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."
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.