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  • Remembering Not to Forget

    by SEE

    (The Rock Report | Notre Dame Football News) – I was heading through the airport Monday morning and noticed CNBC on the television. The commentators were talking about the Irish and business.  I just smiled as it’s obvious the cycle I media storm is under way.  Whether it’s Gameday at Notre Dame, featured network night time slots, high ratings (Saturday’s Stanford game was the highest rated game of the day), Sports Illustrated covers, Manti for Heisman, etc… it’s clear that Notre Dame is now in the “resurrection phase” of the media cycle (as identified by Bacchus years ago when NDNation was still Irishtalk/The Pub.)

    It’s easy to look at the current media barrage and forget that just a few years ago, not just pundits, but Notre Dame itself was questioning Notre Dame’s relevance and considering decisions that were short-sighted at best. I often spent more time writing about branding, false-choices, independence and leadership than football.  A look through the old file reminded me never to forget the fight.  So many articles written about something that should have been so simple.

    Why did this happen? Misplaced priorities.

    Because priorities sometimes become skewed under outside and internal pressure, Notre Dame must continually look to what it values within when confronted with misleading labels and not shy away from the challenge nor be afraid to hold itself up as different.

    To remind us all not to forget how far we’ve come, just a few years back Kevin White called Notre Dame a “junior partner” in the BCS and negotiated a BCS deal predicated mostly on future mediocre performance, there was endless talk of Notre Dame being “forced” into a conference, still more talk of ways to milk the Golden Goose of Notre Dame football for money pervaded every conversation and there was excuse making that Notre Dame could no longer compete. Notre Dame seemed to have bought into “media cycle III”, that Notre Dame could no longer compete and had to take was was offered. Vultures, like the B1G commissioner Jim Delaney, pressed the issue making many feel as if Notre Dame had to act or be “left out.”

    What absolute crap that was.

    But it’s important to remember not to forget that the bull-hockey will return (or as my Dad once said in true Yogi Berra fashion “I forgot to remember that.”)   As Kabong noted in Double Edged Sword, after the “resurrection” cycle plays out the news cycle will inevitably turn (if ND keeps winning) to the next phase, which is “Notre Dame Sold It’s Soul for Football Glory”.  This isn’t a “maybe”, it’s inevitable if Notre Dame continues to win and the leadership must be prepared for the consequences and think through the responses and the positioning now.

    In the past, Notre Dame has, at times, shrunk from the attention football has received rather than embrace it.  Whether it was Father Hesburgh with Leahy or Monk and Holtz, Notre Dame at times wore the football glory crown uneasily, caving into the wine and cheese crowd that believed not only that football and academic excellence were mutually exclusive, but that success in one was somehow an indication of a de-prioritization of the other.

    If the football resurgence continues, Notre Dame must prepare itself for the inevitable onslaught of criticism around the point that Notre Dame has (yet again) “sold it’s soul” that will follow and this time not shrink from the challenge, but embrace it with pride and point out that not only are the two not mutually exclusive, but more powerful together.

    Notre Dame has to remember how close it was to feeling “forced” into a conference, how uneasy the AD’s office was about scheduling and a feeling of impotence about whether Notre Dame would still be able to remain apart of the BCS conversation.

    Notre Dame has to remember the power of now so as never to give that power away again and ensure that football, responsibility and academic excellence are always viewed as reinforcing, lest the powers that be forget and be forced to relearn old lessons or worse, lose herself as many of us feared just a few years back when Notre Dame seemed on the verge of negotiating away it’s future out of weakness.

    “What a terrible lesson that would be for our youth. If that happens Notre Dame will become just another fable… and a 100 years of winning that inspired millions to strive for excellence will become a cautionary tale of what happens when poor leadership inherits a legacy.”

    It must remember not to forget.

    18 Responses to “Remembering Not to Forget”

    1. Joe Schulz says:

      Nice stuff! The proper reply to the “sold their soul” claim is now and should always be, “Look at our players. If you can find better young men at any other school in the BCS, point them out to me. Otherwise, get out of my office before I poke you in the nose.”

