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BYU football: Playing at Notre Dame can be like a bowl game

Published: Monday, June 25 2012 10:03 p.m. MDT

One of the things fans should see if they travel to Notre Dame for a game is the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes. (Ravell Call, Deseret News) One of the things fans should see if they travel to Notre Dame for a game is the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes. (Ravell Call, Deseret News)

Editor's note: This is the third in a four-part series examining the relationship between BYU and Notre Dame and the impending start of a six-game football series between the Cougars and the Fighting Irish. Read part 1. Read Part 2.

Today: How does Notre Dame view BYU? Is there potential for a rivalry?

PROVO — The reporter dialed Jim Augustine's phone, and the sound on the other end made Augustine's allegiance perfectly clear — it was the Notre Dame fight song.

That was just the first sign that Augustine is a devout Fighting Irish fan. After retiring from teaching five years ago, Augustine opened up a memorabilia shop, called "Augie's Locker Room," on the edge of the Notre Dame campus in South Bend, Ind.

Looking up into the golden dome of the Main Building at the University of Notre Dame. Fans and tourists visit the campus of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, Friday, Nov. 12, 2010.  (Ravell Call, Deseret News) Looking up into the golden dome of the Main Building at the University of Notre Dame. Fans and tourists visit the campus of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, Friday, Nov. 12, 2010. (Ravell Call, Deseret News)

"I've been collecting vintage Notre Dame memorabilia since I was a little kid," said Augustine, 66. "I had my inventory already. I couldn't have asked for a neater place. It's fun."

Among the hundreds of items on display, there's the Knute Rockne Room, and helmets and jerseys signed by Irish legends Joe Montana, Tim Brown and Paul Hornung.

A bigger Notre Dame fan this side of Regis Philbin would be difficult to find.

So what does Augustine think about his beloved Irish playing BYU six times between 2012 and 2020?

"It's going to be exciting. BYU reminds me of a military academy, because they will never give up," he said. "As far as I'm concerned, BYU is a great opponent. My whole family is Notre Dame fans except for my sister and her family. They are BYU fans. They are so excited for this game. When the series started in the 1990s, they've gone to all of the BYU-Notre Dame games. They love the great tradition of strong values and the good kids that go there. It's a great tradition to have BYU come here. I'm looking forward to it."

Basilica of the Sacred Heart at the University of Notre Dame. Fans and tourists visit the campus of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, Friday, Nov. 12, 2010. (Ravell Call, Deseret News) Basilica of the Sacred Heart at the University of Notre Dame. Fans and tourists visit the campus of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, Friday, Nov. 12, 2010. (Ravell Call, Deseret News)

Because both BYU and Notre Dame are independent, and private, religious-affiliated universities that share a bit of a history, is there potential for a rivalry?

Well, the two schools have played just six times in football, and only two of them — both BYU wins — were close.

Then Augustine points out something that bothers longtime Irish fans when it comes to BYU.

"One of the saddest moments in Notre Dame history was when Rocket (Ismail) got beat out by Ty Detmer in the Heisman (in 1990)," he said. "That was a shocker. That year, everybody in the country knew Rocket was getting the Heisman and that Notre Dame was going to have another Heisman winner. When that announcement was made, it shocked people. Nothing against Ty Detmer, he's a class act."

Basilica of the Sacred Heart door has God, Country and Notre Dame above one of the doors. Fans and tourists visit the campus of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, Friday, Nov. 12, 2010. (Ravell Call, Deseret News) Basilica of the Sacred Heart door has God, Country and Notre Dame above one of the doors. Fans and tourists visit the campus of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, Friday, Nov. 12, 2010. (Ravell Call, Deseret News)

To this point, not a lot of Notre Dame fans are talking about the upcoming BYU game, Augustine said.

"People won't talk much about that series until it happens. Once that game happens, the excitement will begin to build. I think BYU is a sleeper. That's a team that can come up and bite you. They're a good team and well-coached. People like the excitement of independent schools. That's what makes BYU and Notre Dame a good fit. The whole season comes down to playing each other. What else do you have? The buildup for that game is going to be tremendous. Whoever loses will be hungry for the next year. I'm excited to have BYU back on the schedule."

