November 22, 2009

Notre Dame - Not the Dream Job it Used to Be

So we all know by now that Notre Dame lost to UConn yesterday, likely sealing the fate of Charlie Weis, who will join Bob Davie and Ty Willingham as the most recent Notre Dame coaching casualties. If you scan the message boards and some of the ESPN articles addressing the situation, folks at Notre Dame though seem to be under the mistaken impression that they will be able to walk out and get whatever coaching candidate they want. Guess what... you can't. Here are a few reasons why:

1) They're still an Independent
Notre Dame, while competing in the Big East in a number of different sports, chooses not to join up with the Big East for football, instead maintaining their Independent status. This robs Notre Dame of any of the traditional rivalries that makes college football so great. There is no Army-Navy, no Michigan-Ohio State, no Texas-Oklahoma, no Cal-Stanford... hell, not even a Virginia-Virginia Tech. This season, Notre Dame plays three Big 10 teams, one ACC team, four Pac 10 teams, two Big East teams, an independent (Navy), and Nevada (from one of those random western conferences). In 2010, they play Purdue, Michigan, Michigan State, Stanford, Boston College, Pitt, Western Michigan, Navy, Tulsa, Utah, Army, and USC. While Notre Dame may get up for their games against Michigan and USC, Michigan gets up for its game against Penn State and USC gets up for its game against UCLA. Notre Dame is nobody's rival anymore, there is no real juice to any of Notre Dame's games. High school recruits want to go to a college where every year there is going to be a game that mobilizes campus and is the game of the season for both teams. Notre Dame can't deliver that in its present state.

2) High academic standards

Obviously it's difficult for a head coach to recruit college football talent when they have to meet higher academic standards to be admitted to your school than they do to enter the other eight schools that are recruiting them. Not to mention the fact that other schools which have high academic standards, such as Stanford, and even Northwestern and Duke, are showing signs of life on the football field. Notre Dame no longer has the pull of being able to say, "we are the only team that has high academic standards that can also consistently win on the football field." This isn't a bad thing for Notre Dame, but it for damn sure makes the head coach's recruiting job a lot harder.

3) Delusional fans

Notre Dame's boosters still live in the 1980s and 1990s. They worship the days of Knute Rockne, Lou Holtz, the "Catholics vs. the Convicts" and most of all, the days when Notre Dame was a glamour team. They expect the same level of success year in and year out. You know what Irish boosters? They're not making any more movies about Notre Dame anymore. You don't have a glamour program. You have history. Guess what? So do a lot of schools. You expect that a new coach will instantly deliver the same level of success that the team experienced in a radically different age of college football. Guess what? Won't happen, unless your coach is a miracle worker. Why would any up and coming coach voluntarily subject themselves to the level of scrutiny that the Notre Dame alums place under their coach?

4) EVERYONE is on television these days.

Notre Dame used to benefit, in the days before widespread cable television, of their exclusive contract with NBC. The Notre Dame coach could walk into any high school kid's house and say, "If you come to Notre Dame, you will be on national television every single week. You will have the visibility that few other college students will have and NFL scouts will not be able to miss you." Well, now, the coaches of major Pac 10 teams, SEC teams, ACC teams, and Big 12 teams can make nearly the same promise, given that the ESPN family of networks covers the ACC and Big 10, CBS covers the SEC, Versus covers the Pac 10, and hell, on any given night of the week from Wednesday onward, you're liable to turn on your television and see a football game on national television. A few weeks ago it was Central Michigan-Toledo. Ten years ago those teams wouldn't have stood a snowball's chance in hell of appearing on national television. So yes, prospective high school student, if you come to Notre Dame, you will be on NBC every single week. But if I'm recruiting that same high school student from another school, I've got a lot of ammo in my arsenal to be able to pull out my team's schedule from the last five years and show a shocking number of times when my team played on national or regional television. Yet another way that the rest of the college football world has caught up to Notre Dame.

So Irish boosters, good luck, and maybe Touchdown Jesus will bless you with the next Knute Rockne... my guess is that you're looking at another coach who will bring you a sub-60% winning percentage because the college football landscape has changed since your glory days.