    2. Given events of the past few years, the college football landscape has become littered with more than a little trash. Assuming ND continues to win and keep its nose clean, and I have no reason to doubt they will, perhaps the NCAA will take note of how it’s done and do a better of job of bringing the “student” back to “student athlete” in other programs that are sorely lacking that element. Yeah, one can dream…

    3. Joe Schaefer '59 says:

      The temporary demise of the football program needs to be tied in to the other demises (sic?) that occurred during the period from 1987 to present. First, was the election of Fr. Molloy and the replacement of Dick Rosenthal as AD. In the case of Fr. Molloy it was the appointment of Tyrone Willingham as head coach (for apparently political and social justice brownie points) after leading Stanford to the Rose Bowl with an 8-4 record when SC and Washington were in their down years
      [( Tedford – Hackett – Robinson (redux)] and Don James being forced out. I don’t seem to remember that Cal and UCLA were doing anything special, either. Then, there was the hiring of Kevin White, recommended by Dan Devine, after a minor scandal which threw the university in to a panic mode, when in fact White’s only credentials were cleaning up scandals at such schools as AZ State and Tulane (the latter in basketball!)The dismissals of Davie, Willingham, and Weis (all under the aegis of Kevin White) has cost the university or its benefactors millions.

      Well folks, that’s all over. We now have an AD who did not come up in the carny world and has earned the trust of the adminstration. Kelly has adjusted to the real world of big time football by emphasizing defense.

      While some of us older alums may be frothing about the honors to Obama, that rose can be pinned n the Monk as well. You may remember that he awarded an honorary degree to George W. Bush within the same time interval of becoming predident. What was Fr. Jenkins to do?

      • The Piper says:

        Dick Rosenthal may be a good guy, but his tenure was 8 yrs of the Holtz era. “Let us not confuse brains with a bull market”…

        He never had to hire a football coach. In fact, he almost never had to do ANYTHING. The only two times he did was when he hired a basketball coach (John McLeod – an abject failure), and when he inked an NBC contract that angered everyone else in the CFA (we paid for that in ’97). His time was like the Coolidge administration…and he was quieter than Silent Cal..

        In addition, as a varsity athlete I found it disconcerting that not one time did he ever attend a game of ours, nor did he ever meet an individual on our team. His idea of AD was to shake hands, smile, and play golf. All the power to him as apparently it worked…here he is being praised 20yrs later on a blog site.

        He is irrelevant to this discussion.

        Sidenote: Kevin White was essentially hired by Gene Corrigan, not Dan Devine. And Gene Corrigan is one of the great ADs in college sports history (he’s the one who hired a 145lb guy with a lisp).

        SEE, you wrote a great piece. Hope we’re good enough that we reach Media Cycle Part II. It’s still early.

        • The Piper
          I defer to your opinion about Rosenthal given you had a much better perspective as a varsity athlete at ND during his tenure.

          My response was based on the one time I had a very positive interaction with him during some very good times football – wise at ND. My only comment would be no one did less in their tenure for ND football and no one played more golf during his time there than Ty W.

          As far as the AD making his presence known at non-football varsity sporting events…I can not say one way or another if that is status quo for a major D1 AD or not. My son was a potential walk on baseball prospect and I can say that the varsity team seemed to be pretty much out on thier own..devoid of the main stream hype and PR from the AD’s office. That would be Jack’s first year as AD.

      • Joe Schaefer, you have paid attention! Great letter. Thank you.

    4. Dick Rosenthal was a true Notre Dame man…met him and was convinced shaking his hand. He loved his job and the University. Back then he would step away from the AD position and truly engage you on how his office could help you. He provided a bus load of ND fans from a very small village in SW PA with an opportunity to get tickets for the 1988 navy game…I will never forget it. It is a memory that myself and my dad (now departed) and the bus holds on too.

      Since then I have been able to share the magic of ND with my sons and have been blessed with my oldest attending Notre Dame…now in his junior year as a pre-professional pre-med major. I can tell you this…Brian Kelly had a very aggresive attitude towards the ND student body and lack of noise during his introduction at orientation weekend after mass when we all as a family were there. He was almost abrasive.

      I sat through Tulsa, my sons freshman year after the tradgey with Declan…and listened to the “get used to it comments” after the game…was convinced we made a big mistake on the head coach.

      Year two did nothing to convince me that BK was the fit.

