Thursday, December 10, 2009

Brian Kelly is new Irish Head Football Coach

Received the following e-mail from the Alumni Association. Good and detailed writeup of Kelly's resume. The more I read, the more I like this hire.

The University has named Brian Kelly as Notre Dame’s new head football coach. Please see the press release below. A press conference is scheduled for Friday, December 11, at 1:30 pm EST, and can be viewed live at

For Notre Dame,

Chuck Lennon ’61, ’62 M.A.
Executive Director, Notre Dame Alumni Association
Associate Vice President, University Relations


December 10, 2009

Brian Kelly Named 29th Head Football Coach at Notre Dame

Brian Kelly, a veteran of 19 seasons as a collegiate head coach -- and most recently the architect of two consecutive Bowl Championship Series appearances at the University of Cincinnati, including a perfect 12-0 regular season in 2009 that earned him national-coach-of-the-year honors – tonight has been named the 29th head football coach at the University of Notre Dame.

Currently the ninth-winningest active coach in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision in terms of victories, Kelly has signed a five-year contract to coach the Irish. He will be introduced at a 1:30 p.m. EST Friday press conference at the Guglielmino Athletics Center. Kelly officially takes over at Notre Dame on Monday; he will not coach the Bearcats in their Sugar Bowl date against Florida.

Kelly’s head coaching resume includes:

Three seasons at Cincinnati from 2007-09, including a 34-6 record (.850) and two straight outright BIG EAST Conference title teams that earned BCS appearances in 2008 (Orange Bowl) and ’09 (Sugar Bowl).
Three seasons at Central Michigan University from 2004-06, including a 19-16 overall record (.542) that featured a 9-4 mark and Mid-American Conference title in 2006.
Thirteen seasons at Grand Valley State University from 1991-2003, including a 118-35-2 record (.767) that was highlighted by NCAA Division II national championships in 2002 (14-0) and 2003 (14-1).
An overall record of 171-57-2 (.747) in those 19 seasons as a head coach.
“I am very pleased that a thorough and extensive search has led us to a new head coach in Brian Kelly, who I am confident will help us accomplish our goal of competing for national championships,” said Notre Dame athletics director Jack Swarbrick.

“I am absolutely delighted to welcome Brian and his family to the Notre Dame family,” said Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., Notre Dame’s president. “He brings to us a long and successful career as a head coach, and I am confident that he will have even greater success here. I’m also very pleased that he has put considerable emphasis on excellence in the classroom and that his student-athletes graduate at a rate well above the norm.”

Kelly earned the Home Depot National Coach of the Year Award in 2009, was the BIG EAST Conference Coach of the Year in 2007, 2008 and 2009 (the first time a BIG EAST football coach has won the award three straight years) -- and was the American Football Coaches Association Division II Coach of the Year in both 2002 and 2003. Kelly currently ranks ninth among active FBS head coaches in victories with 171. He is the winningest active BIG EAST football coach and the only league coach with more than 150 wins.

He boasted a 2-1 record at Cincinnati in postseason bowl games – including a 27-24 win over Western Michigan in the International Bowl after the 2006 season (he coached in that game immediately after taking the job at Cincinnati), a 31-21 win over Southern Mississippi in the Bowl after the ’07 season and a 20-7 loss to Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl after the ’08 campaign. Kelly’s ’06 Central Michigan team finished 9-4 and qualified for the Motor City Bowl (Central Michigan defeated Middle Tennessee 31-14, though he did not coach after accepting the head coaching position at Cincinnati) – and his 12-0 team in ’09 earned a Sugar Bowl assignment against Florida.

In six NCAA Division II playoff appearances at Grand Valley State, Kelly’s teams combined for an 11-4 (.733) postseason record – including four straight victories in winning both the ’02 and ’03 NCAA titles. His ’01 Grand Valley State team fell 17-14 to North Dakota in the Division II national title game.

Kelly’s ’09 team at Cincinnati finished third in the final BCS standings and fourth in both the final regular-season Associated Press and USA Today/ESPN polls. His ’08 team ended up 11-3 and 17th in both polls – and his ‘07 Bearcat squad finished 10-3 and 17th (AP) and 20th (USA Today/ESPN) in the final polls.

His 2009 Cincinnati team won all 12 of its regular-season games, led the nation in passing efficiency (166.19), ranked second in kickoff returns (29.2 each) and sixth in total offense (464.25 yards per game), passing yardage (320.33) and scoring (39.83 points). Meanwhile, Kelly’s Bearcat defense rated third nationally in tackles for losses (8.42 per game) and eighth in sacks (2.92). Among the standouts he coached on the ’09 Bearcat roster are first-team All-America receiver Mardy Gilyard (he ranks second nationally in all-purpose yards at 203.5 per game) and quarterback Tony Pike (ninth in passing efficiency at 155.36). Eleven Cincinnati players merited all-BIG EAST honors for ’09 (five first-team selections), including Gilyard, the league’s Special Teams Player of the Year for the second straight season.

In three years at the helm of the program, Kelly put together a 34-6 record and led the Bearcats to their first two BIG EAST Conference championships in 2008 and ‘09.

 Cincinnati achieved a then-school-record 11 victories in 2008, followed that up with a dozen wins in ’09, and had back-to-back-to-back 10-win seasons for the first time in school history. Kelly’s Bearcats in ’08 won the school's first outright conference championship since 1964, and earned the school's first berth in a BCS game, playing against Virginia Tech in the 75th FedEx Orange Bowl. 

In ’08 Cincinnati achieved its then-highest ranking to close the regular season – 12th in the AP and USA Today/ESPN polls and the BCS standings entering the Orange Bowl. The Bearcats held down a postseason ranking of 17th in both polls, tying the top postseason ranking in school history and marking the first time Cincinnati was ranked in the end-of-season polls in school history.

Following the close of the ’08 regular season, Kelly was named the BIG EAST Coach of the Year for the second straight season. He also was named the American Football Monthly Schutt Sports FBS Coach of the Year, earned AFCA Region 1 Coach of the Year honors and was named BIG EAST Coach of the Year by Sporting News.

Cincinnati placed 10 players on the 2008 all-BIG EAST teams (including first-team selection Connor Barwin) – with kick returner Gilyard named the BIG EAST Special Teams Player of the Year and punter Kevin Huber earning the first AFCA All-America nod in program history. Huber became the first two-time AP first-team All-America selection in Bearcat football history.

The Bearcats' 27-24 bowl victory over Western Michigan in 2006 came just 34 days after his hiring.

 Then, in his first full season at the helm in ‘07, Kelly put the Bearcats on the national radar by jumping out to a 6-0 start and earning the Bearcats their first appearance in the polls in more than 30 years. By winning 10 games for the first time since 1951, the Bearcats earned their 10th bowl appearance in program history and sixth bowl appearance in eight years. Cincinnati finished 17th in the AP poll, earning its first appearance in a final poll.

Along the way to the 2007 Bowl victory, the Bearcats’ third straight bowl win, Kelly earned BIG EAST Coach of the Year honors. Cincinnati listed seven individuals on the all-BIG EAST teams, including BIG EAST Special Teams Player of the Year and consensus All-America punter Huber. The national leader in punting, Huber was one of three Bearcats to be named to an All-America team.

 Cincinnati ranked second in the BIG EAST and 24th nationally in passing offense (254.1), and was also second in the league and 27th nationally in passing efficiency (139.4). At the same time, the Bearcat defense led the BIG EAST in sacks (2.9) and tackles for a loss (6.5).

 Kelly’s Bearcats led the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) in net punting with an average of 41.5 yards per punt. Cincinnati also led the BIG EAST in kickoff returns (24.2).

During his three years at Central Michigan, he transformed a Chippewa program that had won more than three games only once in the past four seasons into a conference champion. Central Michigan posted a 9-4 record in 2006 en route to winning the MAC title and qualifying for its first bowl game in 12 years.

 Kelly inherited a program that had produced a mere 12 wins over its previous four seasons when he took the helm at Central Michigan in 2004. He guided the Chippewas to a 4-7 record in 2004 and a 6-5 slate -- the school's first winning season in seven years -- in 2005.

The Chippewas in 2005 defeated both defending MAC divisional champions, Miami and Toledo, and also knocked off eventual ‘05 league champ Akron. Central Michigan was ranked 35th nationally in total offense and 26th in passing offense while the team's rushing defense was ranked 20th (while leading the MAC at 113.7 yards per game, compared to 245.8 in ’03 -- the year before Kelly arrived). 

Kelly's 2006 Chippewas lost non-conference contests to bowl-bound Boston College and Kentucky by a combined 16 points. Central Michigan rolled up a 7-1 record in conference play to win the MAC West, then dominated Ohio 31-10 in the league championship game. Central Michigan boasted the 19th-most prolific passing attack in the nation, averaging 252.4 yards per game, and was ranked 31st in total offense (380.2 yards per game) and 24th in scoring offense (29.6 points). Quarterback Dan LeFevour, a freshman who passed for 2,869 yards and 25 touchdowns, was ranked 20th in passing efficiency and 14th in total offense. 

Kelly had 12 of his players achieve first-team all-conference honors over his three years at Central Michigan (including ’05 MAC Defensive Player of the Year Daniel Bazuin) -- and three advanced to the NFL (including 2005 draftees Eric Ghiacuic and Adam Kieft and free agent Tory Humphrey). 

Kelly arrived at Central Michigan after winning the back-to-back NCAA Division II national titles at Grand Valley State. The Lakers were 41-2 in Kelly's final three seasons, at one point winning 32 consecutive games. Grand Valley State went 14-0 in 2002 en route to its first national title and was 14-1 in 2003 when it claimed its second crown. Kelly was named the AFCA Division II Coach of the Year after both seasons. 

Kelly led the Lakers to five conference titles and six Division II playoff appearances in his 13 seasons at Grand Valley. The Lakers never finished lower than third in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletics Conference. 

