Irish Make First Venture Into Virginia, the 36th State to Host an ND Game

By Jim Lefebvre
Forever Irish

When the Fighting Irish kick off against the Virginia Cavaliers Saturday afternoon in Charlottesville, it will mark the first-ever Notre Dame game in the commonwealth of Virginia, as Virginia becomes the 36th state to host an ND game.

It’s been 15 years since the last time the Irish made their first-ever visit to a state. On Oct. 21, 2000, they traveled to Morgantown, West Virginia, and defeated the Mountaineers, 42-28. That’s the longest such stretch between first visits to states in Irish history.

Saturday is not the first meeting with Virginia. Notre Dame opened defense of its 1988 national championship on August 31, 1989, defeating UVa, 36-13, at Giants Stadium in New Jersey, during the era of neutral-site “pre-season” classics, before there were 12 regular season games.

After the first Notre Dame game in history, an 1887 home game against Michigan, the first trips to other states were to play Western Conference opponents – Northwestern in Evanston in 1889, Michigan in Ann Arbor in 1898, and Wisconsin in Madison in 1900.

On Oct. 5, 1901, the Irish made their first-ever trip to Ohio, heading to Columbus – but not to take on the OSU Buckeyes. The opponent that day was Ohio Medical University.

The Ohio Medical University Tigers, who hosted Notre Dame in games at Columbus in 1901 through 1904.

The Ohio Medical University Tigers, who hosted Notre Dame in games at Columbus in 1901 through 1904.

Ohio Medical University opened in 1892, housed in a private residence, and offered schools of medicine, dentistry, and pharmacy.  A school of midwifery was offered briefly. OMU quickly became the largest medical school in Columbus, and its graduates included both males and females. Enrollment was listed as 327 in 1897. It built a four-story facility housing laboratories, classrooms, library, museum, dispensary, a 400-seat amphitheater, and a YMCA chapter.

OMU started a football program in 1895, and unlike other medical schools, played the game at a high level. Playing mostly Ohio colleges, it went 7-1-1 in 1898, and was coming off a 7-3 season when it hosted Notre Dame in the fall of 1901. The Tigers, as they were known, were caught up in the violence which marked football at the time. The Cleveland Plain Dealer charged the team with “ruffianism,” noting that a game with Western Reserve was “full of slugging, holding, kneeing, heeling, and holding.”

Here’s how the Ohio State Journal described the action on Oct. 5, 1901:

“Ideal football weather, two strong and capable teams in the best of form, a splendid exhibition of football as it is played, and a score of 6 to 0 in favor of the superior team, tells the story of the O.M.U.-Notre Dame game Saturday after at Neil Park….The score does not in any way give a correct indication of the real superiority of the visiting team. The Medical team was clearly outclassed through the game….A lucky genius certainly presided over the fortunes of the O.M.U. on Saturday, for if it had not been for the wretched and inexcusable fumbling of the Notre Dame team the score would inevitably have included three touchdowns, if not more.”

(“Wretched and inexcusable?” Proving turnovers were just as notable over a century ago!)

Notre Dame scored the winning touchdown when captain Al Fortin “pushed over the line a few minutes before the game was called.” Touchdowns being worth five points, the sixth and extra point was kicked by Red Salmon, the first Notre Dame football star to earn All-American mention.

The next three seasons, Notre Dame made trips to Columbus to take on OMU, the Irish escaping with a 6-5 victory in 1902 in a game many observers said was dominated by the Tigers. OMU’s football history ended in 1906, as by the next year it merged with its Columbus competitor, Starling Medical College.  In 1914 the Starling-Ohio Medical School accepted an offer to become the medical department of Ohio State University.

The “hey day” of first-ever Notre Dame trips to other states came in the seasons Knute Rockne was a player and then assistant coach under Jess Harper. Starting with a visit to St. Louis to whip the SLU Billikens, 47-7, in 1912, and followed by the two historic trips in 1913 – to West Point to upset the Cadets, 35-13, and to Austin on Thanksgiving to wallop the Longhorns, 30-7.

In 1914, there was the major challenge of visiting Yale (a 28-0 ND loss) followed by a trip to Sioux Falls, S.D., a 33-0 win over the Coyotes. In subsequent seasons, the Irish ventured to Nebraska (losing a 20-19 tussle with the Cornhuskers) and Iowa (blanking Morningside College, 13-0, at Sioux City).