8 Responses:

Anonymous said...

You are wrong on each of your points.
To say that ND's independent status is a negative is ridiculous. No rivalries? ND-Michigan, ND-Michigan State, ND-USC are 3 of the most storied rivalries in college football! In addition to that, ND can offer recruits a truly national experience where they will play teams from coast to coast each year.

Unrealistic Standards? Charlie Weis has put up consistent top 10 recruiting classes during his time in South Bend, so is it unrealistic to expect that this talent would lead to top 10 play on the field? Notre Dame is among the national powerhouses in numerous other sports such as soccer, lacrosse, hockey, women's basketball, baseball, etc. So why is it so unrealistic to expect excellence in football?

The NBC contract is a disadvantage? Say what you want about all games being on TV, it just isn't the same as ND on NBC. The ND coach can go into EVERY recruits home and guarantee them that EVERY SINGLE PERSON IN THE COUNTRY CAN SEE EVERY SINGLE GAME THEY PLAY! No other team can say this. If you live in the Northeast, you will see Texas, Oklahoma, Florida, LSU and Alabame play 2-3 times per year. You'll see USC play maybe 3 times. If you live on the west coast, how often will you see Alabama play? In these days of "regional" broadcasts, the only team that can guarantee truly national access to every game they play is Notre Dame.

Charlie Weis' experience at ND has proven one and only one thing, if ND has the right coach in place, it offers truly unique benefits that no other school can offer.

Anonymous said...

ND-USC rivalry? Since 2002, USC has beaten Notre Dame in eight straight games, doing so in a lopsided fashion unprecedented in the series

William said...

ND 42 wins USC 34 wins. USC still has some catching up to do....

ND-USC rivalry? Since 2002, USC has beaten Notre Dame in eight straight games, doing so in a lopsided fashion unprecedented in the series.

gpb said...

I'd also consider location. Schools like USC and Florida I think benefit greatly from their location as well as their history. I think you have to sell the other points to recruits if you're Notre Dame.

I think being an independent hurts them in some regards because their schedule will vary so greatly year to year. At the same time, they can play whoever they want, whenever they want. That is an interesting prospect that other schools cannot offer.

I do believe that Notre Dame has delusional fans as well. No coach should want to come in and coach at Notre Dame simply because of the insanely high expectations about winning. One poor season and there is talk about replacing you. It might be worse than the SEC... UGA has this same problem now, Auburn did last season. It's ridiculous to expect anything else.

It's not unreasonable to expect success when you are bringing in top talent but it gets old every season hearing how great you guys will be and watching you fail. That's one of the aspects I hate about you (though it's ESPN's fault more so than ND fans).

I'll concede to Anon though about the NBC contract. I have the unfortunate privilege to watch the Irish every weekend anywhere in the country. The same can not be said for most other programs in the country every week. Regional broadcasts are awful...

I feel like great coaches might be happier coaching in less stressful environment. Why move to such an environment built on the success of others if you can keep winning where you are and build your own legacy?

Note: I'm highly biased against Notre Dame.

Michelangelo said...

Anyone know how many years that NBC-ND contract still has on it? Will NBC want to renew the deal when it comes up for negotiation again? Or would NBC rather sign up a full conference for some variety in programming, given that ND's allure is not what it once was 10-20 years ago?

Russell said...

What about GT as a school with higher academic standards that still has a good football team? One of our starting linemen is majoring in AE.

gpb said...

Ouch. Talk about hurting your recruiting. "Play for us! Get slugged by a fan!!",0,5503075.story

Christopher said...

I am confused... ND regularly plays this teams every year...


and semi-regularly plays almost every year.

While I understand this guys point on some things but kids don't get fired up the LSU/Vandy either or how about Bama/Chattanoga.

For all the talk of USC owning ND the last 8 years it isn't even the longest streak which is owned by ND under Holtz who lost to USC one time, IIRC - his last year. He lost because he lost his starting QB the week before and lost in OT.

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