Column: Notre Dame sending the wrong message

Published 9:19 am Wednesday, December 1, 2004

By Staff
I can remember it just like it was yesterday.
I sat in a room at the University of Notre Dame and listened to new Irish football coach Lou Holtz talk about what a dream job it was.
It didn't take long for that dream to turn into a nightmare.
Holtz found out, like many before him and those who have come after him that Notre Dame is the toughest coaching job in the country.
There are a number of reasons for that.
1. Notre Dame without a conference affiliation has nothing to play for EXCEPT a national championship. In today's college football landscape, how practical is it to think a team is going to consistently win the championship? I wonder if just competing for the title is good enough for ND fans?
2. Unreal expectation of its fans makes it nearly impossible to please the alumni regardless of the record. Holtz found this out after winning a national championship in 1988 and then having what Irish fans consider "mediocre" seasons after that.
3. A rich tradition of winning is both a curse and a blessing. Notre Dame has perhaps the most storied football program in the country, and because of it, has used that to lure top recruits to the university. Now that the Fighting Irish have had three losing seasons, the worst stretch of football in 115 years at ND, the shine has worn off the dome.
4. Thanks to the failures of Gerry Faust and Bob Davie, Notre Dame, its fans and alumni will no longer sit still for losing. But it is unfortunate that Tyrone Willingham was not allowed to completely rebuild the program. The seniors on this year's team were recruited by Davie. Willingham should have been allowed to complete the five years and then been given the boot if he wasn't successful.
5. I wonder if the university runs the program or do the alumni. We all know that money talks and if alumni money walks, Notre Dame is in big trouble.
6. What type of message does this send to perspective coaching candidates? You better win right out of the blocks and continue winning or else. That's a tall order when you continually play one of college football's toughest schedules.
7. What message does this send to the Irish players - current and incoming? The coach this season may not be your coach for your entire four years. Some kids may not like the fact that Notre Dame has stepped onto the coaching merry-go-round.