Under Rockne’s tenure as head coach, significant journeys brought the Irish from coast to coast, including:

–Georgia (a 13-3 win over Georgia Tech in 1922);

–New Jersey (a 25-2 thrashing of defending national champion Princeton in 1923);

–California (the concluding game for the 1924 national champions led by the Four Horsemen, a 27-10 beating of Stanford in the Jan. 1, 1925 Rose Bowl);

–Minnesota (a 19-7 victory over the Gophers in their fabulous new Memorial Stadium in 1925);

–Maryland (a 19-6 win over Navy at Baltimore in 1927 to begin the great series that continues to this day).

The period of 1976-80 brought several trips into today’s SEC states, including South Carolina, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Alabama. And in 1984, a trip to the Aloha Bowl was the first-ever voyage to Hawaii, the only other time since the 1925 Rose Bowl that a bowl game was the Irish’s first visit to a state.

Of the 14 states to never host a Notre Dame football game, the most surprising might be Kentucky, which actually adjoins Indiana. That will be remedied in 2019 when the Irish travel to meet Louisville under the ACC scheduling arrangement. Nevada is probably the most attractive state on the list; the U. of Nevada Wolfpack visit Notre Dame Stadium next season, but no return game is scheduled.

Notre Dame’s record in first-visits is 25-9-1, including a 14-game winning streak from 1917 through 1976.

Notre Dame’s First Appearance in Each State

State Date City Opponent Result, Score
1. Indiana Nov. 23, 1887 South Bend Michigan L, 0-8
2. Illinois Nov. 14, 1889 Evanston Northwestern W, 9-0
3. Michigan Oct. 23, 1898 Ann Arbor Michigan L, 0-23
4. Wisconsin Nov. 10, 1900 Madison Wisconsin L, 0-54
5. Ohio Oct. 5, 1901 Columbus Ohio Medical W, 6-0
6. Kansas Nov. 5, 1904 Lawrence Kansas L, 5-24
7. Pennsylvania Oct. 30, 1909 Pittsburgh Pittsburgh W, 6-0
8. Missouri Nov. 9, 1912 St. Louis St. Louis W, 47-7
9. New York Nov. 1, 1913 West Point Army W, 35-13
10. Texas Nov. 27, 1913 Austin Texas W, 30-7
11. Connecticut Oct. 17, 1914 New Haven Yale L, 0-28
12. So. Dakota Oct. 24, 1914 Sioux Falls South Dakota W, 33-0
13. Nebraska Oct. 23, 1915 Lincoln Nebraska L, 19-20
14. Iowa Nov. 10, 1917 Sioux City Morningside W, 13-0
15. Georgia Oct. 28, 1922 Atlanta Georgia Tech W, 13-3
16. New Jersey Oct. 20 1923 Princeton Princeton W, 25-2
17. California Jan. 1, 1925 Pasadena Stanford W, 27-10 (Rose Bowl)
18. Minnesota Oct. 24, 1925 Minneapolis Minnesota W, 19-7
19. Maryland Oct. 15, 1927 Baltimore Navy W, 19-6
20. Massachusetts Oct. 14, 1944 Boston Dartmouth W, 64-0
21. Louisiana Nov. 24, 1945 New Orleans Tulane W, 32-6
22. Washington Oct. 1, 1949 Seattle Washington W, 27-7
23. North Carolina Nov. 17, 1951 Chapel Hill North Carolina W, 12-7
24. Oklahoma Sept. 26, 1953 Norman Oklahoma W, 28-21
25. Florida Oct. 7, 1955 Miami Miami W, 14-0
26. Colorado Oct. 10, 1964 Colo. Springs Air Force W, 34-7
27. South Carolina Oct. 23, 1976 Columbia South Carolina W, 13-6
28. Mississippi Sept. 17, 1977 Jackson Mississippi L, 13-20
29. Tennessee Nov. 10, 1979 Knoxville Tennessee L, 18-40
30. Arizona Oct. 25, 1980 Tucson Arizona W, 20-3
31. Alabama Nov. 15, 1980 Birmingham Alabama W, 7-0
32. Oregon Oct. 23, 1982 Eugene Oregon T, 13-13
33. Hawaii Dec. 29, 1984 Honolulu SMU L, 20-27 (Aloha Bowl)
34. Utah Oct. 16, 1993 Provo BYU W, 45-20
35. West Virginia Oct. 21, 2000 Morgantown West Virginia W, 42-28
36. Virginia Sept. 12, 2015 Charlottesville Virginia ?

Notre Dame has never played a game in these 14 states:


–New Hampshire


–Rhode Island




–North Dakota




–New Mexico