Unbeatable: Notre Dame's 1988 Championship and the Last Great College Football Season

Unbeatable: Notre Dame's 1988 Championship and the Last Great College Football Season

by Jerry Barca
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Unbeatable: Notre Dame's 1988 Championship and the Last Great College Football Season by Jerry Barca

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
They were an unlikely crew tasked with a seemingly impossible mission: restore Notre Dame's place as a college football power. In 1988, led by a scrawny, bespectacled coach who spoke with a lisp, a black Baptist quarterback from South Carolina, and a ferocious defense, they returned Notre Dame to the top.
Before Lou Holtz's arrive, the one-storied program of Rockne, Leahy, Parseghian, and George Gipp and the Four Horsemen had become at best mediocre and, even worse, mentally and physically soft. The downward drift culminated in a 58-7 bashing on national TV against the University of Miami, a flashy upstart that stormed its way to the top spot in college football.
This is the first in-depth look at the players, the coaches, the campus, and the season that returned Notre Dame to its glory.
Throughout all of Notre Dame's lore, no Fighting Irish team has had more characters than the '88 squad. The starting linebackers, nicknamed the Three Amigos, were known for crazed antics such as leaving game tickets for Elvis Presley or smoking a reporter's cigar during practice. The five-foot-nothing walk-on kicker used visualization and a sort of voodoo jazz-hands to ready himself for field goals. Tony Rice, the against-the-odds quarterback, was mocked because of his high school academic credentials and continually questioned by the media about whether he could ever truly succeed as a quarterback for Notre Dame. The team was also stacked with future NFL talent, including Ricky Watters and Raghib "Rocket" Ismail.
In a thrilling twist of fate, the season's schedule served as a national championship elimination tournament. No game was bigger—or more hyped—than the matchup with No. 1-ranked Miami. In a game dubbed "Catholics vs. Convicts," the Irish won in the final seconds by a single point.

With original reporting, interviews with everyone from the players to the coaches, detailed research, and access to the Notre Dame archives, Jerry Barca tells the gripping story of an unbelievable season and a team that became legendary. More than a Notre Dame book, Unbeatable is the compelling narrative of one of the most incredible sports stories of the last century.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250048653
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 08/05/2014
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 377,832
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

JERRY BARCA's writing has appeared on SI.com and in The Star-Ledger, Asbury Park Press, Home News Tribune, The Post-Standard (Syracuse, New York), and the Herald News. He has made regular appearances on SiriusXM's Ron and Fez Show. He is a 1999 graduate of Notre Dame. He lives in New Jersey.

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Unbeatable: Notre Dame's 1988 Championship and the Last Great College Football Season 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
jmcgarry More than 1 year ago
I lived this book. I was a 3rd year law student in the fall of 1988. I'm what's called a Double Domer. I got my undergraduate degree in 1986. I was there throught the Gerry Faust years, which weren't all that great. Then Lou Holtz came in, and turned everything around. That's what this book documents. I was familiar with the story, but it was nice to hear the retelling. The book describes the down years, and then the comeback. I always wonder, if overtime had been around in 1988, would Miami have just tried for the extra point and taken their chances in overtime? Who knows? And yes, I was there for the Miami game when Pat Terrell batted down the 2 point try at the end of the Miami game, which helped propel Notre Dame to the national championship in 1988. This book goes through all the games, and describes some of them in detail, including Michigan, Miami, and USC. Sadly, this was Notre Dame's last national championship. We came close in 2012, but we can be back soon. Great book for any Irish fan, as well as anyone who wants to know about the last great college football season. Go Irish!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I bought this as a gift and the person absolutely loved it. They read it the same night they received as a gift ... All in one sitting. They couldn't put it down. In fact they are purchasing the books for several friends.
Total_Package More than 1 year ago
I am not a Notre Dame football fan, just a fan of college football history. Unbeatable is a very well documented walk down Nostalgic Lane on the 25th anniversary of this program's last National Championship. Barca's background stories on each of the primary participants in the story are well above average, insightful, engaging and factually correct. This is an easy read and this is not your usual biased "homer" historical account. Its always nice to turn the clock back to an entirely different era of college football. Lou Holtz and Barry Alvarez were excellently portrayed, although I wish we could have gotten even more from them and ND recruiter extraordinaire, Vinny Cerrato.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this book. At first, I expected something filled with the over-the-top stuff of Notre Dame "legend," but I heard the author on a radio interview on ESPN and decided to pick it up. When I finished it, I was left with a clear picture of late 1980s college football. It is a nostalgic read, but it is also one that sets the table for today's squabbles and issues about TV money, the questionable approaches of the NCAA and the shifting tides of major college football programs. Of course, all that history is in the background of a book about a season, a coach rebuilding an organization, a season, and the captivating characters on a team that won it all. The behind-the-scenes football strategy is great and at the same time doesn't overpower the enjoyable takes on players and coaches. The other positive is the lessons in leadership you can take away from this. But overall, I was happy the book leaves you with performance and action being the reason Notre Dame won as opposed to some mythical-magical divine right. A great read for organization-minded team leaders, general college football fans willing to read about Notre Dame and every fan of the Fighting Irish.  
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Just finished the book this weekend (autographed by Tony Rice, Chris Zorich, Mark Green, Tim Ryan, and Pat Terrell). A great read that captures the leadership of Lou Holtz, the sacrifices of  the college players, and stories I've never heard before. Barca does a great job.  A MUST for any college football fan and ND fan.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Awesome Book!! regardless if you're a Notre Dame fan or not,... i'm proud to say i am... a must read!!  i remember the 1988 season very well, Jerry Barca !!  well done
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Jerry Barca is a clever and witty enough sportswriter to competently spin a yarn for those college football fans with XM radio and enough time to kill. However, the "Rah Rah, Go Irish" hagiography and ESPN-esque manure piling might grow a tiresome read for those who haven't braved the bitter sub-zero, lake-swept South Bend cold to sit in the cheap seats and cheer on their beloved Irish. The Notre Dame football program fielded in 1988 was indeed a storied and memorable one for the ages without Barca's liberal embellishments. However, the controversy enveloping their 'Catholic v. Convicts' win over an obviously superior University of Miami football program renders theirs' a paper victory and discredits the central thesis of this book; that of the '88 Irish being the greatest undefeated college team ever. Reasonable and knowledgeable college football fans will point out that the 1956 Oklahoma Sooners were more dominant and the 1972 USC Trojans were more talented. The 1995 Nebraska Cornhuskers and the 2001 University of Miami Hurricanes also come to mind as greater unbeaten teams. Nevertheless, if you bleed blue and gold, this book is a must-have. However, for the remaining 99% of the country: it's a fine read fit for a trans-continental flight.