By JOHN ZENOR and RALPH D. RUSSO, Associated Press
Everything about the BCS championship between No. 1 Notre Dame and No. 2 Alabama seems larger than life.
Not only do these schools stand among the best ever in college football, they also lead the pack in celebrating that success and in investing for the future.
If ever college football presented a heavyweight event it's the Fighting Irish against the Crimson Tide.
So here, then, is a tale of the tape for Monday's marquee matchup in Miami.
— FOOTBALL BUILDING
ALABAMA: The Mal M. Moore Athletic Facility, named for the current athletic director, has a 20,000-square-foot strength and conditioning center — which is soon to be replaced — plus aquatic rehabilitation pools. The building also houses athletic administrators and the football offices.
NOTRE DAME: The Guglielmino Athletics Complex, named after the booster who funded it, has a 25,000-square-foot health and fitness center, meeting rooms and the football offices. Plus, the Morse Recruiting lounge with championship banners for Notre Dame's "11 consensus national championships."
ALABAMA: The "Hall of Champions" overlooks the lobby on the second floor of the athletic facility. It has trophy cases for the Crimson Tide's 14 national champions — including a spot where 'Bama is hoping 2012 can be added — and a large case for the 23 Southeastern Conference title teams. Prominently perched on a marble pedestal is Mark Ingram's 2009 Heisman Trophy, the program's first.
NOTRE DAME: The lobby of the Gug, as the athletics complex is called, is basically one of college football's largest trophy cases. The first thing visitors see is Notre Dame's last national championship trophy, the coaches' trophy the Irish received after the 1988 season. To the left, across the wall are seven Heisman Trophies. No other school has won more.
— WEIGHT ROOM
ALABAMA: A new weight room is nearly completed. Trustees approved the $9.1 million, 34,495-square-foot, two-story strength and conditioning facility in August that will connect the athletic building and the indoor practice facility. It's expected to be ready in early February.
NOTRE DAME: The football players work out at the Haggar Fitness Center in the Gug. It features more than 250 pieces of weight training equipment, six flat-screen TVs and a sound system, and it's available to all Notre Dame athletes.
ALABAMA: Coach Nick Saban's towering likeness stands next to Bryant-Denny Stadium, offering a good spot for fan pictures on game day. The 9-foot statue is one of five honoring Tide football coaches who have won national titles, joining Wallace Wade, Frank Thomas, Paul W. "Bear" Bryant and Gene Stallings in the Walk of Champions plaza. It was unveiled in the spring of 2011, 15 months after 'Bama won the 2009 championship.
NOTRE DAME: Walk around Notre Dame Stadium and at each entrance you'll find a statue of one of its championship-winning coaches. Knute Rockne's guards the north tunnel, facing Touchdown Jesus. Dan Devine is at Gate A. Ara Parseghian is at Gate B. Frank Leahy is at Gate C. Lou Holtz is at Gate D.
ALABAMA: Tradition holds that the Tide's elephant mascot dates to 1930 when Atlanta Journal sports writer Everett Strupper wrote that a fan called out: "Hold your horses, the elephants are coming." The "Red Elephant" nickname for the linemen stuck. The Big Al mascot made his official debut in the 1979 Sugar Bowl, when Alabama claimed its second straight national title with a win over Penn State. A game-saving goal line stand stole some of Big Al's thunder.
NOTRE DAME: The Leprechaun became the official mascot of the Fighting Irish in 1965, though four years earlier a student first donned the costume and roamed the sidelines. Leprechaun tryouts consist of a five-minute mock pep rally, an interview with a local media personality, responding to game situations, answering Notre Dame trivia, dancing an Irish jig, and doing 50 push-ups.
— KEEPING IN STEP
ALABAMA: The Crimsonettes, a group of energetic dancers, entertain crowds at various sporting events. They're chosen based on dancing skills, physical fitness and the ability to learn the group routine, according to the school's Web site.
NOTRE DAME: The Irish Guard. Formed in 1949 as a part of the University of Notre Dame Marching Band, the guards wear a uniform of traditional Scottish kilt and Notre Dame tartan. To the top of the shako, a guard stands 7-feet tall, and the game-day inspection of the Guard usually draws a crowd — though not for the same reasons the Crimsonettes do.
