Jeer, Jeer for Old Notre Dame

I will freely confess that what I don't know about college football is a lot, but even as casual a follower as myself could not pass up a headline purporting to get at the heart of the dilemma of Notre Dame football's continuing decline. Here I thought the blame could lie with ND's reluctance to flout recruiting guidelines or its determination to maintain some legitimate claim on the notion of an authentic athlete-scholar program, insisting on offering football scholarships to kids who had a decent shot at graduation. Alas, my ignorance proves out. What's wrong at ND has nothing to do with what's wrong overall with the cynical marching band of hypocrisies at the heart of "college" football, it's all just a reflection of the declining church in America. Here's Gary Andrew Poole in Time magazine:

"In Notre Dame's glory days, Catholic secondary schools were prime recruiting centers. Priests and nuns would ask for prayers for 'the boys' on Saturdays and would encourage their best athletes to attend Notre Dame. But many forces, including abuse by priests, have damaged American Catholicism and crippled the parochial school system. Nearly 1 in 5 Catholic schools in the U.S. has closed its doors this decade. Combine that with a more secular society, a more competitive college-recruiting environment and Notre Dame's tough admissions requirements, and it has become more and more difficult for the school to field a team capable of competing for a national championship."

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The sex abuse crisis certainly has hurt the church and the end of the affordability of the parochial system has driven a huge number of Catholic families away from the closing doors of many a Catholic elementary, but I think the era of sturdy Catholic-ethnics manning the offensive line at ND ended quite a while ago. Can ND's losing record really be laid at the feet of the sex abuse crisis, etc. or is there a more Occam's razor-friendly culprit? The whole system of college football seems based on a fraud that Notre Dame is not willing to embrace just to ensure a national championship. Maybe Time should devote some, well, time, to reviewing that angle of the problem before attributing even Catholic football's decline on the church's internal troubles, many and profound though they be. When I would play football with some friends after my parochial school day ended, we called that piling on.

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8 years ago
''He failed in many respects, but his recruiting was excellent.''
This is exactly the case. Charlie Weis can be faulted for not always properly developing or motivating his players, but there is no question he significantly raised the level of incoming talent at Notre Dame in his five years as head coach.
Further, he did so by re-connecting to the MANY outstanding Catholic high school football programs across the country. Be it St. Thomas Aquinas in Florida, Cardinal Mooney in Youngstown, Elder and Moeller in Cincinnati, St. Rita in Chicago, Notre Dame HS of Sherman Oaks, or numerous others, Weis has re-established the Notre Dame brand front and center with the top Catholic prep programs.
The ''1 in 5'' Catholic school closing quote refers primarily to struggling inner-city grade schools. Many Catholic high schools are doing exceedingly well in athletics - and many of their top players can be found on the current Notre Dame roster.
Jim LefebvreForever Irishwww.NDFootballHistory.com
Martin Gallagher
8 years ago
When I was an ND undergrad, I made a little $ tutoring a football player a couple of times/week.  He was very bright and driven - intent on turning his 'Bs & Cs' into 'A's'.  I don't know how many Florida players fall into that category.  Of course, Time needs to claim ND's poor season resutls from the sex abuse scandal and not from ND's high (or  high  for a Division I school) academic standards.  This goes back a the America blog discussion on bias in the media we were having a few days ago.
 
Good post.
 
 
 
John Mervilde
8 years ago
I think both you and the Time writer are wrong.  ND's academic standards certainly add some level of challenge, but they do not make success impossible.  Does anyone believe that Notre Dame and Miami had similar academic standards in the late 1980s?   Both you and Poole seem to presume that a talent deficiency is behind ND's mediocre record.  To the contrary, the Charlie Weis era has proven that ND can continue to recruit top-tier talent.  It's interesting that Poole doesn't notice the contradiction in his own article.  He doubts that ND can any longer recruit the talent to compete for national championships, but later mentions, almost as an aside, that ND quarterback Jimmy Clausen was the "nation's top high school football player" when he signed with ND.  Clausen is form California, had no prior connection to Notre Dame, and is not Catholic (at least I don't think he is-I'm not entirely certain).  The gem of ND's current freshman class is Mani Te-o, a Mormon from Hawaii.  Weis was a first time head coach who was nearly 20 years removed from any college coaching experience.  He failed in many respects, but his recruiting was excellent. 

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