Notre Dame Football? The problem is not the coach.

Okay, sports fans, here is something you will never read in The Blue and Gold.  Not because it hasn’t crossed their minds but rather because they need ongoing access to the players and coaches and I don’t.  They can’t afford to offend the administration.  I can.  You can thank Al Gore that this discussion can even take place.   But here it goes…. the real problem with the Notre Dame Football program is not the Head Coach.  It is not the past couple of Athletic Directors.  It is the administration post Theodore Hesburgh.

Blame Malloy and Jenkins and their team.  The administration had to go along with the subtle campaign against Lou Holtz, punching all of his buttons, hiring Bob Davie, Ty Willingham and Charlie Weis.   It was this administration that gave Charlie Weis his extended contract, which was deadly to him and the program.  The lack of administrative maturity and business common sense after Hessburgh is clear.  The brand of Notre Dame football has outgrown their competence.  They are in over their heads.

Now, I don’t blame the administration for its failings, it has a different agenda.  Its commitment is to the Church and its corporate and spiritual mission as an educational institution must take precedence over football.   When you are serving God and dealing with issues eternal, four or five years is not a big deal.  And football is certainly not a big deal.  Yes, the money can help God’s cause but if there is a mistake, well, “all things work together for good to them the love the Lord.”

I guess what I am trying to say is that it is our misfortune to be fans of a football program whose overseers are conflicted and therefore their program is destined to be flawed.   Meanwhile, some of us,  carnal and immature mortals that we are, care more about their football team than they do.

Twenty years ago, when college football was not a zillion dollar business it didn’t matter.  Now, these conflicts, academic and spiritual and business, can be the difference between success and failure.

At Ohio State, the football team and the school mission is synonymous.  Winning football means students and alumni money which translates into better academics and renown.  There is no spiritual dimension or even much of a conflict if a football player gets a bit of an academic pass.  There may even be a moral argument that it is in the best interest of students and teachers and the institution if the football player is given an edge.  To be tough on this special student could hurt many thousands of needy young men and women.

The point is, what would be “wrong” at Notre Dame could be considered “right” at Ohio State or Florida State or Texas.

Taking it one step further, it is far more likely that a recruiting coach from Southern California would send a prospect out to eat with a bunch of sexy co-eds than it would be for such a thing to happen in South Bend.  I am not saying it doesn’t happen in South Bend.  Top prospects are popular guys.  I am just saying that it is less likely to happen there.  And a coach who “let” that sort of thing happen would not last too long.

Now, I don’t want to take this too far.  I mean, this administration hired a guy whose every other word begins with “F.”  So they are surely trying to stretch a little, for the sake of Our Mother, of course.  And they have negotiated and renegotiated that golden ticket, the NBC contract, no small feat.  I’ll bet there are some good stories behind that.  I am just pointing out that by their very nature they are going to be less focused on this football business than many administrators because they have higher considerations.  Some of them may even resent or look down on their lucrative football income, as a necessary evil, in the true sense of the word.  This is what comes off as arrogance to many.

So, like I said.  I don’t blame the administration.  I understand.  I just wish they could find a way to resolve this.  I can see why they wanted Tony Dungy.  Their program needs integrity, in the sense of leadership that integrates all of these complex elements.  They can’t keep careening from the advice of one Alumni advisor and donor to the next.  Because none of them have the whole picture and they are assuming that the men in black are doing their due diligence and not just having knee jerk reactions.

It’s our fault for being stupid enough to get dragged into becoming fans of an institution that is so conflicted.   They want the money, after all “the wealth of the ungodly is laid up for the righteous,” and they can do great things with it, but they want much more than just a great football program per see and they believe that they have a higher calling and therein lies the conflict.

Alabama has no higher calling.

Posted in Business, Sports Tagged: Bob Davie, Charlie Weis, John Jenkins, Lou Holtz, Notre Dame Football, Skip Holtz, t, Theodore Hessburgh, ty willingham

About Doug Wead
Doug Wead is our presidential historian and frequent guest blogger here on CLC. You can see more of his work here: Doug Wead's Blog

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