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The curse of prestige (or how ND is a victim of its past)Posted on September 4, 2011 at 01:22 PM.
Like it or not Notre Dame is a Legacy Program. They're ALWAYS going to get some kind of scrutiny but in my not so humble opinion the pressures and expectations put on ND over the years has finally caused the program to start circling the drain. To me, there are three things that hurt Notre Dame in the last 10 years and I think I have some solutions for said problems however some of these solutions may not be achievable because of the media and what have you.
So let's begin shall we?
1. Media expectations/overhype
Notre Dame has been coasting on its reputation as a Legacy Program because of the media exposure and overhype that they receive. If ND doesn't have the rich history behind it people would be giving the school the right amount of coverage rather than hyping the school to the moon and saying they've got great BCS chances. (i'm looking at you Lou Holtz) The fact of the matter is ND has been a good middle power type of school for the last decade and a half yet everyone treats the school like it's one of the elite programs and historically that may be the case but as it stands right now it's not even close to deserving this kind of coverage.
I think this kind of coverage has to do with the historic nature of the school AND the fact that it's an independent that has a pretty tough schedule year in, year out though lately the schedule hasn't been nearly as hard as it was in its hey day. There is a solution to this but it's a kill two birds with one stone type of thing so you'll get the solution to this in my last point.
2. Finding the right coach
Let's throw out Bob Davie's last season from this but as a precursor I have to say that Davie's record at ND wasn't so bad but he had two things to deal with that sunk him. One of which he couldn't help and that he was the man replacing a legend at the school. In a situation like that you're almost doomed to fail because you'll always be compared to the coach before you. The other problem Davie had, and this one was more controllable is that he had a wildly uneven tenure as the coach. One year would be sub-par than the next year they'd have a bounce back season then plummet the year after etc etc. He never had two losing seasons but he never had two winning ones either.
So i'm not so fussed that he was canned but you knew the writing was on the wall for trouble at ND when they hired George O'Leary and he had to resign in disgrace due to lying on his resume. So ND was in a bit of a bind but then hired a coach who was way over his head. Yes he had the background of coaching at a school with a similar institutional policy of recruiting student athletes but that was about it. Tyrone Willingham may have been a good PR hire for reasons I won't get into but that didn't trump the fact that he was taking over a program that he had no business coaching. Willingham's teams (save for his first season) were devoid of offensive creativity and production while the defense declined precipitously. The way ND was losing its game was stunning and often disheartening. It was as if Willingham didn't know what he was doing. His recruits hardly did much for him and the school was devoid of real talent.
So ND fires him and brings in an alumnus in Charlie Weis. Now i'm going to be perfectly honest here and say that I thought the Weis hire was a good one but boy was I wrong. Yes, ND had more success in some ways with Weis on board but overall it just wasn't working because Weis only recruited on the offensive side of the ball early in his tenure when it was the defense that needed more help. Weis also displayed a level of arrogance that isn't warranted when you're taking on a "dream job". The Weis Era saw "the offensive genius" often looking out coached with crazy gambles and his teams faltering defensively down the stretch. Even when Weis got the point and started recruiting defensive players it still didn't work and instead of trying to MAKE it work he bailed on the school.
Which brings up to Brian Kelly....Last night showed something to me that I saw in flashes last year and it's this, Kelly is not up to the job. The man often loses it on the sidelines and makes some rather irrational decisions. it's like seeing a kid trying to solve a puzzle and throwing all the pieces away.
So what is the cure to this problem, unfortunately the college football coaching world is a young man's one and there's no older statesman around that ND can turn to. What this program needs more than anything is a guy who won't call attention to himself and put his nose to the grindstone even possibly going to a simpler gameplan on both sides of the ball. When ND was looking for a new coach I pointed out Skip Holtz and said he'd be a good guy to bring in for the legacy aspect and for the fact that he rose up through the ranks at different schools and seeing the different football cultures. He may have been only a one time head coach (ECU) but he was a guy that unlike the hot shot coaches around has a fairly level head about him and has been exposed to different philosophies plus he's helped greatly by having an all-time great college coach for a father he can lean on for help and advice. Unfortunately for ND they chose the hotshot route once again and it's backfiring miserably IMO.
I just don't know what the school will do if the Kelly Era turns out to be as bad as I think it'll be. Seriously they should've went with Skip as he's taken USF which was already a program on the rise and has bolstered it.
3. Time to stop being an Independent
This goes back to my first point of how ND is getting way too overhyped. It's time for The Powers That Be at Notre Dame to swallow the pill on the football side and join a conference. The basketball program is already aligned with the Big East but I don't think ND would fit in that football conference. The better fit would be the Big Ten however that ship may have sailed past them as it's a 12 team conference now. Unless the Big Ten can find another school and make it a 14 team conference ND won't be able to fit unless they want to go back to the unbalanced conference structure they've had for years before this current setup.
Either way, putting ND in a conference would put the glaring spotlight off the school as a national entity and make it just "one of them". There'll still be media hype but it won't be as loud and obnoxious. This'll also allow ND to rebuild in a structure that will allow it to be readily compared to other teams rather than trying to be the best without a real point of comparison. ND can keep its rivalry with USC as a non conference game and still have its neutral site games. (again as a non conference matchup) The only hangup is the NBC deal, I think if cooler heads prevail ND could split some of the revenues with the other schools as they're making money hand over fist with NBC. It'll be another source of revenue (BIG 10) or a completely new source of revenue that it badly needs. (BIG EAST) Putting ND in a conference would allow the school build its football program relative to others and provide a natural stepping stone to greater national success.
Well that's it for my thoughts. I know I can be verbose but I thought it was high time I just let my feelings be known. I DO think Notre Dame can be a stable and good program if the administration just looks at the reality of the situation rather than believing it's still 1970-something.
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