      Point is I have been there enough through the first two years to realize he has made a personal change…and he had to.

      Obviously he has won this team over mentally. He has brought back a stellar defensive leader in Manti and let a very good Diaco with the reigns to do as will.

      My question is why can he not unleash an offense so powerful as he did in Cinn.
      Golsen may be young and in his infancy at reading D’s but Kelly had much less to work with at Cinn and won. Five wides for a few looks…option for a few looks… power I for a few looks…can not understand why BK thinks so conservative other than as ND coach in a bubble cant screw up…

      • Atlantadomer says:

        I think it’s there (the offense), but Coach hasn’t had to really use it yet with Golson – save one occassion, the drive to end the first half against Miami. If you go back and watch that drive (that unfortunately ended in a missed opportunity on a very makeable field goal) – that’s what the offense is capable of when we have to put our “foot on the pedal”. Growing up and living here in SEC country, I can assure you though, when your defense is as stout as ND’s is this year, unless you are forced to take chances – you don’t. Remember, as the Bear once so eloquently put it, “When you throw the ball one of three things can happen, and two of those are bad.”

        This year’s team is one that can win a game 13-3, and it wasn’t even close. As fans, we are conditioned to ND over the past 7 years where no lead was ever safe. Now when the lads go up by a Touchdown, it should feel like we have a 21 point lead.

        Golson’s moment will come, and most likely it will be against Oklahoma in Norman, but don’t be surprised at all if Coach K doesn’t turn that one into “3 yards and a cloud of dust” if we go up by 7. I would. With this D, all day long.

    5. The D has been awesome, but will face its toughest test at Oklahoma. Being up by 7 will not last, we will have to score with them and hope we have a chance at the end to win. A big play by the defense could be the deciding factor, but the offense will have to keep us in the game.

      • I have this gnawing feeling that BK is not showing his hand offensively until the right game. Each ranked opponent has been almost un-ranked by the time we play them. When he does, I think it will be awesome. That is the Saturday I’m looking forward to.

    6. GoldnDomre says:

      Great article! I’m going to have to agree with chaz a bit in that I just don’t understand why the offense isn’t turned completely loose. At this point in the season we cannot do that, I understand – we have something special and there is no reason to upset that applecart. However, I feel like we got the talent to spread em out and let it rip. I’m not suggesting that our offense live and die by the pass, but how nice of a wrinkle or change of pace would that be at some strategic points within the game. I do feel like this is coming though, maybe just not this year. But once our offense catches up with our defense LOOK OUT! I read a post the other day that made anyone who read it daydream, “What if this defense played when the Brady Quinn era was still in town in 2005-2006?” We are almost there!

    7. Condescending Dick says:

      This is off topic but thought it was worth noting. I don’t care if you post this publicly or not.

      I chuckled at a post by one of the Board Ops (Cash) who said “Those of us who run the site are also active participants. If someone disagrees with us, they shouldn’t feel like they can’t express it.”

      Well sorry Charlie, they do feel like they can’t express it and for very good reason. Here are some examples.

      Within the very same thread I read the following from one of the other Board Ops (JVan):
      “You’re not very observant.”
      “You are either way too sensitive to participate here or you are pushing some useless agenda.”
      “There are other ND sites that might appreciate your attempts to amuse yourself.”
      “Be careful. If you want to disagree with me, I strongly suggest you do so in a respectful manner or you will soon not post here again.” – (In a vacuum I wouldn’t have a problem with calling for respect, except that this post came merely 2 minutes after JVan said to the same poster “I may not think you are very bright, but that doesn’t change the facts.”) Respect is earned, JVan.

      And Cash wonders aloud why people don’t feel that they can express dissenting opinions…..

      It’s not just JVan. From time to time I see similar posts from El Kabong responding to an unpopular football argument with “Feel free not to post here then.”

      I also got a good laugh at the expense of a preseason post by Cash where he sounded like the guy in The Wall who sings “We’re gonna find out where you fans really stand.” Which didn’t seem out of character to me based on other stuff I’ve read from him.

      SEE is the only one of the four who truly acts as a moderator.