It could take time for the Cougars and Irish to build a rivalry. Notre Dame already enjoys longstanding rivalries with teams like Michigan, Southern California and Navy.

Footballs and a portrait honor Knute Rockne at Notre Dame. Fans and tourists visit the campus of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, Friday, Nov. 12, 2010. (Ravell Call, Deseret News) Footballs and a portrait honor Knute Rockne at Notre Dame. Fans and tourists visit the campus of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, Friday, Nov. 12, 2010. (Ravell Call, Deseret News)

Dan Murphy, a staff writer for Blue & Gold Illustrated, a publication devoted to covering Notre Dame athletics, said the school's administration likes the idea of playing BYU on a regular basis.

"To some degree, I think they're happy to see another independent team in the mix," Murphy said. "I think they would play BYU anyway, but they feel a responsibility 'to stick with our independent brethren' on the schedule and make sure BYU is on the schedule. That was a big impetus to scheduling BYU. Going forward, if the two schools remain independent, it could develop into a long series. With this being the first time Notre Dame and BYU will play since BYU became an independent, it will be an interesting storyline. They need to have a couple of good, close games before it becomes a rivalry."

BYU is facing the prospect of not playing its arch-rival, Utah, on a regular basis. Perhaps playing Notre Dame could help compensate for that potential void.

Seven Heisman trophies are on display at the University of Notre Dame. This one is for Tim Brown, 1987. Fans and tourists visit the campus of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, Friday, Nov. 12, 2010. (Ravell Call, Deseret News) Seven Heisman trophies are on display at the University of Notre Dame. This one is for Tim Brown, 1987. Fans and tourists visit the campus of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, Friday, Nov. 12, 2010. (Ravell Call, Deseret News)

Augustine looks forward to hosting BYU fans set to visit South Bend for the upcoming games.

"People put this on the list of top 100 things they're going to do in their lives before they die — to come to a game at Notre Dame Stadium. People talk about that," he said. "The opposing teams that come here, we get tremendous, positive feedback from people who have been here. They say they are treated with respect and kindness. 'We have never been congratulated so much by a team that we just beat,' they say. That doesn't happen very often. If you go to the tailgate, opposing fans will be invited to tailgates as they walk by. 'Come on over and have a beer. Have a bratwurst.' That's neat.

"Here's where people will think I'm a nut," Augustine continued. "When Notre Dame gets beat, and that happens quite often, even at home, the opposing fans will march with the band right back to their buses. I'm happy for them. You come to Notre Dame and you beat the Irish, that can be your bowl game. That can be your season."

Marlon Rhodeman from Wichita, Kansas lights a candle in the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes at Notre Dame. Fans and tourists visit the campus of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, Friday, Nov. 12, 2010. (Ravell Call, Deseret News) Marlon Rhodeman from Wichita, Kansas lights a candle in the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes at Notre Dame. Fans and tourists visit the campus of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, Friday, Nov. 12, 2010. (Ravell Call, Deseret News)

Trips to South Bend in the fall are unforgettable, Augustine said.

"You have to try to make a weekend of it as much as you can. It's definitely an event. Opposing fans leave here with a sense of pride, joy and enjoying the whole event even if they get beat. If you come out just for the game that day, you're missing a weekend of unbelievable activity and history. There is so much on campus to see and do. The campus is historic."

Augustine acknowledged that Notre Dame has had its share of hard times lately, but explained that Irish fans' love for their school extends beyond what happens on the field.

"We haven't had the greatest success the last 20 years," he said. "But being a Notre Dame fan is about the campus, about the values the players take with them. There is that mentality that Notre Dame isn't for every kid. It's not just the football team, it's the whole ball of wax."

The football locker room at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Indiana, Friday, Nov. 12, 2010.  (Ravell Call, Deseret News) The football locker room at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Indiana, Friday, Nov. 12, 2010. (Ravell Call, Deseret News)

Editor's note: This is the third in a four-part series examining the relationship between BYU and Notre Dame and the impending start of a six-game football series between the Cougars and the Fighting Irish. Read part 1. Read Part 2.

email: jeffc@desnews.com

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