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Why does Purdue hate Notre Dame?

It is Notre Dame week, and that means only one thing: It’s time for the Purdue message boards to be rife with anti-Irish rhetoric. This year it seems to be turned up a notch, as there is the rare opportunity available for the Boilermakers to put a serious hurting on the Irish in retribution for the last two years. In scanning the Irish Illustrated boards even many Notre Dame fans seemed resigned to their fate as the Irish are mired in the midst of its worst start in school history. Many of these are the same fans who stated last year that losing to the Boilers was a thing of the past, but this season has brought a sharp wake-up call that things can change quickly.

But this is a Purdue blog, and I am trying to figure out exactly why we hate our neighbors to the north so much. Personally, I hate them because of many members of the fanbase that, while they do not represent the fanbase as a whole, they are so irrational as to think that Purdue is somehow vastly inferior and beneath them that they are shocked if we ever beat the Irish. I recognize Purdue will never have the same tradition, national exposure, or nationwide following that the Irish have, but come on. It’s not like we’re Navy and have never been competitive in the series. The last ten years alone show only a 6-4 advantage for the Irish, and before that our program struggled to score regular wins against anyone, let alone Notre Dame. Four of those six Purdue losses were by less than a touchdown as well.

Secondly, I think that many Purdue fans, at least football-wise, view Notre Dame as our primary rival considering the recent one-sidedness of the Old Oaken Bucket Rivalry. In that same 10-year period we are 9-1 against the Hoosiers with many of those results being one-sided blowouts. We almost tend to view our game with Indiana as a mere formality, much like the Irish viewed us from 1985-1997. Since our program as a whole has improved we have sought out a better team by which to measure ourselves, so it is a bit of a tribute to Notre Dame’s tradition that we view them in this right. Instead of battling Indiana for the #2 slot in the state pecking order we have firmly grasped it and want to naturally go for #1.

Even in year when Notre Dame is down it still is a huge boost to the program for the Boilers to beat them. Simply because they have the name Notre Dame associated with them means that, even this year at 0-4, for one week the nation’s eyes will be on us. Every time we face them we are on national TV and therefore it’s a chance to show the country Purdue football, a chance that we rarely get unless we are at the top of the Big Ten.

Personally, I think we put a little too much into a game that doesn’t even count as a conference win for us. We build up this game like it is the end all, be all of our season too many times. Yes it is an important rivalry for us, even a trophy game that everyone looks forward to, but putting the score of the game on our bowl rings as we have done before is a little too much.

The reality of the situation is that Notre Dame is not nearly as good as they are perceived as being in the eyes of many of their fans and the national media, but neither is Purdue. Notre Dame has and always will have decided advantage in terms of recruiting, exposure, and sheer raw talent. What has made the difference though in this series recently has been coaching. Coach Tiller has found a way to often get more out of a recruit than anyone expects, while coaches Davie, Willingham, and even Weis to an extent this year are finding ways to get less out of more. Is this a case of Notre Dame simply relying on their name too much? Possibly, but I doubt it. As a whole college football has changed and it is more difficult than ever to get to the top, let alone stay there.

In the early part of this decade Miami was being talked about as one of the greatest dynasties of all time while USC was struggling to 6-6 seasons. Now the reverse is true. There will be ebb and flow every year, and even a program as storied as Notre Dame with all the decided advantages it has over the other 119 schools can’t climb to the top and stay there long.

It is also some of those advantages that cause the hatred to flow. I respect the tradition, but it has been 20 years since the last national title. Most of the kids playing weren’t even born yet. The Irish also get oversaturated to the point where the average fan simply wants them to go away, whether they are good or bad. There are currently seven other 0-4 teams right now, but can you name one of them? How about three? Yet we all know Notre Dame is 0-4 and it is made out to be a national tragedy.

The opposite is true if they are 4-0. Suddenly the echoes are awakened, Knute is back on the sidelines, and we are all to pause and honor the greatest team to ever walk the face of the earth. It’s no wonder that many kids find it difficult to play there with these wild swings of emotion. When you couple this with their special BCS rules that only they enjoy and the massive deal they get from NBC it draws even more ire. Who can blame the Irish for not joining a conference though when they would have to give up that sweet deal?

For Purdue fans it is a combination of all of this. Most of us know we will never be on Notre Dame’s level nationally in terms of respect, and for that we are a bit envious. What bothers us is when Notre Dame automatically disrespects us even though we are one of their regular opponents. Obviously there is a good relationship between the two universities because they continue to play each other. More than once we have ruined a potentially good Irish season with a shocking upset. Through all this we are still not respected, yet Navy, a team that has gone nearly fifty years without a victory in the series, is held in awe.

Personally I do see them as our biggest football rival, and I am relishing in the suffering that they are going through right now because it seems well deserved for the false cockiness of the past two seasons. I do know that the Irish will rise again as they always do. Purdue has a long way to go before we can even get to .500 in the series, but it still doesn’t mean we can’t try. As a whole we may put a little too much into the rivalry, and we certainly put more into it than Notre Dame gives in return, but it is the stick by which we have chosen to measure ourselves by. If we beat them it is a feather in our cap because no matter how bad they are, we get the honor of beating Notre Dame nationally.

Like my wife, a University of Miami alum says though, "At least they’ll still play you guys. They say they won’t play us and call us criminals but they’ll still play Florida State."