by Mike Coffey
For those who do not frequent the NDNation message boards, this was posted by a former Notre Dame player as a commentary on the current state of the program.
I don’t post to NDNATION often, but read it daily. Before anyone dismisses this as another “internet wacko” post, know this…
I am a proud member of the 1988 National Championship team; I was on the team in 1985 when we were abused and embarrassed by Miami. I was also on the team that beat Miami three years later. I am a part of its proud heritage. I wear a National Championship ring. I have a stake in Notre Dame. I have talked to many of my teammates who feel as I do. We never lost to USC.
Sadly, I am also embarrassed by what Notre Dame football has become. For the past 12 years, Notre Dame football has wallowed in mediocrity. The performance of the football team the last two years is not only historically far below standard; it is far below the talent level on the current team. This team is under-performing. I refuse to blame the players.
I’ve seen what failure looks like, and I’ve seen what excellence looks like. There are many symptoms of this under-performance, but the root cause is leadership. All of the great Notre Dame teams had the following in common: they were tough SOBs—they were physically and mentally tough, and fundamentally sound.
It is no accident that Anthony Johnson, a fullback on our team, would knock down the edge every single time. Not once in a while, not occasionally, every single time! Think about that and compare it to our current play. He was tough, and he was taught how to block. Oh yeah, and the man never, never lost yards when given the ball. Was Anthony Johnson a heralded recruit?—do some research.
Can youth and inexperience explain under-performance? Ask Mike Heldt, Dean Brown, Tim Ryan (a converted LB), Andy Heck (a converted TE), and Tim Grunhard.
I’ve seen great teaching and fundamental development on the football field, from Lou, to Joe Moore, to Pete Cordelli, to Barry Alvarez.
Is the situation hopeless? I don’t think so. Here is what needs to be done and needs to be done now.
The recipe for success at Notre Dame is simple:
First, find a great coach, with a proven track record of having his teams playing at (in the case of great programs) or above their historical level of performance, and get the hell out of his way. It works every time. Refuse to settle for less. When Lou was forced out, the replacements … Wannstedt, Barnett, and Davie — are you kidding me? Willingham? Are you seriously kidding me?
Second, Notre Dame’s identity has historically been one of hard work, discipline, toughness—what though the odds. That needs to be a part of all future teams. No more Bob “all ball” Davie, no more Ty “deer in the headlights” Willingham, and no more transparent “good cop, bad cop”, or “I am going to be more accessible to the players”, and personnel groupings shenanigans. Here’s a good rule of thumb—speak softly, but carry a big stick.
We should be able to line up, point to where we are running the ball and gain 3 yards-with any and all personnel. On that point, it was not uncommon for Lou to replace the entire 1st team OL with the 2nd team OL if they were under-performing just to send a shot across the bow (and to give Joe M. a crack at them).
We should have a coach who can maintain at or near an .800 winning percentage (as a goal). That means beating Navy, Air Force, Army, SD State (puke), Nevada (Puke), Syracuse (in its current state), 100% of time. That means beating the likes of Purdue, Boston College, and Pitt 90 percent of the time. That means beating Michigan and USC at least 50% of the time. Please, to all, no more of the dumb-downed expectations.
We should never, ever dumb down expectations. Let’s be clear, very clear to all what the minimum expectation should be every year—9-3. In fact, 9-3 is a sub-par season for Notre Dame…period! Anything below 9-3 should cause concern, serious concern. We should be a perennial top 10 program and in the BCS discussion every 4 out of 5 years. An occasional reloading year (8-4) is acceptable as long as the trajectory is clear.
To NDNATION, please keep the pressure on.
Remember, we are (and always will be) the Fighting Irish.