This is part of a series of sports history articles celebrating the best in 1977 sports. This piece asks the question of which geographic fan base had the best year in ’77.
The place to be in 1977 sports wasn’t necessarily geographic. There were fan bases that had good years, to be sure. The fan base of Dallas saw the Cowboys win the Super Bowl and the University of Texas get to within one victory of a national title in college football.
Fans in Philadelphia saw the 76ers make the NBA Finals and the Phillies reach the National League Championship Series. Boston fans watched the Bruins reach the Stanley Cup Finals and the Red Sox hang with the eventual champion New York Yankees to the final weekend of the regular season in baseball. But none of these fan bases closed the deal with multiple championships.
If we broaden our scope though, that were was one “fan base” that did, and it’s the Society of Jesus, a religious order of priests in the Catholic Church who are known among sports fans for having founded the vast majority of the Catholic colleges that play prominent big-time athletics (and as of 2013 known also for the papal election of one of their own in Pope Francis).
Basketball is what most of the Jesuit schools play and the 1977 Marquette basketball team won the national title at the Final Four in Atlanta. It was a particularly electric moment, with the announcement that the team’s colorful head coach, Al McGuire, was retiring at season’s end.
Then when fall came and football season started up, the 1977 Notre Dame football team got on a championship run, led by quarterback Joe Montana. The Fighting Irish did it with some further help from green jerseys and a dramatic sequence of events of New Year’s Day.
Notre Dame has won only one national title since, so 1977 sports marked a special year. It was the only time a pair of Jesuit colleges won both the Final Four and the college football national title. And it made ’77 a year where the place to be wasn’t a city or region, but a priestly order in Holy Mother Church.
Read more about the 1977 Marquette basketball team
Read more about the 1977 Notre Dame football team
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