Kelly mentored a pair of finalists for the Harlon Hill Award, presented annually to the top player in Division II. Curt Anes won the award in 2002 after finishing as runner-up in 2001, while Jeff Fox was third in the balloting in 1998. Both players were quarterbacks in Kelly's system. 

Kelly's Grand Valley State players earned 77 All-America awards (11 in 2002 alone). Four players moved on to the NFL and another three to the Canadian Football League.

His 2001 national runner-up squad set 77 NCAA, GLIAC and school records, including the all-time Division II scoring record by averaging 58.4 points per game. The 2001 team also became the first Division II unit in 53 years to average more than 600 yards per game in total offense (600.8). 

Grand Valley State followed up its record-shattering 2001 season by averaging 497.5 yards and 47.0 points during its undefeated 2002 national championship run (that ended with a 31-24 championship game win over Valdosta State) The 2003 team, meanwhile, was more noted for its defense. The Lakers defeated North Dakota 10-3 in the 2003 national title game.

 In 10 of his 13 seasons at Grand Valley State, Kelly’s teams won eight or more games – and he finished with a 103-22-2 mark in GLIAC contests.

Born Oct. 25, 1961, in Everett, Mass., and raised in Chelsea, Mass., Kelly attended St. John's Prep School in Danvers, Mass. He was a four-year letter-winner at Assumption College (Worchester, Mass.) as a linebacker, captaining the squad in both ’81 and ’82 under coach Paul Cantiani on teams that finished 8-3 and 7-1-1. After graduating from Assumption in 1983 with a bachelor's degree in political science, he served as linebacker coach, defensive coordinator and softball coach from 1983-86 at Assumption under head football coach Bernie Gaughan.

Kelly joined the Grand Valley State staff in 1987 as a graduate assistant and defensive backs coach. He became the defensive coordinator and recruiting coordinator in 1989 and took over as head coach in 1991 (replacing Tom Beck, who left to become running backs coach at Notre Dame under Lou Holtz). His very first team Laker team finished 9-3 and qualified for the NCAA playoffs. In 2009 Kelly was inducted into the Grand Valley State Athletics Hall of Fame.

Kelly has served on the AFCA Ethics Committee – and he’s currently one of 59 FBS head coaches who vote in the USA Today poll.

Kelly and his wife Paqui are parents of three children – Patrick, Grace and Kenzel.


Year by Year with Brian Kelly

Year School Position Record/Postseason
1983 Assumption Defensive Coordinator/
Linebackers 4-5
1984 Assumption Defensive Coordinator/
1985 Assumption Defensive Coordinator/
Linebackers 5-3
1986 Assumption Defensive Coordinator/
Linebackers 1-8
1987 Grand Valley State Graduate Assistant/
Defensive Backs
1988 Grand Valley State Graduate Assistant/
Defensive Backs 7-4
1989 Grand Valley State Defensive Coordinator/
Recruiting Coordinator 11-1/NCAA Division II playoffs (0-1)
1990 Grand Valley State Defensive Coordinator/
Recruiting Coordinator 10-2/NCAA Division II playoffs (0-1)

1991 Grand Valley State Head Coach NCAA Division II playoffs (0-1)
1992 Grand Valley State Head Coach 8-3
1993 Grand Valley State Head Coach 6-3-2
1994 Grand Valley State Head Coach 8-4/NCAA Division II playoffs (0-1)
1995 Grand Valley State Head Coach 8-3
1996 Grand Valley State Head Coach 8-3
1997 Grand Valley State Head Coach 9-2
1998 Grand Valley State Head Coach 9-3/NCAA Division II playoffs (0-1)
1999 Grand Valley State Head Coach 5-5
2000 Grand Valley State Head Coach 7-4
2001 Grand Valley State Head Coach 13-1/NCAA Division II runner-up (3-1)
2002 Grand Valley State Head Coach 14-0/NCAA Division II champion (4-0)
2003 Grand Valley State Head Coach 14-1/NCAA Division II champion (4-0)
2004 Central Michigan Head Coach 4-7
2005 Central Michigan Head Coach 6-5
2006 Central Michigan Head Coach 9-4/qualified for Motor City Bowl
2006 Cincinnati Head Coach 1-0/International Bowl:
W 27-24 vs. Western Michigan
2007 Cincinnati Head Coach 10-3/ Bowl:
W 31-21 vs. Southern Mississippi
2008 Cincinnati Head Coach 11-3/Orange Bowl:
L 7-20 vs. Virginia Tech
2009 Cincinnati Head Coach 12-0/qualified for Sugar Bowl vs. Florida

Grand Valley State Totals (13 seasons) 118-35-2 .767
Central Michigan Totals (3 seasons) 19-16 .542
Cincinnati Totals (3 seasons) 34-6 .850
Overall Totals (19 seasons) 171-57-2 .747

Get used to Kelly Green!

It's not quite official, but Brian Kelly announced to his football team today that he will be accepting the head football coaching position at the University of Notre Dame. An official announcement should be coming tomorrow.

I like the hire, and while it's not the "home run" hire that Meyer or Stoops would have been, it's certainly at least a lead off triple.

If you want to know more about Kelly's background, please read my post earlier this week.

The thing that gives me the most hope about Brian Kelly is that he has a strong history of coaching kids to perform above their athletic ability. He's taken a Cincinnati team that had a bunch of unheralded kids,a nd has led them to an undefeated season and a #3 ranking in his third season on campus.

That tells me that this guy knows how to teach kids fundamentals, which is the one thing that has been sorely lacking under Weis' regime. Weis relied too much on athletic talent and didn't spend enough time drilling fundamentals.

There are many concerns about Kelly being bandied about on message boards, but most of them, near as I can tell, are misinformed.

First, let's look at the "Kelly can't recruit nationally" argument. Here are the last 6 years worth of rankings of recruiting classes on for Cincinnati:

2005: 94
2006: 102
2007: 89
*Kelly hired*
2008: 67
2009: 60
2010: 44

Before Kelly: average 98th recruiting class
During Kelly: average 58th recruiting class
Change: +40

That means that Kelly has built Cincy's talent base from a program that couldn't get anyone to come to campus into the top third in the country in recruiting.

Also, much has been made about Kelly's lack of experience at a major program. People apparently feel that the Big East is somehow not a big time conference, despite their automatic BCS bid. He doesn't have any idea what's coming under the spotlights at Notre Dame.

Now, to be fair, I don't think even Urban Meyer and Bob Stoops have any idea what it's like to work under the microscope that is the Notre Dame fan base. But, I hardly think that Utah and Bowling Green were better preparation the spotlight for Urban Meyer than Central Michigan and Cincinatti were for Kelly. And nobody seemed to complain about Meyer's ability to handle the spotlight four years ago. And I have never heard of anything controversial linked to Brian Kelly - no crazy comments, no off the field issues, nothing. Not even a hint of NCAA violations. Please, someone correct me if I'm wrong.

A lot of people complained about the "tweeting" issue when Kelly announced that he would listen to Notre Dame, and again when he said he wouldn't be interviewing on Tuesday. That it was somehow amateurish. I disagree. He was very careful in stating that he would listen, rather than issuing vague denials or outright lies like Saban did. He was open and honest about the process, and I'm certain he had a conversation with Notre Dame about controlling the flow of information and in making the decision to release those tweets.

Too many people are so quick to read ulterior motives in the absence of real information.

In fact, I must say that Jack Swarbrick really impressed me with the way this search was handled. I have no idea whether he contacted anyone else but Brian Kelly. And that's a good thing. There was no egg on our face from being left standing at the altar by Stoops or Meyer. There was no public outing of his whereabouts or that of the Notre Dame plane. In fact, the lid on this search was as tight as any I've ever seen at a major program.

Remember when Alabama hired Saban, they were publicly rebuffed by Rich Rodriguez first. And Florida, while they did wrap up the deal with Urban Meyer, could have been just as publicly humiliated as Notre Dame had we managed to pull Meyer to South Bend.

The news "leaks" from the media were all from unnamed sources, and all appeared to ultimately be from unreliable sources. Indeed, the whole "rumor" about Bielema (a total hoax) came from the fact that there was no other information out there, and so the media was forced to rely on whatever it could scrape together to drive readership onto their site.

I think Kelly is a great hire for Notre Dame, and with all of the talent stocked up by Coach Weis, he should be able to get this team performing at a top level in short order.

And if any of those fair weather malcontent posters on NDNation that don't want to support the new coach have extra tickets, I'll gladly take them off your hands. Just shoot me an e-mail at

Monday, December 07, 2009

Reality check: Brian Kelly

So, I've been perusing the NDNation boards, and I'm absolutely amazed at the level of arrogance being put forth by the posters over there, especially the BoardOps, who seem to view the hiring of any person not named Meyer, Stoops, Saban or Gruden as a sign that Notre Dame will shortly fold up football operations and become the next University of Chicago.

So, I thought I would attempt to provide some of the facts on Kelly's background, and why I think that he is the best possible hire the Fightin' Irish could make right now. I'm not saying that the Irish are definitely going to hire Kelly, but based on the fact that his interview with the Irish tomorrow has been leaked, I have to believe that there is much more than just passing interest - there is no way that either side leaks the "interview" unless both sides have already gotten past the getting to know you phase, and are just trying to finish the details to tie the knot.

First, I think that the Notre Dame fan base needs to realize that they are not head and shoulders above everyone else, that they can just swoop into any school, wave around a bunch of money, and hire away a coach from another top tier football program. Alabama, Oklahoma, and yes, even Florida, are not "below" the Irish such that a coach would necessarily look at taking the Irish job as a step up. At best, it would be a lateral move. I thought we had a shot at Stoops because he had a rough season, and is a midwest Catholic boy - I thought maybe his upbringing might sway him to try something new.

But, he decided to stay put at Oklahoma, and I can't say that I blame him.

