Notre Dame mystique is all about the money
By Mike Hutton 648-3139 or email@example.com August 21, 2012 11:18PM
Notre Dame Stadium was evacuated because of sever weather at half time of an NCAA college football game between the Notre Dame and the South Florida in South Bend, Ind., Saturday, Sept. 3, 2011. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Updated: September 23, 2012 6:20AM
Who remembers this list of forgettable coaches? Bill Curry, Gene Stallings, Ray Perkins, Mike Dubose, Dennis Franchione and finally, Mike Shula?
If you’re an Alabama football fan, that’s an easy question. That’s the assembly line of coaches that tried to replace Bear Bryant before Nick Saban took the express train out of Miami to save that program from its self-inflicted misery. Stallings followed an 11-1 finish in 1991 with a 13-0 record and a national title in 1992. Wasn’t ever really good enough for the Tide fans and their unquenchable appetite for success.
How about this stellar 19-year run for the nation’s No. 1 ranked team today? USC was 130-88-6 from 1983 through 2001 — Pete Carroll’s first year — before Carroll flipped the switch. The Trojans had Ted Tollner, Larry Smith, a recycled John Robinson and Paul Hackett roaming the sidelines before Carroll, the greatest modern college coach I ever covered, was hired. That two-decade run of misery was unforgiveable for a program of USC’s stature. The Trojans had everything — the babes, the beach, the sunshine, the history and a solid academic tradition. That cycle of losing was essentially unjustifiable, especially considering that Carroll was the fourth choice in 2001 behind Mike Riley, Dennis Erickson and Mike Bellotti.
Ohio State was never really happy with John Cooper and Earl Bruce after Woody Hayes imploded, even though the Buckeyes regularly finished 10-2 or 9-3. Losing to Michigan consistently eventually gave them Jim Tressel, the man who was on his way to being Hayes before he soiled the program with his cover-ups and lies and was fired. I’m sure Urban Meyer gets them back on top if he controls his impulse to work himself to death.
I bring this up partially in response to Rick Reilly’s column on ESPN.com, in which he talked about the irrational demand for Notre Dame football. Reilly unilaterally declared that the Irish’s mega TV deal with NBC should be yanked and they should no longer be allowed to have influence over the BCS discussions because they’ve played mostly awful football since 1993. I have a Purdue friend who bemoans the fact that every time a high school player verbally commits to Notre Dame, that player is automatically bumped up a star by the scouting services.
That ND has been lousy for 19 years is a point of a unquenchable satisfaction and joy for a huge number of college football fans, who hate the Irish with all their heart and soul and a source of great despair and agony for the diehard Domers, who always believe they are on the cusp of greatness despite finishing 130-89-1 since 1994.
This, of course, is how the school accumulates value. The Irish are polarizing. There are no neutral responses to Notre Dame football.
Reilly’s points are valid. The Irish don’t deserve the respect they seemingly get from the NCAA and from the television executives, based on production. It’s definitely not a pay-for-performance system.
It’s called the free market. ND is like that promising stock that can bust out anytime — at least that is what the TV executives and NCAA officials believe. Even if they don’t, enough people rejoice at their struggles that the extensions they roll out every five years for more mediocrity make it worth the risk.
If Alabama, USC and OSU to a degree can lose their way for a few decades and then make a triumphant return back to the top, anything is possible, including a place for the Irish among the elite programs in the game today.
Hopeful thinking? Perhaps but not impossible. Nobody, except for the legion of OSU, Alabama and USC fans cared much when they were playing mediocre football and that wasn’t all that long ago. Everybody who cares about college football cares about Notre Dame in some way. Every ND fans wonders now if Brian Kelly will be the guy and this will be the year that the Irish finally turn it around. For the people that count the money and make the deals, it doesn’t really matter.
Notre Dame sells even though, on so many levels, it’s hard to understand why.