4-star memory Navy boss knows Irish rivalry wasn't always lopsided

October 30, 1991|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,Evening Sun Staff

ANNAPOLIS -- As Jim Lynch peeled off his sweater at the restaurant in South Bend, Ind., his brother Tom noticed the jersey that bore the name of the enemy -- Notre Dame.

"I'd be embarrassed to wear that if I were you," Tom Lynch said, grinning evilly.

Jim Lynch was a Notre Dame freshman, on campus for barely two months but already very much committed to the school. That day in 1963 he took it hard when Navy, captained by his brother Tom, pummeled Notre Dame 35-14.

"Yeah, well, we'll see you next year in Philadelphia," Jim Lynch retorted.

As Tom Lynch, then an ensign, watched from the stands, Notre Dame, starting a linebacker named Jim Lynch, routed Navy, 40-0, in 1964, launching a streak that exists to this day. When the Irish entertain Navy Saturday, they'll be looking for their 28th consecutive victory over the Middies.

"I've eaten my words to Jim many times," Tom Lynch said ruefully.

The Brothers Lynch will sit together Saturday as representatives of one of the most hallowed but lopsided football rivalries in the country.

Tom, now an admiral and the superintendent of the Naval Academy, was the linebacker/center of the last Navy team to beat Notre Dame in that long ago year. Jim captained Notre Dame's 1966 national championship team, played 11 years in the NFL and is a partner in a midwestern food brokerage firm.

No family is more acutely conscious of the rivalry than the Lynches. Tom can recall that win in 1963 as if it were yesterday.

"It was the thrill of a lifetime to play Notre Dame at South Bend," he said. "And then to beat them on top of it . . . The only thing that compared to it is the Army-Navy game itself."

Jim Lynch, though he was "dumb as a rock in math," got an appointment to the Naval Academy but opted for Notre Dame, to his father's annoyance.

"Tom was a senior at Navy and the football captain, and Dad was proud of that," Jim Lynch said by phone from Kansas City. "He was probably the only Irish-Catholic in the history of the Midwest to be disappointed his son was going to Notre Dame."

The 1963 season was a banner year for Navy and a downer for Notre Dame. The Middies went into the game at South Bend ranked No. 4 in the land with a 5-1 record and would wind up 9-2 after losing to Texas in the Cotton Bowl. Their junior quarterback was Roger Staubach, the Heisman Trophy winner that year.

In the third game of the season, against Michigan, the Middies not only beat the Wolverines as Staubach threw for 237 yards and two touchdowns, rushing for another 70 yards and a score, but gave them a physical drubbing.

"The Michigan State scout came in our locker room afterward," Tom Lynch said. "He said, 'Thank you very much because we've got Michigan next week, and you guys did a job.' They carried seven Michigan guys off the field."

The unranked Irish went into the Navy game burdened by a 2-3 record. But then, as now, they had large players.

"As an outside linebacker in our 4-3 defense, I was lined up opposite the offensive tackle," Tom Lynch said. "I looked at the guy's shoe, then his ankle and calf, and was afraid to look any higher."

Navy did not play well at the start and was tied with the Irish at halftime, 7-7. In the third quarter the Middies erupted for 21 points, and fullback Pat Donnelly finished with 127 yards and two TDs.

"I wanted Notre Dame to do well, so at halftime I was pretty happy," said Jim Lynch, who as a freshman was ineligible to play that year. "When it wound up 35-14, I didn't care if my brother had done well or not."

Despite the lopsidedness of the rivalry in the years since, Navy has no intention of severing it. It oozes tradition as the longest continuous intersectional rivalry in the country, and the schools have good rapport. Anyway, the game always brings in a lot of TV money for both schools.

"It's not a cakewalk all the time," Jim Lynch said. "Notre Dame feels like it's a good friend of the Naval Academy."

His brother speaks in similar terms. Tom Lynch acknowledges that Navy hasn't had and never will have the blue-chip athletes that pepper Notre Dame's roster year after year. But he says the Middies can sometimes overcome such a disadvantage.

"We're going to beat them at some point in time," Tom Lynch said. "We may be 0-7 now, but the team is practicing like it's 7-0."

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