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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.

Ticket #15: Irish-Trojan battle is classic

This is the 15th in a series of 18 stories examining the best events an Indiana sports fan would want to see in a lifetime.

Each year Indiana native Jeff Goad has one wish he fervently desires to come true. It's not something for his birthday or Christmas. It's not for the health and happiness of his wife and three children. The lifelong Notre Dame fan wants only to witness his brother Mike (and Mike's family) sing the Notre Dame fight song, while wearing Fighting Irish gear, at the annual Goad family golf outing.

Goad's family came up with a bet based on the victorious team of the annual Notre Dame vs. USC football game. Jeff and his brothers, Bob and Pat, have remained in the Midwest and stayed devoted to their beloved Fighting Irish. But another brother, Mike, chose to be the rebel of the family and relocated from Indiana to the San Diego area. Mike didn't just relocate his family; he converted in his football faith to the Trojans.

The Goad children had been raised to believe that God, country and Notre Dame – not necessarily in that order – were the foundations of life. So Mike's transgression is still a point of contention at family gatherings. An Irish victory in the storied series means Mike and his family don the blue-and-gold gear while whooping about waking up some echoes.

But unfortunately for Jeff and his Midwestern siblings, Notre Dame administrators put their faith in coaches Ty Willingham and Charlie Weis, while the Trojans chose Pete Carroll, and the result has had Jeff doing a lot of singing through recent years (Notre Dame snapped an eight-game skid last November).

“The Notre Dame-USC football game is the biggest and best game of them all,” Jeff said. “It's East vs. West. It's two of the most prestigious football programs in America.”

This football series has historically featured some of the nation's best football teams and top players. A dozen players between the two schools have been Heisman Trophy winners. Mike is quick to note that three Trojans (Matt Leinart, 2004; Reggie Bush, 2005; and Carson Palmer, 2002) have garnered the honor in the past decade alone, while Notre Dame hasn't had a winner in 23 years (Tim Brown, 1987).

The Fighting Irish Goads point out that the two most storied Heisman winners to wear the garnet-and-gold are Reggie Bush, who had to vacate the trophy for NCAA rule violations, and a certain running back (O.J. Simpson, 1968) who has proved elusive both on and off the field.

The jabs are all good-natured, unless you have tickets to the game and are placed in the other team's section. The action can be heated, but there is no disputing how great this series is.

USC has won its share (the Trojans hold a 42-35-5 advantage), but Notre Dame fans have faith that the combination of Brian Kelly (Notre Dame's second-year coach) vs. Lane Kiffin (USC's second-year coach) will even the series out over the next few seasons.

“There is nothing better than when they play the game on Thanksgiving weekend,” Jeff said. “It's on Saturday night, prime time. It's great.”

That is, unless his family ends up having to sing.

“The USC fight song actually is a pretty good song,” Jeff said. “My family loves it. But don't tell anybody.”