Why Pete Buttigieg says Boston College ‘broke’ his heart

The South Bend, Ind., native grew up a diehard Notre Dame football fan. And in 1993, die hard he did.

KEENE, NH - 01/02/2020 Mayor of South Bend, Indiana Pete Buttigieg speaks to a crowd of over 850 people during his  sixth visit to the Monadnock region. With a little over a month to go before New Hampshire's First in the Nation primary, Pete Buttigieg began his four-day, eight-town hall tour of New Hampshire at the Colonial Theatre in downtown Keene. Erin Clark for the Boston Globe
South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks to a crowd earlier this month at the Colonial Theatre in Keene, N.H. –Erin Clark / The Boston Globe

Who has broken your heart?

It’s a question that The New York Times editorial board has asked each Democratic presidential candidate during its lengthy sit-down interviews, which are being published this week.

For Elizabeth Warren, the answer was her first husband. For Deval Patrick, a former girlfriend. For Amy Klobuchar, it was Lindsey Graham. (Bernie Sanders refused to even answer the question.)

For Pete Buttigieg? Boston College.

“I was 11 years old,” said the South Bend, Ind., mayor. “We were this close to the National Championship.”

Buttigieg was born and raised in South Bend, where the University of Notre Dame is located. Both of his parents were professors at the school. The Associated Press recently reported that, as a child, Buttigieg would “obsess” over the Notre Dame football team with his dad.


And also commiserate.

In November 1993, the undefeated Fighting Irish had just beaten and overtaken Florida State as the No. 1 ranked team in college football. They only had one regular season game left — a home game, no less — against a Tom Coughlin-coached Boston College team that they’d blown out by 47 points the year prior.

If they won, Notre Dame would have a chance to be crowned the undisputed national champions.

They lost.

“There wasn’t a B.C.S. back then, so when you finish the season undefeated, you’re the champion,” Buttigieg told the Times. “And they came into our stadium, and they broke my little heart.”

Despite a fourth-quarter comeback by Notre Dame, the Eagles pulled off the upset on a last-second 41-yard field goal as time expired. The 41-39 win was the first time Boston College’s football team had even beaten Notre Dame.


Buttigieg wasn’t the only one whose heart was broken.

“It’s heartbreaking,” Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz told reporters at the time. “The loss is very devastating. We hurt, but it is all part of life and you learn to handle it. It’s not the end of the world.”

The high-stakes game propelled what has become known as the Holy War rivalry between the two prominent Catholic-university football teams.


Fortunately for Buttigieg, who eventually attended Harvard, Notre Dame has won the last seven games in the rivalry, including another 40-7 blowout this past November. Unfortunately for him, the Fighting Irish football team hasn’t won a national title since 1988.


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