      My point isn’t to bash these people. It’s just that Cash sorta raised the question of why someone wouldn’t feel like their opinions are welcome and I’m giving the (what seem to be fairly obvious) reason. If Cash and the others are genuine when they say they welcome dissenting viewpoints (or if they just want more traffic) then they ought to act more like moderators. If not then that’s fine too. Even with “condescending dicks” as someone else put it, it’s still a good place to find up to the minute ND football news and to see what one segment of the fanbase’s opinions are, although I think it fails to capture a more accurate cross-section for the reasons described above.

      • Mike Coffey says:

        The posts that are replied to with “feel free not to post here” are not the ones with “unpopular football arguments”. They’re the ones bitching and moaning about how the site is run. Since they believe it to be so easy, I tell them they’re welcome to start their own or find one they believe is run more to their liking.

        • Condescending Dick says:

          Nice try but I’m calling bullshit.

          JVan’s discussion that I quoted was entirely football related. Putting on his “active participant” hat, JVan began a discussion about how much of ND’s success so far this year is due to changes in Kelly’s coaching style. Numerous people had the audacity to treat JVan like any other active participant and disagreed with him just as they would for any other poster they might disagree with, which led JVan to get super defensive and demand some kind of special deference.

          That discussion had nothing whatsoever to do with how the site is run, but I can see how someone could have difficulty differentiating criticisms of their opinion vs criticisms of their website – JVan apparently did in this instance. You’d think somebody running a football website of all things would have thicker skin – and he thought the other guy was too sensitive!

          I suppose you could continue to respond with false choices like “start your own website”. Or you could just let my examples stand on their own and consider with an open mind whether Cash is in denial if he really thinks that dissenting opinion are made to feel welcome. Or both. Choice is yours.

    8. Thank God we have a University president and A.D. that understand this. If it werent for the leadership change at the top, we wouldnt be where we are today.

    9. When it comes to the offense, I too find it hard to explain. It is incredibly vanilla for large parts of the game. I know Kelly is trying to keep this simple while the kid learns, and because he had a stellar defense to rely on, but he could be doing more. (IMO) There are plays I’ve seen other teams run that are so basic and successful, that I think are perfectly suited to our talent but have no idea why we don’t run them. Why don’t we roll out Golson more? Why don’t we bootleg and throw to a tight end on a crossing route? These are safe plays that would seen to fit Golson’s talents. With teams loading the box to stop the run why don’t we incorporate these plays? Why don’t we screen more on third doing instead of always going down field? Can someone smarter than me explain this?

    10. For what it’s worth, the reason that talked about ND on CNBC this week was because they were talking about how well known universities invest their endowments. They had a different university on each week. The timing had nothing to do with the football score and I doubt why they picked ND has anything to do with our 6-0 record.

      Last fall, they had us on CNBC for the same topic. At that time, our football team was 4-2 and on a bye week.

      But I do agree with your points about the “ND sold its soul” comments coming (well if we win a big bowl game maybe) and how dumb White’s BCS agreement was.

    11. Nice article. The overall premise that football greatness should be embraced and not seen as something to be embarrassed about, is undeniable. And a well made point that they need to be prepared for that inevitable criticism.

      I’m not an insider or anything, but it’s been my observation that this tide turned earlier than most people give them credit for. I felt they’ve been embracing football since late November 2004 but it hasn’t been so noticeable because people often equate failure with lack of effort. And that’s not always true.

      The effort to fire Willingham was there, but the execution of the PR aftermath failed because some of the old regime (Monk and White) hadn’t yet been purged.
      They did attempt to hire the hottest coach on the market, Urban Meyer, but failed to execute.
      Throwing all that money to lock up Weis halfway through his first season may have a failure of judgment but it undeniably indicated an effort to win.
      Allowing Weis to make upgrades in recruiting and assistant coaches’ salaries showed an effort to win, but they failed in the execution of choosing the right mix of assistants and developing the players.
      After Weis was fired, before going after the hottest coach on the market they attempted to hire one of the 3 hottest coaches NOT on the market (Stoops) but failed in the execution.
      Then they hired the hottest coach on the market (I’m not trying to make a point about whether he was suitable or not), and for the first 2 years they seemed to be underachieving in the execution.

      That’s not to say that anyone should feel better about all those failures of execution over the past 8 years. Just drawing a distinction between failures of effort and failures of execution.