And once you take those names off the board, you put yourself in a position to look at the best "up-and-coming" coaches out there. And when you look at Kelly's resume objectively, it looks very similar to the resumes of the likes of Meyer and Tressel when they took over their current positions at top-tier programs.

So let's take a look at Kelly's resume:

Brian Kelly
Current Position: Head Coach, University of Cincinnati

Work Experience

Grand Valley State University
Graduate Assistant & Defensive Backs Coach, 1987-1988
Defensive Coordinator 1989-1990
Head Coach 1991 - 2003
Record (Head Coach): 118-35-2 (0.767 winning percentage)
2 Division II National Titles, 5 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletics Conference titles

He had a pretty quick rise from position coach to coordinator to head coach, but he did have two seasons at each, meaning that he understands what it takes to be a position coach and coordinator, unlike Willingham or the Redskins' Jim Zorn.

As head coach, he built GVSU into a championship team. He won Division II National Championships in 2002 and 2003, also earning Coach of the Year honors in both of those seasons. In 13 seasons, he won 5 conference titles, and appeared in 6 Division II playoffs. He never finished lower than third in his conference.

He set numerous records for offensive production as head coach, despite his defensive background.

Central Michigan University
Head Coach, 2004 - 2006
Record (Head Coach): 19-16 (0.543 winning percentage)
1 Mid-American Conference title

Taking over for an awful Central Michigan team, Kelly coached the Chippewas to only a 4 win season in his first year (on par or slightly above the perennial win total for the Chippewas).

In his second season, he coached the Chippewas to their first winning season in 7 years.

In his third (and final) season, he led the Chippewas to the MAC Championship (their first since 1994). He then left to coach at Cincinnati.

University of Cincinnati
Head Coach, 2006 - present
Record (Head Coach): 34-6 (0.850 winning percentage)
2 Big East Conference titles, 1 undefeated regular season

Taking over for Mark Dantonio who left Cincinnati to go to Michigan State, Kelly coached the Bearcats in their bowl game, leading them to a win over Western Michigan - making him the first coach ever to beat a team twice in the same season with two different teams.

In his first year at the helm, he improved on Dantonio's 7 win total from the previous season, eventually going 10-3, including a victory in the bowl and a 3rd place finish in the Big East conference.

His second year saw the Bearcats' first ever Big East Conference Championship and BCS appearance, a 20-7 loss to Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl.

This year saw the Bearcats' second straight Big East Conference Championship, an undefeated regular season, and a chance to play Florida in the Allstate Sugar Bowl.


For comparison purposes, here's a quick rundown of Urban Meyer's and Jim Tressel's resumes prior to their current positions:

Jim Tressel
1975 - 1985 - Various assistant positions
1986 - 2000 - Head Coach, Youngstown State (Div. I-AA)Record: 135-57-2 (0.701 winning percentage), 4 Div. I-AA National Titles

Urban Meyer
1986 - 2000 - Various assistant positions
2001 - 2002 - Head Coach, Bowling Green (Div. 1-A, MAC) Record: 17-6 (0.739 winning percentage), o Mid-American Conference Championships
2003 - 2004 - Head Coach, Utah (Div. 1-A, MWC) Record: 22-2 (0.917 winning percentage), 2 Mountain West Conference Championships, 1 BCS appearance (Win over Pitt)

Clearly, Brian Kelly's resume is not all that different from Tressel and Meyer, both of whom went on to win championships at their next stops. Indeed, Meyer was a big risk, big reward type of candidate when he came to Florida (and was clearly our #1 choice 5 years ago). Kelly has been coaching longer, had sustained success for longer, played in arguably a better (or at least equal) conference than Meyer did at Utah, and had a similar level of success.

With all of the negativity on the NDNation boards, you'd think that Kelly was the worst possible hire and an unproven coach. That's ridiculous, as everything he's ever touched has turned to gold. Indeed, if not for undefeated seasons by the preseason hype machines Texas and Alabama, he'd be right in the heart of the National Championship talk.

And he did that at Cincinnati in three years.

My advice - let this interview process play itself out, and take off those ridiculous blinders. Kelly would be a very good, very safe hire for this program, and should be able to take the talent that Weis has assembled and do some pretty amazing things with it.

That said, with the interview scheduled tomorrow having been leaked, if we whiff on Brian Kelly, then there are some serious problems. There are other candidates out there with decent resumes, but missing on Kelly means that there is something wrong with our hiring process. Four years ago, Florida had already wrapped up the deal with Urban Meyer, so that provided enough cover to move down our list. This year, there is no other elite team pursuing Kelly - if he turns us down, it will be to stay at Cincinnati. Notre Dame should still be a clear step up from Cincy, and if Kelly doesn't view it that way, then we may have another embarrassing trip down our list of targets before completing another underwhelming hire.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Stoops is out of the discussion

"For the third, and hopefully final time, let me again state that I will continue to be the coach at Oklahoma. I appreciate the history and tradition of Notre Dame. I also appreciate the history and tradition of Oklahoma, and I have been part of building that tradition here.

"I work for a wonderful president (David Boren) and athletic director (Joe Castiglione), who have created an incredible work environment at OU. There haven't been any plans for a meeting or negotiations with Notre Dame and there will not be. Any reporting to that fact is completely erroneous. I will not be the next coach at Notre Dame."

-Bob Stoops

Monday, November 30, 2009

Weis fired. Rumor mill churning full speed.

So, Weis was officially fired today, immediately launching the media frenzy that will be the search for his replacement.

Within minutes of the announcement, I saw conflicting reports on the internet regarding my favorite (Bob Stoops). (Tulsa, OK) is reporting that the Irish and Bob Stoops have verbally agreed on contract terms.

OU Insider is reporting that Bob Stoops was quoted this afternoon as saying he would be back next year as the head coach of the Sooners.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, Meyer is absolutely not interested in the job, quoting Tebow, Urban, and his wife Shelley this week as stating he's not interested.

I haven't found anything yet on Brian Kelly rumors.

I'll try to update events as they unfold.

There will be a press conference at 6 p.m. today at the University of Notre Dame. I will try to sneak away from work to watch and post an update shortly after.

UPDATE: Stoops saying he will stay at Oklahoma story gaining steam, being reported on multiple outlets, including ESPN, AP, etc. Looks like my top dog has fallen out of the race. :(

UPDATE: Here's the transcript of Stoops' comments. Taken as a whole, this doesn't sound like a guy that is definitely staying put.

(Stoops): "The questions come up and like I always say I fully intend to be at Oklahoma, hopefully for a good while. You never know what the good lord brings you, but in the end I couldn't be more excited about, even through a tough year, the good quality kids we're working with and the great people here that I work with daily in our administration and you know I can't help with all that's said, but in the end, the players I'm recruiting understand that that's what I'm excited about and that's what I intend to do."

(Reporter): "There is officially an opening at Notre Dame. So, you're not going there?"

(Stoops): "What I am saying is I intend to be at Oklahoma, that's the only place that right now, yes that I am, what I'm looking to do. I will never confirm or deny whether I talk or not talk to anybody. And, I won't be interviewing for any jobs."

(Reporter): "I'm not asking if you talked to anybody."

(Stoops): "Well I just said all that."

(Reporter): "What I'm asking is can you tell me right now that you won't go to Notre Dame?"

(Stoops): "What I'm saying is that I'm going to be at Oklahoma next year. So I can't be in two places at once."

(Reporter): "Well then why not just say no?"

(Stoops): "Because I don't like the way you worded it. So, in the end, I told you what I intend to do. If Joe (Castiglione) and President Boren will have me, that's what I'm going to do. And that's where it's at."

(Reporter): "How would you have worded it?"

(Stoops): "Not like you, obviously."

--For my money, I think Stoops is ready to take the ND job after reading that. He is tap dancing all over the place.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

IBG: Better late than never

Alright, so with Thanksgiving and whatnot, I never did get these questions answered. But, as they say, better late than never.

1. Take a second and go look back at your post from the first game, with all of its promise and optimism (or not). What is the single biggest difference between the team you thought we had at the beginning of the season, and the team that we've seen on the field that now sits at 6-5?

(1) Overall prediction for wins/losses.
(2) Projected bowl game and result.
Sugar Bowl win over Alabama
(3) Predicted final ranking.
(4) Best player on the team.
Golden Tate
(5) Heisman trophy winner.
Sam Bradford
(6) National Champion.
(7) Prediction for Nevada game, including score.
Notre Dame wins easily, 45-17

So, clearly I was drinking the kool-aid at the beginning of the season. And to be fair, this team is clearly capable of achieving the results outlined above. I actually underestimated the spread in the Nevada game, and was right about Golden Tate being the best player on the team.

Ultimately, the reason we aren't sitting at 10-2 and in the BCS is because this defense severely underperformed to expectations. The supposed strength (secondary) became the weakness, and our offense, while very good, struggled to score points in the red zone after Floyd got hurt.

I wonder how the season would have played out with a healthy Michael Floyd, but his presence certainly didn't prevent us from losing to Navy at home.

2. Clearly, even from Coach Weis' own comments, it appears that the conversation has shifted from "Will Coach Weis be fired?" to "Who will be his replacement?" With that in mind, I'd like you to answer the following three questions:

a. If we lived in a perfect world, and could lure any coach to Notre Dame, who would be your choice? (Please limit yourself to coaches actually alive and able to coach right now - yes, we'd all love to have Knute Rockne back on the sidelines.)

There is no absolute perfect fit out there, anywhere. Every coach has their own drawbacks, but I think ultimately the home run ball would have to be Urban Meyer. While I have some serious questions about his character personally, there has never really been much mainstream media attention on his shortcomings, and in every other way, he appears to have been custom built for Notre Dame.

b. If you were the AD for the University, who do you think is the best hire you could actually pull off, and how would you do it?

Bob Stoops. With his worst season yet at Oklahoma, I feel like Stoops could use a change of scenery. He's arguably one of the top 5 coaches in the game, and as good as he's been at Oklahoma, nobady ever seems to mention him as an all-time great coach.

