SOUTH BEND - So much for a dormant rivalry.
Notre Dame nose guard Ian Williams knows only of the Irish-Miami football lore in a fabled sense, never having viewed actual game footage.
That didn't keep him from firing the first verbal shots Sunday night for the 24th-ever meeting - and first in 20 years - between the two former and now-aspiring college football powers.
Arizona State's failed appeal to the NCAA to be granted a waiver to become bowl-eligible, the arm of former Notre Dame quarterback Zach Frazer and some behind-the-scenes diplomacy from Irish athletic director Jack Swarbrick all factored heavily into ND (7-5) and Miami (7-5) landing in the Hyundai Sun Bowl, Dec. 31 in El Paso, Texas.
The game, to be played in the 50,426-seat Sun Bowl Stadium, kicks off at 2:15 p.m. EST and will be televised nationally by CBS.
"After waiting 77 years, the stars have finally lined up for us," said John Folmer, football selection chairman for the Sun Bowl. "In our 77 years and my 40 years (with the bowl), 35 years as chairman, I never thought this would happen. You gotta be kidding me."
Ian Williams hasn't been waiting quite that long to get back on the football field, but it might seem like it. The senior from Altamonte Springs, Fla., hasn't played since suffering a medial collateral ligament (knee) sprain Oct. 23 against Navy.
He practiced full speed for the first time Saturday, and pronounced himself Sunday to be 100 percent.
Saturday's long and twisted chain of events - most notably Frazer's and Connecticut's 19-16 survival at South Florida - detoured Williams and the Irish from playing in the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando, 10 minutes from where Williams grew up.
Instead he'll play his final collegiate game against a team whose history he has only a cursory knowledge of but one in which he has some personal history with.
It turns out, Miami elected not to recruit Williams out of high school after inviting him to campus for a junior day to get a good look at him in the flesh.
"They said I was too small," said the hulking 6-foot-2, 305-pound Williams, whose answer drew snickers from the media in attendance.
And how did that make him feel?
"They'll find out on the 31st," he puffed.
Williams left the nostalgia to ND senior running back Robert Hughes, who grew up a Miami fan, and Irish first-year head coach Brian Kelly.
"From my end, there were a lot of great players," Kelly said of the rivalry that the Irish lead 15-7-1. "But just the contrast in personalities between (Notre Dame's) Lou Holtz and (Miami's) Jimmy Johnson, those are some of the things I remember.
"They were kind of opposite personalities and, in some instances, (they) overshadowed the players."
The unlikelihood of the game ever coming together shadows this matchup.
The administrations of the two schools had already thawed what had been a cold war of sorts. ND and Miami had already agreed to meet in an off-site home game for the Irish in 2012 (Oct. 6) at Chicago's Soldier Field. The two teams will then play a home-and-home series in 2016 (at Notre Dame) and 2017 (at Miami).
The Sun Bowl actually had a contractual tie in the last four-year bowl cycle with Notre Dame, but was always thwarted in getting the Irish - either by ND being too good (2006), too bad (2007), because of the since-deleted 7-5/6-6 rule (2008) or a coaching change (2009).
This year, the bowl started a new four-year cycle with the ACC and the Pac-10, and the window on ND seemingly closed, perhaps forever. But the Pac-10 ended up with two teams in the BCS and only four bowl-eligible teams overall. That left an opening for the Sun to go after ND.
There was one obstacle - what if the Champ Sports Bowl wanted the Irish?
The Champs bowl is the only non-BCS game ND has a tie with in this cycle. And the Irish can appear there only once in the four-year term.
Saturday's Big East game results put ND in direct competition with a ranked West Virginia team (9-3), and there was plenty of potential for bad feelings with its Big East partners. So Swarbrick helped the bowls look at what was best for everyone.
The Champs ends up with a Top 25 team to match against N.C. State and the one from the Big East which traditionally brings the most fans - by far - to bowl games. The Sun ends up with its dream matchup and a likely TV ratings bonanza. And ND gets to save its Champs Sports chip for another time.
"Following our victory at USC (Nov. 27), we internally targeted the Sun Bowl as a great game for us," Kelly said, "because of the national exposure the game receives and the top-notch opponent we will face in Miami."
But what kind of Miami team will the Irish actually end up facing?
The Hurricanes have been ranked as high as 12th in the AP poll this season, but their late-season meltdown cost head coach Randy Shannon his job. He was fired on Nov. 27 following an upset loss to South Florida and replaced by fourth-year offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland on an interim basis.
If that name sounds familiar, Stoutland spent seven seasons at Michigan State.
"The most important thing for me right now is to take care of these kids," Stoutland said. "Right now, we have a lot of guys walking around campus who are confused, trying to figure the whole thing out."
Hughes and Williams can certainly relate, having gone through a coaching change themselves last season.
"It's always tough to lose the head coach," Williams said. "For most guys, that's the reason they came there. So just speaking from experience, you go through stages. You'll think about, 'What if I had went here?' Little things like that."
"You have to figure out who's the next guy in line, who do I take commands from?" Hughes said. "But if they're football players, they'll find a way to get through it. When the lights come on, they'll play football just like they know how to do."
Tickets on sale
Notre Dame's Sun Bowl ticket allotment is on sale now. Tickets are $40 each and can be ordered by calling the Notre Dame athletic department ticket office at 574-631-7356 or by visiting www.und.com/tickets.
Fans can also purchase tickets from the Sun Bowl Association for $15, $20, $30, $40, $50 and $60 by calling 915-533-4416.