ALABAMA: Roll Tide, Roll Tide. "Yea Alabama" was written by the editor of the student newspaper, The Rammer-Jammer, in a contest that followed a win over Washington in the 1926 Rose Bowl. The lyrics include: "You're Dixie's football pride, Crimson Tide! Yea, Alabama! Drown 'em Tide!" The ending call "Roll Tide, Roll Tide" was added later.
NOTRE DAME: Wake Up the Echoes. The "Victory March" was first performed at Notre Dame on Easter Sunday on 1909. Not until 10 years later did it start being played at athletic events. The second verse starts: "Cheer, cheer for old Notre Dame, Wake up the echoes cheering her name."
ALABAMA: John Mitchell became the first African-American to play for the Crimson Tide in 1971 after he transferred from junior college for his final two seasons. He was an All-American defensive end as a senior in 1972. Mitchell is now assistant head coach and defensive line coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers, where he's coached the linemen since 1994. He started his career as Bear Bryant's defensive line coach in 1973 and became the Southeastern Conference's first black defensive coordinator at LSU in 1990. Bryant assistant Jerry Claiborne later said that a 1970 game with Southern California and star Sam Cunningham caught Bryant's attention and "did more to integrate Alabama in 60 minutes than Martin Luther King did in 20 years."
NOTRE DAME: Defensive lineman Wayne Edmonds, from rural Pennsylvania, became the first African-American to earn a monogram on the football team in 1953. He and Richard Washington were the first black student-athletes to play in a game. The 1953 team went undefeated, a season when Georgia Tech refused to play Notre Dame at home because of the black players on the Fighting Irish and the game was moved to South Bend.
— CAMPUS SHRINE
ALABAMA: If there's not necessarily a "Touchdown Jesus" equivalent, there is Denny Chimes, where the football team captains get to leave their indelible marks. The base of the tower displays hand and foot impressions of each captain from Tide teams since the 1940s.
NOTRE DAME: The Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes is one-seventh the size of the French shrine where the Virgin Mary appeared to Saint Bernadette in 1858. Visitors pass by peacefully, light candles and say prayers — probably a few for a Fighting Irish victory.
— FIRST NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP
ALABAMA: 'Bama headed West in 1925 to capture the program's first national championship with a 20-19 win over Washington in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. — the same place Saban won his first with the Tide. The 1925 squad went 10-0 and outscored opponents 297-26, and seven organizations declared Alabama the nation's best team.
NOTRE DAME: In 1924, it was Notre Dame that capped an undefeated season in the Rose Bowl by beating Pop Warner's Stanford team for the national championship. The first of three for Knute Rockne, and 11 that Notre Dame claims. The Fighting Irish haven't played in the Rose Bowl since.
— BEST WALK-ON
ALABAMA: Carson Tinker received a scholarship before this season but was already one of college football's most well-known walk-ons and long snappers, though for a tragic reason. His girlfriend, Ashley Harrison, was killed by a tornado when she and Tinker were thrown about 50 yards from the closet where they had huddled. Tinker has persevered and become a fan favorite with nearly 27,000 followers on Twitter.
NOTRE DAME: Rudy Ruettiger, the ultimate underdog story. He overcame a learning disability to get accepted to Notre Dame, then at 5-foot-6 and 165 pounds he made the Fighting Irish scout team. He got on the field for three plays, and had a sack on the final play of his final game. Hollywood got hold of the story, added a little melodrama, and turned it into a sports movie classic.
— BEST QUARTERBACK
ALABAMA: Joe Namath came to Tuscaloosa from Beaver Falls, Pa., and was a 1964 All-American for the Tide team that was named national champion by some organizations. Then, of course, he became an unforgettable pro football star who guaranteed his New York Jets would upset Baltimore in the 1969 Super Bowl — before making good on it. Bart Starr, another Hall of Famer, and Kenny Stabler also went on to terrific pro careers.
NOTRE DAME: Joe Montana, another western Pennsylvania kid who grew up to become an all-time great quarterback, came to Notre Dame in 1974. In his sophomore season, he gained a reputation as the comeback kid, coming off the bench to lead the Fighting Irish from behind to beat North Carolina and Air Force. He capped his career with another remarkable comeback victory against Houston in the 1979 Cotton Bowl, then went on to win four Super Bowls with the San Francisco 49ers.
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