If he does what he's done at Oklahoma at Notre Dame, there is no doubt he'd go down as one of the greatest coaches ever to coach the game.

The timing works as well, as the rebuilding year means that we can interview and lock him up early, without having to worry about waiting until after the bowl games to interview or announce.

I'd fly to Norman as soon as the regular season is over for both teams, and basically make him an offer he can't refuse. Five year term, $5,000,000 per year total compensation guaranteed by the University, plus incentives, and a guaranteed extension of the contract to 10 years at 10% above the next highest contract if he meets certain performance goals.

Whatever he needs in regards to facilities, we'll provide, although we should be set there for a while. Full control over all football related decisions, with minimal interference from the AD's office or anywhere else. Whatever resources he wants to hire his assistants.

Did the economy hurt the endowment? Yes. Are we going to have to pay Weis an insane amount of money over the next five years? Yes.

But the future health and welfare of the program is at stake, and another failed hire could lead to many more millions in lost revenue going forward. The increase in merchandising from a national championship alone would more than pay for the entirety of the contract. Make it happen.

c. Prediction time - taking everything you know about the program, the AD, and the current coaching situations around the country - who will be the head coach for the University of Notre Dame next year?

I've been asked this several times, and with all of the speculation and rumor going around, I'm going to stick with my original assertion that the smart money is on Brian Kelly. He's an Irishman who has won every step along the way, is not at a destination program, and would be the safe, logical choice in today's coaching market.

I really just don't believe, deep down inside, that the current administration, even under what I believe will be the very capable leadership of Jack Swarbrick, will be able to hit one out of the park.

But, as the fall back option, I think Kelly is a great choice. Solid resume, success at multiple levels, a winner everywhere he's been.

3. As the title of this IBG post says, there is still one more game to be played. And, in fact, it's a red-hot Stanford team that scores points in bunches and beat SC in the Coliseum 55-21. To say that our program is in turmoil at this point would be a drastic understatement. So, what do you think is going to happen this weekend? Do the players rally and play up to potential for their embattled coach, or come out and go through the motions trying to get this season behind them?

I think that we'll see the same team we've seen all year. Occasionally frustrating, momentarily amazing, and overall playing to the level of the opponent. I expect another hard-fought, close game. I expect to see the players playing with passion and heart. I also expect to see a little more chippiness and extra-curriculars, as the Irish frustration over the season begins to boil over.

Ultimately, my hope is that Weis will successfully rally the team with an us against them mentality, and the players will embrace the concept and play one of their best games of the year.

4. Finally, with all of the disappointment and frustration and a lame duck coach, what are your plans this weekend for the game?

I'll sit at home and watch. I'm strangely at peace this week, and I feel free to cheer wholeheartedly for the team without feeling conflicted over the future of the program. Win, and we get some great momentum and a happy note to end the Weis era, which I would particularly like. Weis deserves great credit for the many good things he has done in and around the program to rebuild its foundations, and I would love to give him a positive sendoff. Lose, and the decision becomes that much clearer.

There is no outcome today that would frustrate or otherwise upset me. It's like watching a pee-wee football game - I just want to see the kids out on that field that I'm so proud of do their best.

Go Irish!

Notre Dame 63
Stanford 60
Final, 12 OT

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Not the first time...

After the Senior night loss (to UConn) this year:
Jimmy Clausen gets into a fight outside of CJ's Pub

After the Senior night loss (to Syracuse) last year:
Jimmy Clausen tries to pick a fight inside CJ's Pub last year

There's a pattern of behavior here, and this year's incident shows me that Jimmy Clausen has not matured as I thought he would. Apparently, he's trying to make a ritual of getting into fights after the end of year Senior night beatdown.

Jimmy Clausen clearly possesses the physical tools to be a great quarterback. But he lacks the intangibles. And it's those intangibles that put us at 6-5 in year 3 of Jimmy Clausen. He's selfish, arrogant, and I'm actually hoping he goes pro. I no longer want him associated with our program.

Dayne Crist has, since he stepped onto campus, had all of the intangibles that Jimmy Clausen has been lacking, but his physical ability was raw and in need of development. After two years riding the pine, he should be ready to step up to the plate next year and lead this team.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Irish Blogger Gathering: Remember, there's still one more game to play.

Okay, so here I am, bookending the regular season by hosting the final IBG post of the year, after kicking the season off with my IBG posting for Nevada.

This post will pose the questions. The next will answer them.

1. Take a second and go look back at your post from the first game, with all of its promise and optimism (or not). What is the single biggest difference between the team you thought we had at the beginning of the season, and the team that we've seen on the field that now sits at 6-5?

2. Clearly, even from Coach Weis' own comments, it appears that the conversation has shifted from "Will Coach Weis be fired?" to "Who will be his replacement?" With that in mind, I'd like you to answer the following three questions:
a. If we lived in a perfect world, and could lure any coach to Notre Dame, who would be your choice? (Please limit yourself to coaches actually alive and able to coach right now - yes, we'd all love to have Knute Rockne back on the sidelines.)
b. If you were the AD for the University, who do you think is the best hire you could actually pull off, and how would you do it?
c. Prediction time - taking everything you know about the program, the AD, and the current coaching situations around the country - who will be the head coach for the University of Notre Dame next year?

3. As the title of this IBG post says, there is still one more game to be played. And, in fact, it's a red-hot Stanford team that scores points in bunches and beat SC in the Coliseum 55-21. To say that our program is in turmoil at this point would be a drastic understatement. So, what do you think is going to happen this weekend? Do the players rally and play up to potential for their embattled coach, or come out and go through the motions trying to get this season behind them?

4. Finally, with all of the disappointment and frustration and a lame duck coach, what are your plans this weekend for the game?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

More fodder for the Stoops Rumor Mill Is this your last coaching stop?

Bob Stoops: Oh, who knows? I'm not that old, I guess. I haven't reached 50 yet. So, who knows what's in store, you know?

IBG: "I promise I'm not doing this at work" Edition

To be fair to my dear readers, I'm going to answer these questions slightly out of order, as the last question has a clear impact on the first. Sorry, Sarah.

5. I, for one, was very optimistic at the beginning of the season. Now, at 6-4, I am nearly disgusted with this team, and I admit to some actions regarding Notre Dame football that I never thought I would engage in. I can't imagine I am alone. Have you done anything this season - turn off games at halftime, leave early, not watch at all, etc. - that smack of desperation and disgust with this team?

I, too, was absolutely brimming over with optimism at the beginning of the season. And, like Sarah, I have engaged in actions that I would not normally engage in. There are two things I'm somewhat ashamed of.

First, I was hosting a party during the Pitt game. I had explained to my guests that they were welcome to join me in watching the game, but that I would be glued to the television.

At halftime, however, I was frustrated by the team, and agreed to play a drinking game. A particularly brutal one. I honestly don't remember much of the second half, except that it got worse before it got better, as I was wandering in and out.

The second thing I'm ashamed of is that although I will be done with work with no other plans on Saturday afternoon, I'm not going to the game. I normally make an effort to watch the game at Notre Dame stadium every time that I can. But this week, I just don't want to. I fear the Husky, and don't think my poor heart can take another heartbreaking loss at home. I'll watch it at home on my television.

1. The Pitt loss: give me something good about it, something bad about it, and something ugly about it.

Good: Ummm.... Golden Tate? He's always good. Oh, and current bowl projections put us in the Gator Bowl versus (wait for it...) Miami!

Bad: Where do I start? Running game, tackling fundamentals, flat and uninspired play at the beginning of the game. I could go on and on, but they are all of the same problems that have plagued the Irish since Weis arrived.

Ugly: When was the last time Notre Dame beat a highly ranked opponent? The Irish used to get themselves up for games against the big boys. They used to relish coming out and punching the likes of top-ranked Army, Oklahoma, Michigan, Miami, and USC in the mouth. Now, we can't even eke out a win against a decent but overrated top 10 Pitt team.

Most frustrating for me is that all season Notre Dame looks like the more talented team on the field. Even against USC. But their lack of discipline, absence of commitment to fundamentals, and inability to play smart football keep putting us in position to lose games. The fact that this team is not in national title contention is a disgrace.

2. UConn this week. Does the sellout streak end? Do you care if it does end? And if it does, does this have any meaning beyond it being the end of yet another ND streak during the Charlie Weis era?

It's not just apathy that's keeping me out of the stadium this week. I kind of want the sellout streak to end. I want to send a message to the administration that we do not approve of the mediocrity that has been churned out by every level of administration of this program. From the play of the players on the field, through their preparation and coaching, the scheduling, the Disneyfication of the gameday experience, the Draconian enforcement of alcohol consumption rules, the down-in-front mentality, the handling of coaching searches. Everything. I'm sick of it, and although I love this University, this one week, I'm making my stand.

I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore.

"There has been a surrender at Notre Dame, but it is a surrender to excellence on all fronts, and in this we hope to rise above ourselves with the help of God."
-Fr. Hesburgh

3. UConn is coming off of a bye week, with three losses just before that, including close losses to West Virginia and Cincinnati. The last time they won was just before cornerback Jaspar Howard was killed. These factors - along with ND's sorry performances recently - suggest to me that UConn is a dangerous team for a Notre Dame team that could really use a win going into Stanford. Should I be worried about this game? And what should I be worried about?

As I said before, I fear the Husky. This team is, in a nearly literal sense, a wounded animal. They are fighting through grief and pain, and each heartbreaking loss feels like they've let their fallen comrade down.

Now they are walking into Notre Dame Stadium and facing history's team on hallowed ground. UConn is the definition of nouveau riche in college football, having joined Division I-A (FBS, whatever) in 2000. And now they have a chance to make a statement in the first ever meeting of these two teams.

This Husky team dropped over 40 against Cincinatti, coming within 3 of pulling the upset. And they've had as much experience in close games than we have.

