by Mike Coffey
Over the weekend, Moff provided a summary of his feelings on the current state of ND football. We thought it too good not to share with the wider audience.
It’s gotten so much harder since we stopped playing the No.1 toughest schedules, with as many as 7 top 25 opponents in a given regular season. It’s harder now that we don’t have to play in major bowls nine straight years, including taking on opponents ranked Nos. 3-1-1-3-4-7-4-8 from 1988-1995, beating five of them. Savvy fans recognize the real challenge is playing the other team sentenced to play in the Music City Bowl, in the afternoon, on a workday.
It’s harder now that we don’t have to play, say, a Top 10 Alabama team and then road games against the defending and eventual National Champs in three consecutive weeks, after playing the Big 10 and PAC 10 champs and after beating a then Top 10 Michigan team in Ann Arbor. No more easy schedules, where, in winning a NC, you have to beat 4 other teams that finished in or about the Top 5. It’s actually more difficult to play this year’s juggernaut of a schedule, with so many teams with losing records. It makes it harder to motivate the lads.
The Gug has made things so much more difficult, especially those big lounge chairs in the giant auditorium. Having an entire football team try to do a Friday walk through in The Pit, or having indoor practices on the slippery tartan surface of the North Dome, was actually easier. Time studies to minimize walking distance have taken their toll. Having a full-time training table and nutritionists in a beautiful collegiate Gothic football building, with its weight room and training facilities that are several times larger than in the past, has increased the burden. Prohibiting us from renting a Ryder truck and instead using our own customized equipment tractor-trailer, including for recruiting, has made things more difficult for staff. Revamping the Student Managers Organization to have football-only managers who know exactly what to do every day has led to inefficiencies. Canceling Mass has led to increased distractions. The new larger stadium locker room, with room for the whole team, such that 20-30 guys don’t have to dress in an old ROTC “rifle range” under the press box and then walk through the crowd to join us and go out he tunnel, really hurts. The new stadium press room/player’s lounge is a burden. The new giant stadium trainers room causes awe. Elimination of the high school-esque locker room in the ACC has hurt recruiting, as have the constant concessions to add Field Turf, matching brand new practice fields, a Jumbotron, jock rock, luxury boxes, Shamrock uniforms, yellow shoes, smoke machines, etc. Having guys like David Robinson, Torii Hunter, and Jon Bon Jovi around has hurt the energy.
We are undermined by the knowledge that we cannot recruit anymore, as evidenced by the No. 1 class after a 3-9 season in 2007. Good thing we got those guys because, prior to their arrival, even Charlie was able to take the recruits that helped get Ty fired and still go toe-to-toe with an all-time great USC team, with two Heisman winners in the backfield at the same time. Can’t compete like 2005 anymore because times have rapidly changed. Duke, Northwestern, Stanford, Navy, et al., started cheating recently. We no longer enjoy the pristine sportsmanship of the 70s and 80s. Parity caused by recruiting limit changes instituted in the 80s and early 90s continues to plague traditional powers, as evidenced by the similar inability of traditional powers such as Alabama, Ohio State, Michigan, USC, LSU, Texas and others to compete over the last 10-15 years.
Interesting that those guys under Weis set records for highest team GPA despite the exponential rise in our USN&WR ranking from 18 in 1988 to an amazing three-way tie for 15th now. Oh to have that knuckle-dragging student body of 1988 back, so football players could hang with them academically in the classroom. When we finally achieve our aspiration to have a student body like Stanford’s, we might as well shut it down because you just can’t find players who can coexist with such students and still win. It’s science. It’s harder to recruit now that we can no longer cite 100 percent FB graduation rates like we had in 1988, and with some regularity back then, and instead have to explain why we are on probation for academic fraud, and had to vacate all our wins In the one season that might have lured elite recruits here with proper recruiting.
As we saw from the rogues gallery of guys interviewed in the 30 for 30, we used to play guys like Pritchett, Eilers and Reggie Ho who could barely spell, and now have scholars who would never get caught cheating nine at a time or arrested six at a time.** It’s harder to win now when you can barely get a single QB to stick around and use up his eligibility here. It is not easy producing multiple glossy ads in which numerous players explain why they would rather play elsewhere with their remaining eligibility or get started in the business world. (However, it has created a core competency in font selection and ad layout). And in the old days, reporters supplied the questions. It is harder now to draft our own.
The weather has gotten worse in South Bend, and having twice as many females and infinitely more diversity has turned off recruits, South Bend’s improved night life is a turn off now, you would never find four Midwestern teams in the Top 10 anymore, demographic shifts have caused all the best football players to move from the North to the South, you can’t practice special teams now without hurting QB development….
It’s just not fair anymore and gosh darnit we are doing the best we can!
I pity BK and Jack and can’t see how they could do other than 4-8 and 0-12 versus top 10 teams given all these obstacles.
**[Disclaimer: I have met and still have great respect for our current players. Guys like Jaylon and many, many others would have been a welcome addition to our teams, which were not without their faults. This shot is directed at those who would happily throw my guys under the bus in order to justify their myriad failures]