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  • There’s Marketing, and then there’s Marketing

    by Mike Coffey

    I’m taking a break from linking the headlines this morning to bring you this rant. And yes, a rant it will indeed be.

    As I was going through the UND main page, I came across this article about the recently-released GSR results. Let me be clear I think graduating our student athletes is critically important and is not a goal of which we should lose sight. But “Notre Dame Wins Graduation National Championship” is the kind of headline that gets my blood pressure skyrocketing.

    First off, it’s misleading. ND had the highest overall GSR among the FBS schools, which means we had the highest graduation rate of our entire pool of student athletes among all the top-level football programs. This certainly is a good thing, no doubt about it. But we didn’t have the highest football GSR in that football-related group, nor did we have the highest overall GSR in Division 1, so this smacks of statistical cherry-picking to try to support an already-reached conclusion. Setting aside for a moment that ND has among the highest number of sports being rated, if we’re going to rate ourselves in the FBS group, we should use the metric applicable to all the schools in that group — the GSR for the football team. If we’re going to use our overall GSR, which includes a large number of sports besides football, we should compare ourselves to the overall crowd, not just the football powerhouses. Neither of those choices would result in Notre Dame being ranked #1, so while I’m happy about the Fighting Irish’s excellent performance, such blatant and borderline-dishonest marketing hype galls me.

    Second, and far more aggravating to me, is the use of the phrase “National Championship” to describe this result. National Championships are won on the field, and while things that happen off of it are important to me (and to all ND fans and people who have at least a modicum of respect for the concept of the student-athlete), using that phrase to describe those things is incredibly inappropriate, especially in the context of FBS schools. We all know what happened on January 7th when the actual FBS National Championship was contested, and the continuation of Notre Dame’s success in providing its student-athletes with meaningful degrees doesn’t make the result in Miami any less embarrassing to me. Pretending the GSR results are in any way equivalent is, in my opinion, a transparent attempt to diminish the importance of that result. Yes, graduating players is important, but what those players (and the men who coach them) do during the games is just as much so.

    Quite frankly, I would have been happy with a GSR number 10 points lower if it meant a much different result against Alabama. I realize that’s not a zero-sum equation, but I also realize a lot more people recognize (and care about) 42-14 than 99. There’s a happy medium, and finding it is not a sin.

    5 Responses to “There’s Marketing, and then there’s Marketing”

    1. Joe Schaefer ND '59 says:

      This is so-o-o Notre Dame. The hype machine is on steroids. Let’s break it down by sport. I don’t think there are too many alums who care about the GSR of the Field Hockey team. Do we have one of those? I’ve lost count of all the 3rd world sports being played there.

    2. Fenian_32 says:

      Isn’t it true though that ND graduates over 95-96% of it’s football players? Do they do a GSR for just football programs and where can we see it?

      Tom Lemming, recruiting guru, has often noted that ND tightened it’s academic entrance requirements on Holtz around 90′ or 91′, which ended that great Holtz/Cerrano run, and ultimately led to the end of ND’s on-the-field dominance in the Holtz era. What I have always found so frustrating is that Holtz graduated over 96% of his players and yet the administration felt it necessary to effectively deemphasize football.

      Lemming did note in Blue and Gold Illustrated about a year ago though that the recruiting environment has improved at ND in recent years, i.e. they are making certain exceptions now for football recruits that they may not have made since the end of the Holtz era.

      • Mike Coffey says:

        Yes, they do sport-specific GSRs

        • Mike,
          i generally enjoy your insights, but i think you’ve missed this one completely. Well ok, not COMPLETELY, but by a wide margin. The ND marketing machine will spin positive information to the fullest to make ND look good to the parents and the recruits. Why wouldn’t you want your child to play for an ND team knowing they would get national exposure AND a great education. ND does have to ‘help’ more students get in that might not other wise make it, eg. Zorich and Rice, but to downplay the STUDENT part of student-athlete leads to a very biased view of college sports. It’s got to be balanced and I think it’s pretty obvious that the ‘student’ part of student athlete has been swept under the rug lately. ND is just trying to get it all the pub back at one time, which is probably an over reach on their part. The mainstream media really doesn’t care or acknowledge the academic side of sports, just the play making ability. Come to the South sometime and see the littered roadways and welfare lines full of ex-SEC ‘superstars’ that didn’t have to study and didn’t make the pro’s. You don’t ever want that from ND, at any price. While I TOTALLY agree ND can put it’s political machine on anything, I can live with the over zealous bragging rights on the GSR. And anyway, who cares? Right?