- Associated Press - Sunday, December 5, 2010

SOUTH BEND, IND. (AP) - Two decades since their last game in a ferocious and testy rivalry that some dubbed Catholics vs. Convicts, Notre Dame and Miami will charge at one another again.

This time in Texas, at the Sun Bowl on New Year’s Eve.

Two schools that were once major forces in the race for national championships but have fallen on leaner times will take 7-5 records into the 77th edition of the game in El Paso, Texas. They accepted bids on Sunday.

A lot of the current players were either tots or hadn’t been born the last time the schools played in 1990. Of course, they’ve heard and read about what it was like and now they’ll get a modern-day version of it.

“I don’t think it will matter at all. We’re going to be excited to play whoever, wherever we went,” Notre Dame nose guard Ian Williams said Sunday night. “I think the exciting part is … more for the fans because it’s a historic rivalry.”

That it is.

The game will mark the 24th meeting between the schools and serve as a prelude for a renewal of sorts. It was announced in July that the schools will resume their spirited and often fierce regular-season series with three games beginning in 2012 at Soldier Field in Chicago.

Notre Dame leads the all-time series 15-7-1, though the two schools have never met in a bowl.

The series dates back to the 1950s but it was during the 1980s, when Miami became a national power, that the rivalry got interesting _ and intense.

In 1985, Miami and coach Jimmy Johnson embarrassed Notre Dame 58-7 in Gerry Faust’s last game as coach of the Fighting Irish.

Faust was replaced by Lou Holtz. Soon after Notre Dame was a national title contender again and the Miami-Notre Dame game was routinely one of the biggest of the season.

Miami beat Notre Dame 24-0 two years later on the way to an undefeated national championship, then saw a 36-game regular-season winning streak end the next season with a 31-30 loss in South Bend as the Irish went on to win the national title.

Miami reclaimed the AP national crown the next season, thanks again in part to a 27-10 win over Notre Dame on Nov. 25, 1989 _ a game where the Irish were ranked No. 1 and closing in on what could have been their second straight title.

And then Notre Dame returned the favor in 1990, beating Miami 29-20 and knocking the ‘Canes out of the title mix.

Nasty at times, the 1988 game was marked by a pregame shoving match and the next season the teams nearly squared off at midfield before the coin toss.

“If I wasn’t involved in this game, this game, Miami versus Notre Dame, would be a game I would definitely watch,” Miami interim coach Jeff Stoutland said Sunday.

Stoutland will be serving as Miami’s head coach for the first, and almost surely last, time. He was named the interim coach one day after Miami fired Randy Shannon.

If he was going to coach one game, having it in El Paso seems like a natural fit. There’s a Stoutland Lane in El Paso _ and yes, it is named for him.

In the early 1990s, Stoutland was recruiting a player from the Dallas area, whose father was in the oil business. That recruit’s family built a development in El Paso, the streets were named after coaches who crossed their path _ Stoutland Lane, for example, is nestled between Warren Belin Drive, Peter Noyes Drive and Jim Knowles Place.

“I know all those guys,” said Stoutland, who didn’t know about the street name until last week, when the Sun Bowl emerged as the front-runner to get Miami.

Notre Dame and Miami began exchanging film Sunday afternoon, and Stoutland said he was eager to have a game plan ready on Monday. It will be the 30th bowl game for Notre Dame (14-15) and the 36th for Miami (19-16).

Making a bowl game in Brian Kelly’s first season as Notre Dame’s coach didn’t seem likely after a 1-3 start. And the Irish also had to deal with the death of student videographer Declan Sullivan in late October, when the tower he was filming practice from toppled over in high winds.

But the Irish ended the season on a three-game winning streak. Now they’re expecting to have Williams back after he missed the final four games with a knee injury.

“We internally targeted the Sun Bowl as a great game for us because of the national exposure the game receives and the top-notch opponent we will face in Miami,” Kelly said.

Kelly, who’s followed Notre Dame’s fortunes most of his life, remembers the heated series between the Irish and the Hurricanes, mostly for what coaches such as Lou Holtz and Jimmy Johnson brought to the games.

“Kind of opposite personalities that were really strong personalities and, in some instances, overshadowed the players,” Kelly said.


AP Sports Writer Tim Reynolds in Miami contributed to this report.

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