One more intangible to throw into the mix is Zach Frazier's personal desire to show up the coach and team that told him he wasn't good enough, leading to his transfer.

Notre Dame is clearly on the cusp of another coaching change, reduced to playing spoiler and trying to scratch their way into the Gator Bowl. Coach Weis keeps talking about this team's heart. These are the games where you show it.

4. Notre Dame will be seeing a familiar face in UConn quarterback Zach Frazer. Is there anyone who transferred out of Notre Dame, or who the Irish nearly got in the recruiting process, that you think would have made a significant difference on this year's team?

There are so many I could point to, but I think the biggest loss the Irish have suffered was the numerous misses the Irish suffered on the defensive line in Weis' first few recruiting classes. In particular, Gerald McCoy would have been a huge help on this defense.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Another One Bites the Dust

So, here we are, 10 games into Weis' 5th season as head coach of Notre Dame, and we're sitting at 6-4. I don't care what other factors go into the post-season review of Coach Weis, but this team has clearly underachieved. The talent is there, but these kids have shown no significant progress in fundamentals, and that falls squarely on the coaching.

I like Coach Weis. I'm grateful for so many of the great things he has done since he arrived in South Bend. He's rebuilt the foundations of the program and invested him and his family in the South Bend community. He's a good man, and he clearly has a great offensive mind. However, he has not managed to become a complete head football coach. He works tirelessly, but sitting at 6-4 in year 5 is just not good enough. I desperately wanted him to succeed, but at this point, I think it is time to accept that he will not be the head football coach of Notre Dame next year, barring three straight impressive looking wins over UConn, Stanford, and the bowl opponent. And even that may be too little, too late.

So, let's take this opportunity to look at the not-so-short list of potential candidates to replace Coach Weis, in no particular order.

Brian Kelly, Head Coach, University of Cincinnati

I was not a big fan of Kelly's when his name was being bandied about last year. But, he's shown at every stop that he's capable of building a winner in short order. There are some question marks, including his ability to handle national recruiting, admissions standards, etc. But, he reminds me very much of Jim Tressel in his background. I think he's the safest hire on the board.

Urban Meyer, Head Coach, University of Florida

I just don't think this is going to happen. Sue, he's clearly the best candidate out there. And yes, he's repeatedly stated that Notre Dame is his dream job. He has connections to the University, having coached here as an assistant. He's a Catholic named after a pope. But ultimately, he's won multiple titles at a top tier program, and pulling that kind of coup I think is beyond our ability.

Bob Stoops, Head Coach, University of Oklahoma

Stoops is clearly a top tier coach, having taken Oklahoma to a championship, multiple conference championships and BCS bowls. Again, I think luring a coach from a Tier 1 program is not going to happen. And, he does have a bit of history of losing big games. But, if it came to fruition, I'd definitely be excited. Of course, he has no experience with academic standards, and he has had some brushes with the NCAA.

Jon Gruden, Monday Night Football Analyst, former Superbowl winning head coach

Gruden is one of the names that pops up every time we start talking about a potential replacement. He graduated from South Bend Clay while his father was an assistant here. He's won on the biggest stage of them all. He's young, fiery and passionate. He also has no experience coaching in college, and I'd be very wary of bringing in another NFL guy. This team needs someone to coach up these kids on fundamentals.

Paul Johnson, Head Coach, Georgia Institute of Technology

Johnson is one of my personal favorite candidates. He's shown an ability to drill fundamentals into his players, and uses the triple option to great effect at each of his stops. Of course, transitioning back to an option offense may not be the best fit for our current personnel, but he did it at Georgia Tech in no time flat. Not many downsides here.

Mike Shanahan, not currently employed, former 2-time Superbowl winning head coach

Shanahan is my personal favorite darkhorse in this race, even though he is an NFL guy. He has some high-level experience in college coaching before transitioning to the NFL. His system at Denver was extremely consistent, and his ability to generate a running game regardless of running back is very attractive. He's current available, so we could work out a seamless transition. I really like this option, but nobody seems to be talking much about the possibility.

Gary Patterson Head Coach, Texas Christian University

A defensive guy that coaches a team with a very explosive offense, and has built TCU into a national power. He doesn't recruit nationally (he's in Texas, he doesn't have to), but his Texas connections could add to a well-built recruiting machine that's already in place.

Nick Saban, Head Coach, University of Alabama

I'm not sure why Saban's name even comes up, but I've heard it enough times that I feel I should mention it. He's a perfect fit for Alabama - shady coach for a shady program that will do ANYTHING to win and win now. Alabama is still one of the top tier programs, and there is no chance he leaves such a cush job. And I don't want him, I don't care how good he is at coaching. Same reasons I want nothing to do with Pete Carroll.

Jim Harbaugh, Head Coach, Stanford University

Okay, so Harbaugh is a Michigan guy who reportedly does not like Notre Dame at all. But, if you ignore those intangibles, he's the best option on paper. He's quickly rebuilt a Stanford program that has to deal with admissions standards into an impressive team that just beat Pete Carrol's USC team 55-21. And, this wasn't his first time beating the Poodle either. He has a strong running game that sets up the play-action pass. He may be playing his way into an interview at the end of the season.

I'm sure there are others out there that I've missed. If you have any other suggestions, please feel free to leave a comment, and I'll post an addendum.

Friday, November 13, 2009

IBG: Extra! Extra! Edition

Read all about it! Notre Dame's defense torn to shreds! Oh, wait. Wasn't that last week's story? Or maybe the week before. I know I've read this story before...

This week's IBG hosted by the OB - Subway Domer. We're supposed to provide a headline for each question.

1. After weeks and weeks of living on the edge, Notre Dame finally fell off of that edge into a pile of shit. Please describe your mental state since the Navy game. Are you hopeless or hopeful? Why?

Domer Law Bumfuzzled

I'm so lost right now, I've spent all week sort of floating through life. I can't focus at work, and I'm losing sleep. I know this team is talented, and the only people beating them right now is themselves. I don't know which was is up.

I'm vacillating wildly between firing Coach Weis and staying the course. I don't know which way this program is headed, and I'm not entirely sure how to fix it.

Happily, this weekend's row with the Pitt Panthers should tell me everything I need to know about Coach Weis and this football team. Win, and you can get this ship righted and build some momentum going into next season. Lose, and it becomes time to start praying for a miracle hire by new AD Jack Swarbrick.

2. Given the sorry state of the Fighting Irish defense, are they capable of slowing down Pitt's offense, or will Stull, Baldwin, and Lewis have career days?

Pitt's Offensive Explosion

When I was looking at the matchups this weekend, I was not encouraged. Bill Stull is 5th in the country in passing efficiency. In a run-first offense. The Panthers are 16th in the country in scoring offense. Our biggest issue is giving up the long passes, and Baldwin is averaging 20 yards per catch.

They're gonna score some points.

3. Notre Dame has had serious Red-Zone issues this year. They can't score... why is that? What needs to be corrected and how can they do this?

ND Offense Gets Physical

This is one of the things that is most puzzling me this year. Offense is different when you get down by the goalline, as speed becomes less of a factor, and size and strength become more important. We are not imposing our will against defenses in the red zone. We should be pounding them, and using the tight ends on inside routes and our tall receivers on fade routes. Instead, it seems like every time we get close, we just throw a couple of fade routes and then kick the field goal. We need to run, and use our size advantage inside.

With Rudolph gone, however, I'm guessing we'll see more of the fade route since Floyd is healthy. My hope is that Armando Allen will be back as part of this offense.

4. Charlie Weis and Dave Wannstache started coaching their alma maters at the same time. They have both coached on crutches. They both seem to recruit fairly well. They are both considered disappointing in their respective 5 year campaigns. After reviewing their total body of work, who would you rather have coaching ND in 2010? Explain.

Weis retained despite year-end skid, Wanny fired after bowl win

I'm still going to go with Weis. Although Wanny has managed to get his team into the top 10, he did so in a weak Big East. His biggest win is over Navy (which I'm certainly in no position to scoff at), and the loss was to a now 4-5 NC State team. This team would only have 1 loss against that schedule as well, and may have been able to actually beat Navy, since they would have been able to focus on them as the toughest team on the schedule, rather than coming out flat and uninspired.

Weis has his issues - don't get me wrong. I just think that, at the end of the day, he's better than the Wannstache.

5. Prediction time. How does this game play out. Please include a score, an offensive MVP, a defensive MVP, and a sleeper.

Cardiac Catholics give Coach a Heart Attack

Notre Dame comes out of the gate pissed off and ready to hurt someone. They get an early lead, but the Panthers punch back with their own explosiveness by scoring a couple of LONG TDs with Baldwin, and another rushing TD by the freshman RB Lewis. Notre Dame and Pitt eventually settle into a shootout, trading scores and leads until the end of the game. Clausen scores the go ahead TD on a quick slant to Allen with 1:15 left on the clock.

Weis, in his excitement, suffers a mild heart attack and is carted off the field in an ambulance.

Then Stull comes out and tears the ND secondary to shreds en route to a game winning TD pass to Baldwin.

Tenuta, in his frustration, eats Ian Williams.

Pitssburgh 49
Notre Dame 45

Yes, folks, you read that right. Domer Law, the biggest ND homer and eternal optimist, picked us to lose a game. It's sad, but true.

Offensive MVP
Notre Dame: Golden Tate, 15 catches 174 yards 3 TDs
Pittsburgh: Jonathan Baldwin, 12 catches 247 yards 4 TDs

Defensive MVP
Notre Dame: Manti Te'o, 17 tackles, 3 TFL, 2 sacks, forced fumble
Pittsburgh: Adam Gunn, 14 tackles, 5 TFL, INT

Sleeper: Bobby Burger, 7 catches 89 yards TD

Monday, November 09, 2009

Reply Hazy, Try Again

What a weekend. It's Monday morning, and even after a relaxing Sunday and a good night's sleep both Saturday and Sunday night, I'm emotionally spent. To be fair, this doesn't all fall on the Irish - there are personal and work issues that decided to rear their ugly heads this week as well.

