrators involved with the 1988 season, including 11 with star quarterback Tony Rice. Naturally, there are profiles of key players and coaches, and miniportraits of lesser characters in the drama. The game accounts are dramatic and detailed, and delivered with a sense of urgency. College sports, though, are dominated by the coaches, and the 1988 Irish were no exception. Holtz had taken over a program in disarray in 1986. By the time he resigned in 1996, he had the 1988 championship, as well as narrow misses in ’89 and ’93. He was a motivator and disciplinarian, but in person he was slight and spoke with a slight lisp—the antithesis of the blustery egomaniacs who rule college football. The resurgent interest in Notre Dame football should spur demand. --Wes Lukowsky
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