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Wednesday, December 1


Notre Dame Blows It

A tragedy occurred yesterday in South Bend. The firing of head football coach, Tyrone Willingham, was a mistake of monumental proportions. Let me begin by outlining my dislike for all things Notre Dame. I don't like the Play Like a Champion Sign. I don't believe Jesus cares if Notre Dame scores ten touchdowns or none. I hate that Notre Dame is on network television regardless of the opponent or the score. But all that being said, Notre Dame is still a fine academic institution with a history of football excellence. Yesterday, the athletic department and school administrators panicked and didn't realize what a good fit Willingham was.

Three years is not enough time to rebuild a storied football program. Three years is barely enough time to teach a new offense. Willingham, like Parcells this year with the Cowboys, is a victim of overachievement. Notre Dame didn't have the players to win ten games two years ago but somehow they did. The ND alumni grew excited and dreamed of national championships, Heisman trophy winners, and national prestige. But last year ND fell back, the victim of mediocre talent and an impossible schedule. Willingham wasn't even give the opportunity to recruit, coach, improve, and graduate his own players. The only players he personally recruited are only freshman and sophomores. Underclassmen dominate college basketball, but most are not
physically gifted enough or mentally tough enough to make immediate impacts in major college football.

All that being said Notre Dame is victimized every year by their independent status and their name. They don't get to play Mississippi or Baylor or Rutgers or Illinois in conference or get to schedule cupcakes like
Louisiana-Lafayette or North Texas. ND plays one of the most difficult schedules in the country year in and year out. They have perennial powerhouses Michigan and USC every year and up and coming teams like
Pittsburg, Boston College, and Purdue. This year they also played Tennessee in Knoxville. Of course they play Navy and Stanford every year as well, but those are not in the same category with the above mentioned teams.

If Mississippi wins an SEC game, that is considered an achievement. But if Navy or Air Force beats ND, that is historic. They might as well cancel the rest of their games because they will not have a bigger win the rest of the season and maybe not the rest of the decade. ND may very well attract the hottest coach in the country, Urban Meyer from Utah, but they will still have made a mistake. What top notch high school recruit will want to go to Notre Dame now? They gave up on their coach too soon and without much merit. Willingham accomplished all he could in three short years: two bowl berths, competitive games, and a step in the right direction. Until the administration decides to give up big time NBC money, join a conference, and play a weaker schedule, they will be searching for renewed hope at the end of each football season. My dislike for Notre Dame grew just a little more yesterday afternoon.


I absolutely agree with Andrew. Three years is a ridiculously short amount of time to try to rescue a program from Bob Davie. I have to believe there's something else at work here; most likely, as Andrew suggested, Urban Meyer Salivation Syndrome. While I think Meyer is a fine coach, I can't say that I think bagging Willingham was a good idea. As Andrew correctly noted, it isn't fair and it sends a horrible message to kids who might want to go there.

Notre Dame may have once stood atop the mountain, but from where I'm sitting, this is yet another step backwards...

Fellas, I have to disagree with you.

The current system is set up to favor Notre Dame. Without going into whether that's fair or not, they don't have to do as much as other schools to reach the BCS. All they have to do is win nine games. There are 15 teams with nine wins already this season, including Utah and flavor-of-the-month coach Meyer.

If ND wants to trade Willingham for Meyer, why shouldn't they be able to? Meyer was an assistant coach at ND, so the Irish know exactly what they are getting. And don't forget that Willingham was not ND's first choice three years ago.

But here's the point I really want to make. College sports has become just like pro sports. The money and support is overwhelming, and it's fair to expect a return on your investment. Willingham was paid well for his time at ND, and he'll get another job. He's already being mentioned as a candidate for Washington's vacancy.

I hate the crying about how it's so unfair to fire a coach. It's not like they fired a guy who ever won them anything big. Their 2004 season ended with a trip to the Insight Bowl! Come on. What's the worst thing that can happen with this move? Meyer takes over and they don't go to a bowl? To ND fans, what's the difference in that from this year? If Texas fell to the Houston Bowl, I'd want Mack Brown run out of town, too. Maybe my expectations are too high, but I don't think so. If I'm an AD and I give you all the resources in the world and you don't produce results I am satisfied with, it's my right to fire you. Every coach would agree with that statement. Every coach knows eventually he will be fired or leave for a better job.

ND's posturing as a true academic institution makes me sick. If they want to be Harvard, go play in the Ivy League and stop giving academic scholarships. If they want to compete for the BCS and national championships, admit you're just like the rest of the country. No one rips Oklahoma, USC, Texas, Auburn and Cal (the current top five) for having lower academic standards that ND. And we all know many of the athletes playing at these schools would not be at the school if they weren't an athlete. But so what? College sports are about money, pure and simple. The good old days of winning one for the gipper are gone, and I say good riddance. The hypocrisy in trying to be all things to all people is disgusting. Admit it’s all about wins and cash, not grades and raising fine young men. College football is a farm system for the NFL. There’s a reason the networks spend billions to broadcast the games, and it sure isn’t because of the good sportsmanship of State U.

Colleges should quit pretending they recruit players to give them an education. Ricky Williams was shown as the face of UT in 1998 during his Heisman run despite the fact he had less than 60 hours of credit. He'll probably never graduate, but that doesn't make him any less of a Longhorn in my eyes. I don't cheer for these players for their brains, anyway. I know their statistics, not their GPAs.

In closing and getting back to your point, ND knows they aren't at the top of the mountain. They decided Willingham wasn't ever going to get them there, or at least couldn’t get them there as fast as another coach, so they made a switch. I see nothing wrong with that.
I agree with a lot of what you're saying, Travis, but I don't think there was any case being made for why ND should fire Willingham. It's not so much that I don't think they have a right to (they do), it's that such a move is impatient and unjustified. Willingham is a damn good coach, in my opinion, and I think ND made a mistake in rushing to the judgment that he isn't.

Notre Dame's problem is not that Willingham can't get them to the top of a system that's built for them, it's that they have the chicken shit white boy culture. I agree with you - if they want to win, drop the pretense of being about building solid young men. Drop that BS and not your excellent coach...
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