Notre who? If you're under age 30, you might be wondering why everyone is fussing over the Fighting Irish's return to the top of the college football heap. They haven't won a national championship since Ronald Reagan (who, coincidentally, played a Notre Dame player in a movie) was president. The best players to come from the program the past five years are a backup quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs (Brady Quinn) and a guy who fled football for the Cubs (Jeff Samardzija).
But with the 2012 Irish ready to meet Alabama in the BCS National Championship on Monday in Miami, Notre Dame Nation is back in full force—especially in Chicago, which is only a few thousand football fields from South Bend, Ind. Even if you don't know Knute Rockne from The Rock, you've probably seen Notre Dame's influence somewhere. So RedEye presents a pop culture primer on the Golden Domers.
Oct. 4, 1940
The movie "Knute Rockne, All American," co-starring Ronald Reagan as George Gipp, makes its debut. America's future 40th president would later dust off the famous "Win one for the Gipper" line—which Coach Rockne reputedly used in a halftime speech—as a political slogan.
Jan. 24, 1987
When it comes to legendary quarterback Joe Montana, his four Super Bowl wins and national title with the Irish barely come to mind. OK, so that's not true, but Montana did host one of the best "Saturday Night Live" episodes ever. One of his best lines was in the sketch for "Sincere Guy Stu," in which he said "I'll be in my room masturbating."
Oct. 13, 1993
The movie "Rudy" hits theaters. It's based on the real-life story of Daniel "Rudy" Ruettiger, an Illinois native and walk-on for Notre Dame who got a game-ending sack on the final play of his college career. The movie also marked the film debut of Vince Vaughn, who remains a huge Notre Dame fan. It also spawned infinite chants of "Rudy! Rudy!"
May 8, 2001
The animated hit "Shrek" debuts in theaters. The filmmakers deny it, but according to urban legend, there are several visual references to Notre Dame in the movie. And no, it's not because Shrek's skin is as green as a four-leaf clover.
Aug. 20, 2004
Regis Philbin sets a Guinness World Record for "Most Hours On Camera." Not a small amount of that time was spent chattering on about his alma mater—you guessed it: Notre Dame—while a co-host of his "Live!" talk show with Kathie Lee Gifford and Kelly Ripa.
June 7, 2005
In the action comedy "Mr. and Mrs. Smith," Brad Pitt's character, assassin John Smith, was an art history major at Notre Dame. Hmm, does "art history" not mean what we think it means?
After playing the lead role in Mel Gibson's "Passion of the Christ," Jim Caviezel enrolls in a Spanish class at Notre Dame. Actor Jesus, meet Touchdown Jesus.
Oct. 3, 2006
In the pilot of NBC's "Friday Night Lights," star quarterback Jason Street is being heavily recruited by Notre Dame. And then he suffers a devastating injury in the episode.
May 18, 2008
Martin Sheen is honored at a Notre Dame commencement ceremony. Sheen, something of a superfan of the Irish, is also presented with a Notre Dame jacket to match the one worn by President Josiah Bartlett, his character on TV's "The West Wing." On the show, Bartlet is a Notre Dame grad.
Sept. 4, 2010
Taylor Swift and Selena Gomez travel to South Bend to watch Notre Dame take on Purdue. But after Swift's brother Austin transferred to Vanderbilt the next year, it's very possible his famous sister is never ever getting back together with Notre Dame.
May 6, 2011
In the book and later in the romantic comedy adaptation of "Something Borrowed," Notre Dame plays a major role. Ginnifer Goodwin's character isn't accepted into Notre Dame law school, which is depicted as a crushing event because her competitive best friend (Kate Hudson) manages to get in.
Leonardo DiCaprio is spotted in a Notre Dame hat while hanging out with "Gossip Girl" star Blake Lively in Venice, Italy. So is Leo a fan? Well, considering he's also been seen wearing Michigan, UCLA, Louisville, South Carolina and Long Beach State caps, maybe the actor is just a fan of hats in general.
Sources: nd.edu, espn.com, fox28.com, aceshowbiz.com, imdb.com
Ryan Smith is a RedEye special contributor.