Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Recent Trend in South Bend Making Irish a National Non-Factor

It’s time for a good ol’ fashioned Irish wake. Time to sing “Danny Boy” – or is it “Charlie Boy” – because the pipes, the pipes have been calling. It’s too easy to blame Charlie Weis, though, because even he can’t raise the dead. And that’s what Notre Dame is – a dying breed.

Like horse racing, boxing and the Olympics, Notre Dame has become an irrelevant reminder of a bygone era. They will still be a popular team – generations of subway alums will do that – but for all intents and purposes, Notre Dame’s time as the Yankees of college football is officially over.

Ever since Lou Holtz left South Bend in 1996, the Irish have followed the same pattern with every new hire: quick rise with new coach; green jersey curse destroys national title hopes; invitation to BCS bowl game they do not deserve; slow realization that they’re not that good; dismal record; dismissal of coach; speculation over which big name is going to take the job; top candidates spurn offer – or lie – leaving Notre Dame to settle for backup choice; quick rise with new coach and so on and so forth.

Since 1996, Bob Davie had the Irish in a BCS bowl against Oregon State before Chad Ochocinco, formerly known as Johnson, ran all over them. In five years, Davie was gone, and Tyrone Willingham, who only got the job because George O’Leary decided to lie on his résumé, took over.

Willingham had Notre Dame in the top five, with wide receiver Maurice Stovall getting the cover nod from Sports Illustrated, before the Irish donned the green jerseys (à la 1985) against Boston College and blew the game and their season. A few years later he was gone and it looked like Urban Meyer would be at the helm, but he spurned the Irish and found a home in Gainesville, where he has since converted Floridians to Gator blue with the help of St. Tebow.

Instead, the Irish got Charlie, who came in swearing and cursing that he wouldn’t lose to Pete Carroll, only to get shellacked – or “Bush pushed” in one case – by USC in the battle for the Shillelagh year in and year out.

So what’s wrong with the Irish? It’s not just the coaches; it’s Tom Lemming, for one.

Lemming and his wildly inaccurate recruiting rankings have raised the expectations of the Irish and their faithful to unrealistic levels. Considered by many to be the biggest name in college football recruiting and high school talent evaluation, he plays a big role in picking the Army All-American game roster, and his recruiting rankings can send a team into the preseason with either a boon or a boost.

The problem many have with Lemming is that his rankings tend to favor Notre Dame a little too much.

While you have some great talents who are Notre Dame recruits, there are a lot of Notre Dame recruits who get recognized as great talents by Lemming just because of their commitment to Notre Dame. Since he plays such a large role in the All-American game, his biases influence not only that All-American list and his own lists but the impression that fans – watching players announce their commitment to Notre Dame at the game – have of the Irish’s recruiting class.

His rankings – he gave the Irish three straight top-10 recruiting classes, which only amounted to a 16-21 record – raise the hopes and expectations of the Irish faithful, setting them up for a letdown in the fall.

Unfortunately, it’s not Lemming that sent three straight coaches to the Guillotine (or four, depending on your view of the Lou Holtz departure). It was Notre Dame and Notre Dame alone that did it. Lemming may have created high expectations, but Notre Dame has raised them to almost soul-crushing heights.

Coaching at Notre Dame is like managing the Yankees – if the Yankees had the Royals’ payroll. There’s the Steinbrenner expectations, but, while coaches are well compensated and the facilities are great, Notre Dame handicaps who they can recruit, with inordinately high academic standards, and how they can develop those players, with an archaic refusal to redshirt players.

With the school’s academic standards, it makes you wonder how many big-time players slipped through the cracks because the Irish refused them entrance, despite the fact they passed NCAA clearing house, only to succeed academically and athletically at another school.

Then there’s the Irish’s idea of redshirting and their strict rules regarding the redshirt years of players. For a time it was only for medical reasons, which may have changed in recent years, but their policy still hasn’t caught up to those of the rest of the country. Notre Dame has to choose whether it wants to join the Ivy’s and hold its nose up at everyone, or if it wants to compete for the BCS and hold up that crystal ball.

Plus, if you’re a coach touring South Bend, you have to be thinking about what players really want to come there to play. The majority of blue-chip talent is located in California, Florida, Texas and along the Gulf Coast. These kids have grown up watching the SEC and Pac 10 and are less impressed with the aura of Notre Dame.

South Bend is known for being cold and boring and for its local high school basketball team, which lost to Jimmy Chitwood and the Hickory Hoosiers in the 1952 Indiana state basketball championship. It’s going to be a tough sell to tell a blue chip from Pahokee to come to dreary South Bend when he can go to Coral Gables or Gainesville and be close to home in the beautiful Sunshine State.

ost importantly, the luster on Touchdown Jesus’ halo just isn’t what it used to be. Since Notre Dame won its 11th and most recent consensus national championship, Miami has won three with one Heisman trophy winner, Florida has won three with two Heisman winners, USC has won two with three Heisman winners and Texas (one Heisman and another on the way in Colt McCoy) and Oklahoma (two Heismans) have each won one national title.

First-round draft picks? Notre Dame doesn’t compare. In the past 10 years, Miami has 27, Florida State 13, Florida 11, Texas 13, USC 16 – and Notre Dame has a measly three. This is partly due to academic standards but also because Notre Dame isn’t as elite of a recruiting destination as it once was. Notre Dame may have been depicted on film as a backdrop for a young Ronald Reagan and a future hobbit, but movies and tradition don’t mean much to recruits if other schools are producing titles and first-round draft picks.

Now Notre Dame begins its search for a new coach. Meyer has said he isn’t leaving Gainesville and Bob Stoops insists he’s staying in Norman. That leaves Brian Kelly as the most logical choice. He may learn from Rich Rodriguez’s example and want to stay in the Big East, where the expectations are lower and the chances for making the BCS are better, but Cincinnati isn’t West Virginia and it certainly isn’t Notre Dame.

ost likely, he’ll drop everything and rush to South Bend amid all the promises of Irish glory. We’ll hear how he turned Cincinnati into a national contender, but like his predecessors – Tyrone Willingham (Rose Bowl win) and Charlie Weis (four Super Bowl rings) – who had success before coming to Notre Dame, he’ll become handicapped by the same things that have done in those who came before him. If he can get some concessions from the Notre Dame administration on academic standards things could be better, but if not, it’ll be the same old song and dance.

In the meantime, Irish fans can shine the Golden Dome, get ready for intramural boxing and remember the days of Joe Montana and Tony Rice because sunny days are going to be hard to come by in South Bend.

Ryan Travers is a senior in the College. He can be reached at Illegal Procedure appears in every Friday issue of Hoya Sports.”

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