But, the fact remains that for the first time since I was a child, I shed a tear after the game. It was right during Navy's alma mater, and I was honestly surprised at how emotional I felt.

All of the past 20 years of frustrations and disappointments welled themselves into one perfectly formed teardrop, which slowly wend it's way down my face as the Navy players sang jubilantly after their 2nd straight win at Notre Dame Stadium. Part of what I was feeling was pride - I've watched far more Navy games than any other opponent in my lifetime, as they were always the left-over tickets once everyone else in the family had the opportunity to pick which games they would attend with my grandmother. Personally, I was just happy to go regardless of opponent. And after watching so many times the Navy players lay everything on the field for a full 60 minutes, to see them earn a victory is special to me, even though it does come at the hands of my Irish.

But I was at the 2007 game, too. And there were no tears, despite it being the worst season in Notre Dame history.

This week was different.

This week, I ended the game with my eternal optimism for Notre Dame football shaken.

I don't know where we go from here.

Our BCS hopes were coughed up with Jimmy's fumble inside the 2 yard line. Jimmy's Heisman campaign bounced right between Michael Floyd's shoulder blades and then disappeared. Coach Weis' career may have just sailed off course like Nick Tausch's 2 field goal attempts.

And that's what hurts the most. Last year, after the Syracuse loss, I had the knee jerk reaction of wanting him fired. I spoke and wrote out of anger and frustration, but inside I knew he'd get another chance. This team was too close to try and shift gears.

And even now, I'm hesitant to call for Weis' termination. The pieces to the puzzle are all here, and this team clearly has the talent and ability to beat anyone in the country. Indeed, the only people beating the Irish this year are the Irish themselves.

Now, this isn't meant to be any disrespect to the men of the Naval Academy. They have busted their ass for the past decade and a half and in the process have built themselves not just a good team, but a solid program that the rest of the nation needs to start respecting.

But even they know, inside, that they couldn't beat this Irish team if they were hitting on all cylinders.

And that's why I can't quite bring myself to pull the plug.

I agree with everything Brawling Hibernian and OC Domer have to say. While talking to Sarah from Bad Trade over brunch on Sunday, I admit to having the knee jerk reaction of wanting to fire him.

But now, sitting at my desk Monday morning, doubt and uncertainty have clouded this entire program, to the point that I don't even know for sure whether or not we should can Charlie.

Certainly, the next three game will have some bearing on this discussion. Lose another, and it's clear Charlie should go. Lose two, and it's clear he will.

But, if we win out, should he stay or should he go?

This team will then be 9-3, with close losses to a top 5 USC team, a solid program in Navy, and a Michigan team that started with a lot of bluster before faltering down the stretch. We'll play in the Gator Bowl or Cotton Bowl against the likes of Oklahoma or Miami.

Win or lose in that game, it's too late to be making a decision on Weis' future as the result of a bowl game.

If we win out, I think Weis keeps his job. He broke the bowl streak, and the streaks against BC and MSU. He almost beat USC, and he beat Boston College - the first win over an opponent with a winning record. The win over Pittsburgh - Weis' first since 2006 - would be the difference, as well as a win over what should be a ranked Stanford team as well.

But drop even one of the next three, and the picture becomes a lot murkier.

We lose to Pitt, and once again the charge arises that we beat up and bad to mediocre teams, but can't beat good teams. Lose to UConn, and we have yet another loss to an average team that we should beat. Lose to Stanford, and we get both charges, as inconsistent as that may be. Also, another loss would bring up the fact that Weis' teams start out strong and fade down the stretch.

More converning to me, however, regardless of whether we win out and retain Weis, is that I feel like the entire program is on shaky footing right now regardless.

Fire Weis, and we have to bring in yet another coach with, at best, decent credentials. Forget the pipe dreams about Meyer or Stoops. That's just not going to happen. And I have no idea why everyone is so high on Gruden. He was a mediocre NFL head coach, and other than graduating high school from South Bend Clay, I'm not sure why people seem to want him so bad. Brian Kelly and Gary Patterson are probably the front-runners, and neither of them are particularly exciting for me, except that they are having unprecedented success at their current schools right now. And that's without the recruiting restrictions and academic requirements of Notre Dame.

Not that I don't think that those coaches could succeed here. In fact, whoever takes this job if Weis leaves will have a great foundation upon which to build their legacy. Even if both Jimmy and Tate leave, you still have Rudolph, Allen, Hughes, Floyd, Kamara, Goodman, Parris, Ragone, Toma, Evans, and Walker at the skill positions. Ninety-five percent of the coaches in the country would trade their talent at the skill positions for that in a heartbeat. And the defense, which still sucks, is loaded with talent that is lacking only proper coaching.

But, we'd be back at square one going into a season where we should be easily the favorite to win it all. Clausen, Floyd, Tate, and Rudolph could all claim to be the best in the country at their respective positions. I can't remember a team with that much star power at the offensive skill positions. And yet we're sitting at 6-3, staring at uncertainty headed into next year.

I'm not sure where we go from here. Indeed, the image that keeps running through my head is from Chris Van Allsburg's Mysteries of Harris Burdick. I don't know why, but here it is for your viewing pleasure:

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Irish Blogger Gathering: Gold Helmets Galore!

This week's Irish Blogger Gathering is hosted by Charlie's Nasties.

1. With all of the recent injuries, what scenario would you rather have? Option A: Dayne Christ out for the season, Trevor Robinson out indefinitely with an ankle sprain and Jimmy Clausen suffering week to week with turf toe OR Option B: All of the above players are 100% and Floyd is out for the year?

It's no question I'd take Option A. Turf toe is painful (I actually got the same injury two days after Jimmy did) but you can work through it. Crist is our 2nd string QB, and our 3rd stringer has actually started games for us. And Trevor Robinson, while very good, is not irreplacable, as we are very deep along he O-line.

Michael Floyd, however, completely changes this offense. Last year, with Floyd out, the offense struggled mightily, and we lost both games. This year, Floyd was out at the end of the Michigan game, a loss. And he didn't get to play against USC, our only other loss. One could legitimately make the argument that if not for Floyd's injury, we would be undefeated and in the thick of the national title picture.

Now don't get me wrong - Golden Tate is amazing. But just think what he would be doing if they couldn't triple team him every play.

Now, the only way I'd choose option B is if you look at the possibility of a medical redshirt, and you know that all of the players are going to use every ounce of eligibility left to them. I'd rather have Michael Floyd here to help with the transition from Clausen to Crist after winning the title next year. But, it's unlikely that Floyd will be able to stay out of the draft after next year.

2. After experiencing our first neutral site game at San Antonio this week, it got me thinking about our upcoming off site game against Navy. What are your thoughts on playing Navy in Ireland in 2012? Should the 7-4-1 model take us abroad?

I'm already in the planning stages to take a very large contingent of my friends to Dublin for this game. I've never been more excited about a Navy game in my entire life.

Sure, it has a couple of drawbacks. However, watching the Fightin' Irish play in the homeland of the Irish has got to get you fired up.

3. Navy's unique offense and personnel always seem to test the Irish in some ways that other opponents don't. What position matchup are you most looking forward to this weekend?

I'm lookng forward to Manti Te'o's relationship with Ricky Dobbs. The key to stopping this offense is to play sound, fundamental assignment defense. And, the best way to disrupt this offense is to get negative plays on first down, taking them out of their comfort zone. With Te'o's athleticism, I'm expecting him to have a career game in tackles, especially tackles for loss. If nothing else, he can force the early pitch, keeping the tailback from getting to the edge.

4. The Navy football stereotype is generally that the players are undersized and have less star power, but by emphasizing the fundamentals, minimizing mental errors, and playing as a team, they are always able to put up a fight. What position or player on Notre Dame's roster do you think could benefit from approaching games with this attitude?

The obvious answer here would be cornerback/safety play in the zone defense. We have had serious issues with passing coverage from zone to zone. There is a clear lack of communication there, as there are too many miscues. If the defensive backfield could play as a unit and count on each other to cover their assignments, this team would be unstoppable.

5. Everyone in the country saw that Navy took #6 Ohio State down to the wire in the opening week; how will the Midshipmen fare against the Irish? Predictions please.

Unlike the Buckeyes, the Irish face this Navy offense every single year. The experienced players know what's coming, and have practiced against it several times before. Also, the strength of our defense all year has been rush defense.

The key here will be how the Irish matchup against Navy on first down. If we can stop them for little or no gain, or even get a loss, this offense will struggle to move the chains.

Also, I'm excited to see what this offense looks like with Michael Floyd back in the lineup. Robby Parris is also healthy, so we now have 7 receivers that have shown the ability to be productive. And a potential All-American tight end on top of that. Not to mention the guys that can catch the ball out of the backfield. So many weapons to try to defend.

My prediction is that we'll have success in shutting down the potent Navy rushing offense, but because of the very nature of their offense, they may be able to keep things close. If we have early success and can build a substantial lead, this game could become a blowout. But, this is Navy, and they never say quit. We need to flex our muscles on defense and play for 60 minutes.

Notre Dame 35
Navy 24

Go Irish! Beat Midshipmen!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

IBG: Halloween at the Alamo Edition

This week's Irish Blogger Gathering is hosted by Whiskey over at One foot Down.

1. The 7-4-1 scheduling model has been the subject of much heated debate amongst Irish fans since it was first announced back in 2006. This week the Fighting Irish will play the first neutral site “barnstorming game” in said model so now is as good of a time as any to weigh in on the controversial subject. What do you think about a) 7-4-1 as a whole, b) the neutral site/ barnstorming game in general and c) specifically playing Washington State in San Antonio.

