Since the time of Knute Rockne, fans have been drawn to Notre Dame for reasons that go far beyond the normal allegiances. Just as Ohioans root for Ohio State, Los Angelenos for UCLA, Catholics everywhere root for Notre Dame. Over the decades their devotion to team and institution has become a religion in ways that exceed metaphor. Millions in number, these modern-day fans treat the Notre Dame campus as a pilgrimage site, and six times a year, for each home game, the action moves from the profane to the sacred. For the fans, Notre Dame has become a symbol of the American immigrant bootstrap ethos of hard work, of the Catholic faith, and of the notion that the two entwined can only produce the good life. Touchdown Jesus is the intimate chronicle of Notre Dame's 2004 football season as seen through the eyes of a fan base unlike any other. A tapestry of vivid character portraits and descriptive narrative, Touchdown Jesus explores this phenomenon and reveals the story behind one of the highest-profile head coach firings in the history of college football. When the story begins in September 2004, it had been sixteen years since the Fighting Irish had won a national championship, and eleven years since the team had even been a contender. The Irish were coming off their third losing season in five years, a span of failure that had sparked fears of permanent decline. Over the course of the season, the target of the fans' angst grew to include not only head coach Tyrone Willingham, but also the caretakers of the university, whom many fans believed were sacrificing football to the prerogatives of an elite academe. As the losses piled up, the arguments for and against Willingham went to the very core of the identity of the university and its fan base: the pressure to win, the Christian ideal, and the uniquely American role of big-time athletics in higher education -- Notre Dame football at the center of it all. Borrowing its title from the celebrated mosaic of Christ the Teacher that adorns the south facade of the university library and overlooks the football field, Touchdown Jesus is the story of faith and fanaticism and a university struggling to maintain elite football, elite academics, and traditional Catholicism -- each an imperative, without any room for compromise.

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