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Matching up in legends and lore


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POSTED: Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Everyone says Notre Dame is the most tradition-rich college football program of all.

That may be so.

Let's take a decidedly unscientific look at how Hawaii matches up in some of the legend and lore departments anyway.

Pregame ritual: ND's slapping the "Play Like A Champion Today" sign wins over the slapping your own body of the ha'a, if only because of its longevity compared to the two-year-old UH "tradition." The ha'a is quite impressive, though, with the entire team participating, as all of the Warriors do now.

Nicknames from Grantland Rice: Good luck trying to stick a Polynesian player with "Grass Shack" today. But times were different in 1935 and any recognition from a nationally known scribe was considered a positive. Rice also got Tommy Kaulukukui some All-America acclaim after seeing him dart through UCLA for a 103-yard kickoff return.

But of course Notre Dame wins out here. It was Rice who called Notre Dame's backfield the Four Horsemen — in a lead that was considered great back then but would have today's copy editors rushing for the delete key.

Size matters: Following the theory of a good big man being better than a good small man, I like The Warrior's chances against The Leprechaun (basically the Irish version of menehune) — especially if Vili has Lucky Charms for breakfast.

Precious metal: Golden Tate or Golden Richards?

A wash between the receivers, but ND edges ahead with the Golden Dome, the most iconic structure associated with college football. UH can only claim victory here if offensive line coach Alex Gerke gilds his noggin for today's game.

Solid as a ... : Rockne Freitas was an associate AD at UH for a while. He was a fine NFL player, too, but hard to compete with the greatest locker room speech ever, given by the guy he was named after, Knute Rockne.

Legendary walk-ons: Rudy Ruettiger's more famous, but Reggie Ho actually impacted the outcome of games and has one named after him. The 5-foot-5, 135-pound kicker from Saint Louis school in Honolulu kicked four field goals in Notre Dame's 19-17 victory over Michigan in 1988.

But UH defensive backs coach Rich Miano wins out. He worked his way up from no locker to all-WAC safety and a 10-year NFL career.

Oh, brother: We'll never know how good Notre Dame's Jason Ching could've been, because of serious injuries. But his older brother Shawn (then surnamed Alivado) enjoyed a solid career as a starting center at UH.

Recent grads: Brady Quinn's got the rocket arm and the body armor, but Colt Brennan's got the uncanny accuracy and the blog army.

State-ments: Joe Montana in a landslide over Mike Washington. A little closer if Hawaii could claim quarterback Johnny Utah, the Keanu Reeves character from "Point Break." But alas, Utah played at Ohio State.

War stories: Bob McBride had his Notre Dame playing career interrupted by World War II, and he was taken prisoner at the Battle of the Bulge. He shriveled to 90 pounds in captivity, but made it out and returned to once again play fullback for the Irish. McBride was named captain for the Army game when ND went undefeated on the way to the 1946 national championship.

Hawaii was 8-1 after beating Willamette on Dec. 6, 1941. With the events of the next day, the season was canceled and the players signed up for the armed forces. In all the confusion, quarterback Mun Kin Wong never received his athletic letter. Last year, June Jones presented it to him, at a fundraiser featuring UH quarterbacks past and present — as well as a former Notre Dame walk-on cornerback turned motivational speaker; Rudy was there tearing up with everyone else.

Really.

Reach Dave Reardon at: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)