(a) I hate the 7-4-1, not as a concept, but as a limitation. I like having 7-4-1 as a goal, but if sticking to the 7-4-1 is going to cost us a series against Miami or Alabama, scrap it to get those games done. The biggest problem with the 7-4-1 is that it creates too many "buy" games, where we cannot offer an opponent a return trip.
(b) I feel very similar about the barntorming game. I love the idea, its the implementation that I would like to fix. The idea of playing a quality opponent at a neutral site as a sort of mid-season bowl game is great! The only problem is, scheduling a marquis opponent has been a problem. Apparently, the big conferences are thumbing their noses at the idea of playing a neutral site game in their "conference footprint," leaving us to play, for example, a Pac-10 team in Big-12 country. I could deal with that, but the other issue is that we are insisting on treating this as a "home" game for revenue purposes, leaving the marquis opponents feeling slighted. Forget the money - there's plenty to go around. Let's split the revenues down the middle and find a way to play Alabama in the Orange Bowl. Texas in the Rose Bowl. Ohio State in the Cotton Bowl. Florida State in the Superdome. Wisconsin at FedEx Field in DC.
(c) I was concerned about this game at first. I thought nobody would go. But then, I remembered that this fan base is positively obsessed with their Irish. Hell, if I had the money and the time, I'd sure as hell be there. I know Sarah over at Bad Trade is going. Heck, half of the people I invited to my big Halloween Party are going. Of course, I wish the opponent were somewhat better than Washington State, but who knew that the Cougars would be one of the absolute worst teams in all of college football when they got here? If I recall, they do play in a major conference (Pac-10) and have been in the Rose Bowl as recently as 2002.

2. I have personally had this game circled on the schedule for quite some time as the one “sure thing.” After the last few games I have really been looking forward to a drama free victory. As luck would have it I started looking at the Cougars more closely this morning and it appears that freshman quarterback Jeff Tuel went 28 of 42 for 354 yards and 2 TD’s in a losing effort against Cal over the weekend. With the Irish secondary still struggling to get it together what are the chances that yet another freshman signal caller makes this one way more interesting than it should be on Saturday night in San Antonio?


I'm sorry, but the deficiencies in our pass defense may be bad, but this Washington State team is simply not equipped (as our past several opponents have) to handle the pressure up front. We'll actually see these blitzes get to the quarterback, and everyone will think our problems are solved, when they are in fact just masked by a weak offensive line.

If this game becomes a nailbiter, the heat on Coach Weis will turn up immensely. This team is ranked 119th in Sagarin's computer ratings, and 125th by his predictor (we're 20th and 22nd, respectively, in those categories).

We should walk out onto that field and quite smiply manhandle these kids. This should get ugly by early in the second half, and we should get plenty of time to watch Dayne Crist work.

If that is not the case, then this team is far further away then I thought.

We've had some nailbiters, but they came against a Michigan team that still thought they were pretty good (and in the Big House), a Michigan State team that has had our number at home the previous 6 times, a Purdue team that is young but talented and growing (oh, and who beat a top 5 Ohio State team as well), a USC team that has owned us for the better part of a decade, and Boston College, who always treats the Notre Dame game as their biggest game of the year (and who was 5-2 coming in, in case you forgot). Their Sagarin rankings? 46/48, 43/36, 75/62, 5/5, and 38/31 respectively. Only Purdue was ranked out of the top 50.

This Washington State team is not in that category. 119/125.

3. Assuming that the Fighting Irish are able to take care of business and put this one away early what non-starters would you most like to see get some reps this week? Why?

Obviously, Dayne Crist. With Jimmy Clausen facing a big decision about whether to come back next season, this is a golden opportunity to get some meaningful snaps for the heir apparent. Indeed, I want to see us give him the chance to throw the ball around the field a little bit in a live game.

Next in line would be the offensive line backups. I know we rotate them in right now, but I'd like to give next year's starting 5 quite a bit of time to play together and develop their chemistry.

4. With the game being played on Halloween Night chances are that if you are not traveling to San Antonio you most likely have a scheduling conflict. Whether you are supposed to be at a party dressed as Fat Elvis, taking your kids trick-or-treating or just dealing with your doorbell ringing nonstop how do you plan to watch the game? If you are going what are you most looking forward to?

As stated earlier, I am throwing a massive party at my house. Of course, said massive party will also involve a very large and very raucous game-watch. There will be around 100 other people capable of answering the door and handing out candy. My butt will be front and center watching the football game. I'll mingle with guests while I celebrate the blowout.

5. Trick or Treat? Predictions please.

Treat! Or is it Tate? The Irish should fire out of the gate here, looking to put this whole "Cardiac Catholics" thing they've got going on away for at least one week. Of course, knowing Coach Weis, he'll let off the gas up 28 points.

Notre Dame 42
Washington State 3

By the way, I still need a costume for Halloween. Please post your ideas in the comments section.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

This is a process

So, our pass defense is bad. Like, really, really, really bad. Just awful.

But, even though they spent much of the day making the nation's 106th ranked pass offense look like the next coming of the Greatest Show on Turf, the pass defense did get some turnovers, and ultimately did enough to bail out our offense and get that ugly BC monkey off our back.

And while I was watching that game and pining for the return of Michael Floyd, I kept reminding myself that we are ALMOST there. We're clearly not ACTUALLY there, but we're getting close. I had to remind myself that this is a team that is still growing, and that once we get healthy, we should be a great team.

But after watching that game, the other thing I couldn't help thinking was that Corwin Brown is not a good coach. I like Corwin, and I've heard him speak a few times. He's a GREAT recruiter, and he can motivate as well as anyone I've ever seen. But, it just doesn't seem like he's doing a very good job of teaching these kids the fundamental skills necessary to defend against the pass.

Yes, it's hard to defend against the pass when we aren't getting any pressure on the quarterback. And for that reason, I'm done with this Jon Tenuta experiment as well. If this is what's going to happen when we blitz 80% of the time, I don't want it.

And what's really frustrating about this abysmal pass defense is that, on paper, the defensive secondary was supposed to be the strength of this defense.

Indeed, if this defense were well coached and playing up to the level of their talent, we would easily be undefeated and clearly in the middle of the National Championship conversation.

And we SHOULD be in the thick of the conversation next year - especially if Jimmy comes back.

So, I'm now advocating for a change. I don't want to get rid of Coach Weis - he has rebuilt the foundation of this football program, and his offense is clearly not the problem (although, I'm sick of settling for field goals). What I'm advocating for is a wholesale change on the defensive side of the ball.

Swarbrick should work with Coach Weis to identify the best defensive coordinator in the country, and do whatever it takes to lure them to South Bend. I would essentially make him a co-head coach, and let him handle the defense. Let Coach Weis handle the offense. And if we can teach the kids on this defense the fundamentals of defense, we can win a title.

We don't need any more players - the talent is there. It's not a talent issue. Indeed, I don't even think it's a scheme issue. I think this team is lacking in someone who is teaching the fundamentals of sound defensive football.

I watched the practice video from last week, and although it's just a snippet, I was frustrated by the lack of direction being given to the secondary in a tackling drill. They were basically being told to do "whatever it takes" to make the tackle. They weren't being corrected on form and technique.

Maybe that happens in some other drill, I don't know. But I do know that, as a long-time swim teacher, you need to take every opportunity that presents itself as a teaching moment to help correct mistakes and errors.

So, lets make a change. Get someone in here capable of developing the skill sets necessary to be successful.

Because from my seats, this is unacceptable.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

IBG: Fredo Scar is Weak and Stupid Edition

1. Coming off a very difficult loss to a rival that has now beaten them eight straight times, Notre Dame faces another that's beaten them six straight. Can Notre Dame end the losing streak against BC or will the combined weight of the USC loss and recent history against the Eagles be too much to overcome? Explain.

If there's one thing I've learned this season, it's not to question the heart and tenacity of this football team. They are pissed that they let the SC game slip from their grasp, and with it their title dreams. They need someone to take their frustration out on, and BC's 6-game streak is largely undeserved - they've gotten lucky and caught the Irish at the perfect time each of those 6 games to continue to eke out wins.

Not this week. We're gonna pound on them like they are our worst enemies. I don't want to see anything but snot bubbles.

2. Not unlike Notre Dame's defense, BC's offense has been pretty erratic this season. While in their most recent win, they rolled up 480 total yards and scored 52 points; in their two losses, they've averaged 109 yards and 11 points. Which BC offense and which ND defense show up on Saturday? Why?

I think that the BC offense has feasted on some weak defenses. That said, statistically our defense, especially versus the pass, is pretty weak at this point. However, the BC pass offense is hardly a threat, ranked 106th in passing offense.

BC tries to make their plays on the ground, where the Irish have been amazingly stout, shutting out the nation's best rushing offense (Nevada), and holding Michigan (8th best rush O)and USC (22nd best rush O) well below their season averages on the ground as well.

I like the matchup here, and think the Irish defense will look good against the BC offense.

3. Does anyone seem primed to have a Robby Parris-like breakout moment against the Eagles? If so, who is it and why?

I like Robert Blanton, Gary Gray, and Darrin Walls. BC is a weak team passing the ball, and I think they'll be playing from behind for much of the day. The corners will be facing receivers that are not nearly as athletic or talented as the ones they've been struggling against all season. There is no Keith Smith (Purdue, 11th), Blair White (Michigan State, 25th), Damian Williams (USC, 28th), Aaron Valentin (Purdue, 65th), or Anthony McCoy (USC, 94th) on this team that will burn us through the air.

I expect one or more of them to step up in this game, possibly with multiple picks.

4. It's been an and up-and-down year for Boston sports. After a strong start, the Red Sox folded in the second half of the year. The Patriots, meanwhile, seem to be on the upswing after a 59-0 dismantling of Tennessee. For their part, Boston College has seemed as though their season could go either way. Ultimately, will the Eagles be the Sox or the Pats?

Neither. BC is BC. They'll finish at or around .500, and possibly go to some low-to-mid level bowl game, where they will end up playing someone else nobody cares about. Wash, rinse, repeat.

