ESPN Features T-Shirt Controversy

Documentary explores notorious ‘Catholics vs. Convicts’ shirts.

ESPN Films’ 30 for 30 series premiered the documentary “Catholics vs. Convicts” on December 10. The film features the controversial T-shirts spotted at the first on-campus football matchup between the University of Notre Dame and the University of Miami in 1988.

Pat Walsh, a then-student at Notre Dame, is widely credited for the idea for the offensive but popular shirts. But Walsh was already under scrutiny for his illicit screen printing empire, according to a statement from Pat Creadon, director of the film and Walsh’s roommate at the time: “By the beginning of senior year, he'd been warned by the university to shut it all down. Students were not only prohibited from running a business on campus; they were certainly not allowed to break copyright laws in the making and selling of T-shirts.”

Walsh’s dorm-room operation was eventually shut down by the university, but it wasn’t long before another team of entrepreneurs grabbed hold of the idea. Victor Bierman III and Alan Sorce, also former Notre Dame students, copyrighted the popular phrase in 1990 and sold upwards of 14,000 shirts in three months, according to the Notre Dame student paper.

The rivalry game was cancelled after the 1990 season; the teams wouldn’t meet again until 2010.

View more from this Screen Printing issue