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Friday, October 30, 2009

Men Without Chests

posted by Mike Coffey
Guest author: Frank Pimentel

In The Abolition of Man, C.S. Lewis argued that modern education produces "what may be called Men without Chests. It is an outrage that they should be commonly spoken of as Intellectuals. This gives them the chance to say that he who attacks them attacks Intelligence. It is not so. They are not distinguished from other men by any unusual skill in finding truth nor any virginal ardor to pursue her."

Sadly, we see this in full effect at Notre Dame today. First, in their initial bumbling attempt to defend the commencement invitation to President Obama, the University distributed laughable "talking points" to the Board of Trustees, which managed, in one swipe, to insult the intelligence of anyone who questioned the propriety of the invitation and to directly insult the initial Laetare Award honoree.

Then Fr. Jenkins compounded the error by issuing a statement to the effect that he, presumably in contrast to the shanty Catholic rubes who saw through the artifice concocted by Notre Dame in its perpetual desire for respect by those whose opinions matter in academia, was going to deliver an "inclusive and respectful speech." In other words, as Lewis predicted, those who attack him, attack "Intelligence."

Alas, the commencement debacle was not the most recent example at Notre Dame of Lewis’ foretelling. Last week, Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick announced that next October, Notre Dame would be fortifying its football schedule by playing Western Michigan University. Parenthetically, I’ll state that for all I know, WMU is a great school and runs a fine football program. But that’s kind of the point; about all I know of WMU is that it is in Kalamazoo – and I doubt that most anyone not from Michigan or northern Indiana even knows that.

Of course, that announcement understandably caused instant deflation among nearly anybody who harbors hope that the Fighting Irish will once again become the team it was under Rockne, Leahy, Parseghian, or Holtz. By way of brief examples, on our way to the 1988 national championship, ND played Michigan, Miami, and USC in the regular season. The next year we played Michigan, USC, Penn State, and Miami before the bowl game. In ’90 we played Michigan, Miami, Tennessee, Penn State, and USC in the regular season.

But that wasn’t the end of the consternation. Instead, echoing Jenkins’ pronouncements surrounding Commencement, Swarbrick announced with respect to the inevitable backlash, "It reflects a not very sophisticated view of what's going on out there." As with Jenkins, those who attack him attack "Intelligence."

But I am not fooled. In the case of football, the problem isn’t finding opponents on short notice, it’s finding opponents who will be bought, not expecting a return visit by Notre Dame. This scheduling philosophy, deemed "7-4-1" for shorthand, means 7 home games, 4 road games, and 1 "neutral site" game televised on NBC -- amounting in substance then to 8 home games and 4 road games. It requires materially watering the schedule down and making it, frankly, boring.

I believe this was intentional. Notre Dame knew that if it shorthanded itself by establishing a Potemkin 7-4-1 "requirement," it would eviscerate future schedules so badly that, by contrast, a league schedule (Big 10? Big East? ACC?) would be appealing. Of course, this is a false choice. Simply returning to a more balanced home/road schedule (6-6, or even 7-5), with the historical norm of playing home-and-home series with marquee schools, would immediately solve the problem.

But that itself is the problem. The powers that be don’t want the supposed scheduling problem solved. Rather, while alumni have always overwhelmingly opposed joining a conference for football, those in the Dome and JACC – specifically John Heisler – "know better" and want it (and for reasons having nothing to do with athletics and everything to do with those whose opinions matter in academia).

They don’t want to solve the scheduling "problem" that they created themselves. Rather, they have set us up to "solve" the scheduling "problem" by, sooner rather than later, throwing up their hands and arguing that the only feasible solution left will be to, surprise, join a conference.

But my Intelligence will not be insulted. Until Notre Dame places Men with Chests back into leadership positions, my checkbook – which had heretofore been open – will remain closed.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Western Michigan produces a lot of NFL players, especially linemen. I'm pretty sure we're playing Oklahoma in the near future. We put Utah on the schedule next year, and Utah and SC should mean that we're playing two top 10 teams. You have to realize that football is changing, there is more parity now than ever. On top of that, Notre Dame is somewhat handicapped in scheduling because major programs don't want to play us, or anybody good. We used to play Penn State, do you think they'd want a game against us now (look at who's on their nonconference schedule). Western Michigan really isn't than bad. The main criticism I've heard is "Oh they're a directional school". So is SOUTHERN California.

10/30/2009 10:04:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The implicit reason for th 7-4-1 schedule is directly attributed to the desire of NBC to compete with ABC/ESPN for the night football audience. As ex-AD the defunct Dr. White stated "Alcohol is the pervasive elephant in the room" when it comes to ND hosting a night game in South Bend. THis format allows an evening competition outside of South Bend under the guise of "broadening our recruiting base" or any other lame excuse. There is your true reason for the adoption of a ridiculous scheduling format. That said, those ND football purists who pine for the glory days need to recognize thanks to the BCS formula, undefeated teams hold more value than those playing hard schedules and coming 1-2 games short.

10/30/2009 10:06:00 AM  
Blogger bob said...

I find the authors critique of the Obama visit off base. He displays the type of arrogance he describes as if he solely knows what it means to be a Catholic University. I doubt the author has a monopoly on what is means to be a Catholic. Certainly, the Bishop of South Bend does not.

I have previously opened up my wallet and now will open it more.

Bob Pohl ('71)

10/30/2009 10:18:00 AM  
Blogger The Last Hour Blog said...

the real shortfall and nearsightedness of the 7-4-1 scheduling philosophy has to do with money. NBC wants 8 televised ND games. Notre Dame accepted this format with dollar signs in their eyes. This was done without any due diligence into how they could effectively schedule games in this format. Does NBC and Notre Dame really think the viewing public will watch ND vs. Tulsa or WMU when competing against the game of choice for the week by ABC or CBS? Its completely laughable and pathetic. All together, it highlights the demise of Notre Dame being a football school. They want to protect their revenues before they protect what originally got them those revenues.

