Tonight’s game between the UCLA Bruins and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish is the renewal of one of college basketball’s biggest rivalries and it’s one that’s very deep-seeded in the minds of Bruin basketball fans. How big was this rivalry?
Well, let’s just say that I’m setting the Over/Under for the number of times that Bill Walton says “88” tonight at 25. Of course, fans will get A LOT of references to the glory days of this rivalry from Big Red tonight.
So, I thought I’d share a little info about the more recent history of this rivalry. “More recent” is a relevant term, of course. I’m actually referring to what it was like when I was a student in the early 90s.
Admittedly, I was more of a football fan than basketball fan. So, I really have only one memory of UCLA playing Notre Dame in Westwood. It was the 1992-93 season. Mitchell Butler was a senior that year and Tyus Edney and Ed O’Bannon were just sophomores. The Bruins were still a few seasons away from winning another national championship.
That season, UCLA played Notre Dame on Sunday, January 31st. It was a pretty early start time as far as Bruin basketball games went. That’s because there was a much bigger sporting event that day.
It was Super Bowl Sunday. Super Bowl XXVII was played at the Rose Bowl that year for the final time. The Dallas Cowboys, who had practiced the week before the game at Spaulding Field, were playing the Buffalo Bills, who were making their third straight appearance.
The Bruins had just dropped out of the AP Top 25 that week following a 22-point loss to UC Berkeley at home the week before. But, on the Thursday night before, the Bruins beat Southern Cal at the LA Sports Arena, 90-80.
Despite the fact that it had been 19 seasons since the Irish had ended UCLA’s 88-game winning streak, that history was pressed into the minds of the students in attendance as the students chanted “Digger is a wimp!” even though Phelps had left two seasons earlier as he was replaced by former New York Knicks coach John MacLeod.
After the Bruins beat the Irish, 68-65, that day, we went back home in time to watch Bruin legend Troy Aikman win his first Super Bowl with the Cowboys.
The overwhelming sense that I got that day was that UCLA vs. Notre Dame was the basketball equivalent of UCLA vs. Southern Cal in football. Winning that day was that important.
Of course, 25 years later, and 10 years removed from the last game played by these teams, it may not seem to be that important. But, hopefully, someone out there has taught today’s students that it should be. Because, after all....
Digger is STILL a wimp!
Listen to the Game Here on BN!
This season, we are proud to, again, have today’s audio feed for everyone who opts to use the TuneIn player embedded below. For optimum results, start the audio feed then pause your DVR and sync them up together. Tonight’s game is on ESPN2 with Dave Pasch and national treasure Bill Walton. I thought about skipping the audio tonight because listening to Josh Lewin and Tracy Murray won’t give younger Bruin fans the kind of history lesson a game like thIs deserves. But, if you’d rather listen to Josh Lewin and Tracy Murray call tonight’s game, you can still do that right here.
Join your fellow fans discussing today’s game below.
This is your Notre Dame Fighting Irish at UCLA Bruins game thread.