USC clobbers Notre Dame. Wow, this would have been a big headline in the 70’s when these two power houses were among the best in all of college football. Now, it is not the case.
While it looks like USC did well to make Clay Helton their head coach, Notre Dame is in a quandary. How can they remain a relevant force in college football at a time when their academic standards are preventing them from succeeding?
USC is going to continue to be a college football power. Although they are a private school like Notre Dame, they have found a way to land the type of athletes who will want to always play in the sunshine and lime light of Los Angeles. They have a fantastic back yard of high schools rich in talent to recruit from while also being able to score top notch athletes from states like Florida, Texas, and Ohio all because of the environment it offers.
Notre Dame can not do the same. Yes, they still land players from across the nation, but they guys they are finding have become less frequent and only Notre Dame can fix the problem. With schools like Louisville, Baylor, and Washington State now offering up solid football programs, there has become a plethora of places where high school and junior college athletes can play ball. Toss in a school like Stanford which also has very challenging academic standards, and you begin to see how difficult it is to win football games at the Golden Dome.
You can never accuse Notre Dame of shying away from playing a challenging schedule, however, as an independent school with very difficult admission requirements, they have become nothing much more than an after thought for talented four and five star recruits. This has left the school needing a coaching staff that can identify under rated players who can be coached up to their full potential in order to be a consistent top five or ten school.
There are few coaches who can do this or who are willing to do this at a place like Notre Dame, where the expectations of the administration and alumni run high. It’s much easier to do at an Oaklahoma State or a Houston than where the Fighting Irish hail from.
This is why we read reports where Irish head coach Brian Kelly is “open” to other coaching options. Why would he leave Notre Dame for somewhere else? Simple, he wants to win, or at least have a shot at winning, something he is finding harder to do in South Bend.
Big time college coaches love to take chances on great athletes with a “checkered” past because they see the up side. The kid can help them win games and you just might make a difference in a kid’s life and help turn him around. At Notre Dame, they shy away from these type of players and are quick to cut ties with anyone who runs afoul on or off campus.
While Notre Dame should be applauded for doing this at a time where we place winning over morals in our sporting culture, the university has become the last of a dying breed of dinosaurs. How many other schools like Notre Dame can you name that are powers in college football? I am waiting.
I can only come up with Stanford and again, it does not take a rocket scientist to figure out why. Spring, summer, fall, and winter in the Bay Area beats life in South Bend. Add in the idea of playing in the PAC 12, a consistently great football conference, and you see why The Cardinal are able to out recruit the Irish.
The only answer is for Notre Dame to either lower their academic standards to allow in more “questionable” football recruits or to join another football rich conference, mainly the Big Ten. To think that Colorado is playing for a conference title at a time when the Irish are wondering what went wrong in a year everyone picked them to be in the playoff hunt is hard to fathom for Notre Dame officials.
Whether or not Kelly stays remains to be seen. However, whoever coaches Notre Dame in the future needs to have access to more talent than they currently have. Does the university allow them to over recruit, something that Nick Saban has used to create a competitive culture at a far less academic oriented college; do they join a true college power football conference like the BIG Ten; or do they keep their heads in the sand and watch as football goes by the way side?
Notre Dame needs football far more than the NCAA needs them. Super conferences and an innovative style of play have resulted in not just more college power houses, but in a fan base that hardly remembers when Notre Dame mattered. If Notre Dame does not change soon, they will become another Fordham, a place where dinosaurs once roamed before becoming extinct.
All photos screen shots from YouTube unless otherwise noted.
Jim is a life long resident of California and retired school teacher with 30 years in public education. Jim earned his BA in History from CSU Chico in 1981 and his MA in Education from Azusa Pacific University in 1994. He is also the author of Teaching The Teacher: Lessons Learned From Teaching. Jim considers himself an equal opportunity pain in the ass to any political party, group, or individual who looks to profit off of hypocrisy. When he is not pointing out the conflicting words and actions of our leaders, the NFL commissioner, or humans in general, he can be found riding his bike for hours on end while pondering his next article. Jim recently moved to Camarillo, CA after being convinced to join the witness protection program.