Notre Dame is no longer the feared college football program it once was; in fact, the Irish are just stepping stones for other successful schools.
As a USC alum, it’s been in my blood to hate the Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team. I used to.
Not anymore. I feel sorry for them.
Notre Dame has that contract with NBC. Touchdown Jesus constantly watches over them. And the Irish faithful continue the tradition of having one of the most storied programs in college football history.
The hell with all that.
These guys are irrelevant.
An average program resides in South Bend, Indiana. Hate for Notre Dame? Please. Just ‘cause USC plays them every year doesn’t mean I hate ‘em. The Trojans play UCLA, California and Stanford every year too. Maybe there’s some hate toward UCLA.
Even if you’re not a Trojan you have to agree the Irish are not big time. Their last national championship was in 1988, years before any current college football players were even born. Since that time, Notre Dame has won 10 games or more only six times, four of those during the Lou Holtz era when the Irish were actually dangerous.
With each coaching change we hear more of the same: the Irish are going to be much improved, they’re going to compete for a national title.
That hasn’t happened.
In fact, the green and gold have regressed. Bob Davie followed Sweet Lou’s act with five disappointing seasons. The Irish lost all three bowl games they played in, the most embarrassing being a 41-9 thumping against Oregon State in the 2001 Fiesta Bowl. That last game was a Bowl Championship Series contest, why were they even selected with only nine wins?
People still thought the historic program was worth something.
They thought wrong.
Tyrone Willingham was the next man to lead the team. The 2002 Irish started off strong at 10-1. Then USC quarterback Carson Palmer put them in their place with a program-killer of a game: 425 yards passing and four touchdowns. The Trojans flattened Notre Dame with 610 yards of total offense, the most ever against the Irish. Oh, and USC won the game, 44-13. Palmer cemented his odds of winning the Heisman Trophy, which he did the following month.
Willingham’s coaching career in South Bend went south just two years later when the Irish’s poor play helped another USC player, Matt Leinart, take home college football’s biggest individual prize. Leinart shredded Notre Dame with 400 yards passing and five touchdowns. The Irish fell, 41-10. This was USC’s third straight 31-point win. Willingham was fired three days later.
My favorite moment of Notre Dame idiocy came in 2005. If you watched that video above, USC defeated Notre Dame in one of the most famous plays in college football history, thanks to the Reggie “Bush Push.” First year Notre Dame coach Charlie Weiss was rewarded with a 10-year contract extension worth between $30 million and $40 million.
Yes, you read that right, after a close loss to USC the Irish brain trust thought it would be a good idea to give Weiss a gigantic extension. After just seven games. To an unproven coach.
Then this happened in a BCS game the Irish didn’t belong in:
Yeah, Ohio State had its way with Charlie Boy’s squad. But this was just a minor setback for Notre Dame, right?
Notre Dame won 10 games in 2006, landing a spot in another BCS contest. Naturally, the Irish were pounded, this time by Louisiana State, 41-14.
The problem wasn’t feasting on the likes of Army, Navy and Air Force. Or the occasional Purdue. No, the problem came up annually with USC, Stanford, Michigan and bowl game opponents. Even Michigan State, which isn’t a powerhouse under any circumstances, had its way with the Irish. The Spartans players even planted the school flag at midfield on Notre Dame’s home turf.
Since 1997, Michigan State has played the Irish every year. Notre Dame is 5-10 against the Spartans, who are a very good program, but will not be confused with being a national championship contender.
Weiss was less than stellar during his final three years. The Irish won just three games in 2007. They won seven in 2008. In Weiss’s final year, Notre Dame was a .500 team, prompting the brain trust in South Bend to rethink that 10-year extension he was given.
Enter Brian Kelly. He curses so much, the Notre Dame priests probably make confession mandatory on a weekly basis. Kelly has injected some life into the struggling Irish. In his first year, Notre Dame broke through with a win against USC, something it hadn’t done since 2011. However, Matt Barkley, the Trojans’ starting quarterback didn’t play in that game.
Progress is consecutive 8-5 seasons. The Irish are 1-1 in bowl games. Then again, the Irish faithful were excited for losing a game to USC in 2005 so don’t get any Notre-Dame-is-back ideas.
These are different times in college football. Notre Dame may have ruled the world when teams played with leather helmets and the fastest mode of transportation was by train. We are in an even more modern era now. Recruiting is scrutinized by TV and websites all the time. Twitter keeps everybody informed. Notre Dame must have thought, “we’re Notre Dame, the players will come.”
No, they won’t.
If this sounds like a Notre Dame hatefest, it’s not. It’s the truth and sometimes the truth is a filthy pill to swallow.
Get with it, Notre Dame. And go to confession, Brian Kelly.