We just need to stop this habit they have of unceremoniously ruining our promising seasons ('93, '94, '02, '04). We can still have an excellent year, and a major beatdown of a decent BC team would go a long way into convincing people that we are a force to be reckoned with, and last week's near miss was not a fluke.

5. While most Irish fans refer to BC as "Fredo", tell me to which other cinematic character you would compare the Eagles.

Scar from Disney's The Lion King.

He's the unworthy little brother of the great and majestic King of the jungle, Mufasa. he is bitter and jealous, and will stop at nothing to bring down the King. He takes his greatest pleasure from destroying the happiness of a brother who represents all that is good and right in the world.

His successes at killing his brother ('93 upset) allowed him a brief (6 game) reign as the usurper to the throne. But now, after a period of exile (Davieham), the rightful heir to throne has returned to take his place.

Rightful Heir: 42
Usurper: 21

Sunday, October 18, 2009

2005 Redux?

I was crushed emotionally at the end of the game. I always take these losses personally, and losing to USC hurts more than anything else. Even Michigan.

But now I've had a good night's sleep. I spent a fun day with the extended family to celebrate my grandmother's birthday. I met some really amazing people over the weekend. I'm feeling good about life again. So, I've been able to step back and get some perspective on this painful loss.


And as I think about this team, I think that there are some almost eerie parallels to the 2005 squad. 4-2 after 6 games, having nearly edged out a top 5 USC team, and lost a squeaker against Big Ten school from Michigan. There are six winnable games ahead, and the possibility of a BCS bowl is still within our reach. We are led by a junior quarterback that is quickly proving himself to be one of the best to play the game. Our achilles heel is our defense, who gives up the big play too often.

In 2005, we had a good showing against OSU in the Fiesta Bowl, but our defense's tendency to give up the big play and the lack of quality depth resulted in an all-too-familiar bowl loss. Despite the disappointing end to the season, we were #2 preseason the next year, with so many of our offensive weapons returning. Then the lack of depth robbed us of the title that season, when we got blown out by SC and LSU at the end of the year.

But this year, we may have a far better trajectory. Whereas the 2005 team lacked depth in the underclassmen, this team does not. Also, that team that almost beat USC four years ago was relatively healthy. This year's team was missing arguably its best receiver, and a QB that is still a little bothered by that pesky turf toe.

With Michael Floyd set to come back in a few weeks, our offense will be far more productive, and far more difficult for teams to stop or even slow down.

A few weeks to rest Clausen's toe should put us in the position to actually WIN a BCS bowl against quality competition, even if our defense doesn't improve drastically.

If Weis wins out (which he should given the talent level of this team), he will be retained. And then, we will have to cross our fingers to hope Jimmy Clausen returns for his senior season.

If he does, this team should be preseason top 5, and primed to make a run at the title. And the biggest difference between the 06/07 team led by a senior Brady Quinn and the 10/11 team led by a senior Jimmy Clausen give me great hope for next year. The overall depth and athleticism of the team is about 10 times better than it was in 2006, where the majority of the starters were seniors who had nobody to push them.

Now, we have legitimate depth at every single position.

At this point, I think that Jimmy Clausen is better than Brady Quinn. The tandem of Michael Floyd and Golden Tate is better than the tandem of Jeff Samardzija and Rhema McKnight. Kyle Rudolph is better than Anthony Fasano. And, the offensive lines are probably similar, with the depth edge clearly going to this year's team.


I said going into the game that this game was a crossroads, and had the potential to either vault the Irish back into the nation's elite, or perhaps set us back on the path of mediocrity.

But now, I think the truth is somewhere in the middle, muddied by a valiant effort by these kids, who never stop believing - what tho' the odds be great or small.

However, despite the potential for growth from this team, there seems to be a growing sentiment on message boards that the fans want to oust our coach, when an 11-2 season with a legitimate win over a big-time opponent in the BCS is still within our reach.

Bloggers like myself, who spend a lot of time and effort trying to pull our thoughts together and craft a coherent message, largely agree with my assessment. Blue-Gray Sky, One Foot Down, Subway Domer and myself are all pretty much in agreement.

And so, as we look forward, the consensus seems to be that we have a legitimate shot to run the table, and (depending on the way we win or lose and what people ahead of us do), get into the BCS, or perhaps if things don't break our way, the Cotton Bowl.

And this year, especially with a healthy Floyd coming back from injury soon, I like our chances against whoever trots out onto the field against us in a bowl game.

With 6 games to go, chances are this team will win each of the remaining games on the schedule, virtually guaranteeing that Coach Weis will return next season, with (depending on what Jimmy decides about going pro) a legitimate chance to make a run at the national title if we can develop our defense a little bit.

The message boards and comment posters, however, seem filled with vitriol and disgust for Coach Weis, and are all but demanding a change. (I'll admit, there are many posters who take the opposite view, I'm simply talking about my sense of the overall mood of the boards I've read)

So why the split?

My two cents, which I'm sure won't sit well with the board poster and post commenter crowd, is that the people who post on message boards and make comments on blogs don't spend as much time thinking about the permanence of their message. I'll admit that last week, I allowed my emotions to turn this past week's game into more than it perhaps was.

But those bloggers that spend a lot of time thinking about what everyone will think about their post, tend to be a little more rational. More measured.

But then, as a blogger myself, I'm probably biased.


At the end of the day, what you have is a 4-2 football team that has had an outstanding offense despite injuries, and a porous pass defense that has forced us into last minute games against every quality opponent we've faced. However, when the chips have been down, our quarterback, who I believe deserves the Heisman this season, has found a way to win each and every game.

Until this one.

And this one was only a rivalry game against a top 5 opponent who you had on the ropes with multiple shots to tie the game with only seconds left in regulation.

One second.

That's really the difference between clear Heisman frontrunner and Heisman hopeful. Between legitimate title hopes and hopeful to get into the BCS. From a clear mandate of support for the Coach to naysayers, rumors and doubters all over the place.

Yes, as Al Lesar said in today's South Bend Tribune, "What a great ol' saying: If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, every day would be Christmas."

But you can't help but wonder. What if a healthy Michael Floyd (or even a healthy Robby Parris) were running that route on the final play? What if Duval doesn't slip coming out of his break? What if the refs had called the Rudolph catch a TD instead of out-of-bounds?

Of course, we would have to beat SC in overtime, but our problems all season have been between the 20s on defense, not in the redzone.

So, What If? Just what if, we find a way to win that game? Would anyone be asking for Coach Weis' head? For all the difference that one second makes?

I think not.

But they are certainly right when they say that this is A Game of Inches.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Beat SC!

It's time for this team to wake up the echoes. More rides on the outcome of this game than any game in my memory, and all we have to do is rise up as one, and knock USC off of their lofty perch.

This game is the stuff of legend. Notre Dame beating the Black Knights of Army on the banks of the Hudson behind the strong arm of Gus Dorais and the soft hands of a young Knute Rockne. The Four Horsemen. The Irish walking into the Rose Bowl and beating Pop Warner's Stanford team. Win one for the Gipper. The 1945 tie of the vaunted black Knights of Army. Breaking Oklahoma's winning streak in 1952. Michigan State "Game of the Century" in '66. The Chicken Soup Game. The Trojan Horse game. Catholics vs. Convicts. '93 Florida State. 2005 USC.

This is the time for Notre Dame to rise again.

We have been through prugatory, and suffered through some of the darkest times in Notre Dame history. The greatest game in the last 25 years was arguably a loss to USC. It is time for this team to take its place back at the top of college football.

This is our greatest rival. Our arch enemy. Southern Cal is a team that once had a proud tradition, but has soiled its reputation by hiring Pete Carroll. The media wants to exalt him as a hero, but he is truly a villain. Growing evidence shows that USC has engaged in behavior that very likely could lead to NCAA sanctions. They willingly have associated themselves with a known pimp, drug dealer, and possibly murderer in Snoop Dogg, and indeed have asked him to actively recruit players to Southern Cal.

Where USC may have at one time been worthy of our respect, they are no longer. They have gone to the dark side, and are now truly our antithesis.

Through all of the pain and torment, Notre Dame still holds true to its basic ideals. We do it the right way. Our players are full members of the Notre Dame community. They go to class. They graduate. Often with honors. We recruit our players by the book. And further, we hold our players to a higher standard of behavior. Criminality and immorality will not be tolerated.

Yet still we rise.

This game may not have the glitz and glamour and hype of some of the classic #1 v. #2 matchups in the past. It may not even be the biggest game of the week. Gameday will be down at the Red River Shootout.

But this game represents a pivotal moment in Notre Dame history.

Win, and the critics are silenced. The Irish take their rightful place in the polls, and earn the right to be in the National Title Conversation at the end of the season. Clausen will take his place as the leading Heisman trophy candidate. Weis will keep his job. And, undoubtedly multiple players visiting this weekend will feel the Notre Dame Spirit and choose to suit up for Notre Dame.

We will be BACK.

Lose, and the Irish fade back into mediocrity once again. Clausen's Heisman hopes are dashed. Weis' job security becomes tenuous at best. The critics grow louder, to almost a fever pitch. And, although we now have the talent to compete, we will probably start anew with a different coach and another hope that the new savior will help us Return to Glory.

But we will not lose. We cannot.

We are Notre Dame.

Rise and Strike.

Rally sons of Notre Dame,
Sing her glory, and sound her fame
Raise her Gold and Blue,
And cheer with voices true,
Rah! Rah! For Notre Dame.

We will fight in every game
Strong of heart and true to her name.
We will ne'er forget her
And we'll cheer her ever,
Loyal to Notre Dame.

Cheer, cheer for Old Notre Dame
Wake up the echoes cheering her name,
Send the volley cheer on high,
Shake down the thunder from the sky,
What tho' the odds be great or small
Old Notre Dame will win over all,
While her loyal sons are marching
Onward to Victory!