10/30/2009 10:37:00 AM  
Blogger Wade Garrett said...

Nobody cares about your politics. We're here for football talk.

10/30/2009 10:39:00 AM  
Blogger Mike Coffey said...

I don't think it has anything to do with politics. Rather, he's comparing the overall sentiment ND showed towards people who disagreed with the invitation to President Obama with the sentiment shown towards people who disagree with the utilization of the 7-4-1 model.

10/30/2009 10:47:00 AM  
Blogger Domer said...

I continue to me mystified over the objection to President Obama speaking at Notre Dame's commencement. I researched this and I know for a fact that President Clinton met with the Pope on numerous occasions, and President Obama also met the Pope at the Vatican on July 10 to speak about many subjects, including abortion. During that meeting Obama said he would try to limit the number of abortions in the United States.

My question is this: If the Holy Father, who the last I checked is the leader of the Catholic faith, can meet with pro-choice U.S. presidents and have respectful discourse, why is it so wrong for the Notre Dame family do likewise? BTW: I am Catholic and pro-life.

In regards to Notre Dame joining a conference for football, NEVER! Rockne grew the Notre Dame football phenomenon by playing teams from all over the country. The result of that was a national following that remains unique to Notre Dame in all of American sports. If ND joins a conference, which is the same as playing a regional schedule, the national interest will subside and all of Rockne's brilliant work will be in vain. We can NEVER allow this to happen! It is not who we are!

10/30/2009 10:49:00 AM  
Blogger bob said...

Mike is right.

The 7-4-1 only works if you get top notch, creative opponents, not just fillers such as WMU, WU & Tulsa. Also, I think it adds to the spice of college football to do home & homes.

10/30/2009 10:54:00 AM  
Anonymous Brian said...

First of all, I would like to thank Mr. Coffey for posting this article. It may be one of the best, yet, on this site, for focusing on the bigger picture at Notre Dame.
Next, I would like to compliment Mr. Pimentel on a job well done! It is refreshing to see something written about Notre Dame that actually makes reference to more traditional Christian thought (even if CSL never officially crossed the Tiber).
To Bob Pohl, I would like to suggest that he remove the plank from his own eye, before he complain about the splinter in Mr. Pimentel's (or the Bishop of South Bend's)! While Bob claims that neither of these gentlemen have cornered the market on what it means to be Catholic, Bob apparently has. Thanks, Bob, for making the author's point about men without chests!
Semper Fi (Always Faithful)

10/30/2009 10:55:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow - to put a tiny spin on a Dan Akroyd classic... Frank, you ignorant slut...

Scheduling Western Michigan and Tulsa is no different than Coastal Carolina and College of Charleston. In fact, as long as ND keeps the streak alive of no 1-AA (I refuse the new nomeclature) teams, then they will always have the 'moral' high road.

...and Obama is the Tim Tebow of politics - you sir, are a hater.

10/30/2009 11:03:00 AM  
Blogger Pancho said...

Thanks, Mr. Pimentel and Mr. Coffee!
Though it is not the main point of your article, it's good to know that I am not the only ND football fan fed up with the Jenkins' debacles. As a faithful, but very imperfect Catholic man, I have been fighting the dilemna of coninuing to root for my team of over 4 decades whose leadership abandoned the Church's moral teachings, fearing I may indirectly be supporting Fr. Jenkins non-Catholic decisions.
Back to football:
I may be the biggest ND SPORTS fan this side of the Mississippi, and am a 100% supporter of Coach Weis. He is filling the pipeline with good football players, and I'm excited about the future, which is why I am disappointed in the schedule. I'm not sure I follow the point of doing this on purpose in order to force us into a conference, but given the leadership techniques at ND lately, I wouldn't be surprised. I sure hope not. I have enough ND disappointments for one year. Regardless I think the football team is on the rise for foreseeable future...that is, unless Jenkins feels the need to dialogue with Coach Weis. Then a disaster will be on the horizon. Other than my football tickets, my pocketbook remains closed as well. If Jenkins really changes or is replaced by a man faithful to his Bishop and Catholic teachings, I'll open it back up.
Notre Dame our Mother. Pray for us.

10/30/2009 11:03:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

People can complain about the 7-4-1 but it really is a symptom of the times we live in and ND is going along with it.

Go look at UM's schedule... unless Michigan plays at ND, they haven't played an away OOC game since 2003 - at Oregon. Florida hasn't played an away OCC (except for FSU) game since 2003 at Miami (and recently stated unless the U gives a 2 for 1 they won't ever play Miami again).

Most big programs are similar situated or have organized their schedule to maximize revenue. You can disagree but it is what it is.

Further, it takes two to tango and while ND might want to play Bama, UGA, etc. but no one knows what their stance is regarding a game.

10/30/2009 11:03:00 AM  
Blogger bob said...

Dear Brian,

I would suggest that doubt is the measure against which we all should judge our own capacities to know the truth. I certainly make no claim to know the truth. I sense you do.


10/30/2009 11:03:00 AM  
Blogger TC said...

Wade et. al., don't let your own politics cloud your reading comprehension. The author was criticizing Jenkin's attitude toward alumni, not the decision itself to invite Obama.

10/30/2009 11:29:00 AM  
Blogger Mike Coffey said...

Folks, as an FYI going forward, limit your comments to the application towards football. Comments about the Obama invitation will be rejected, as that's not the focus of the article.

10/30/2009 11:30:00 AM  
Anonymous Bill In AZ said...

An interesting opening for a criticism of a rather mundane item such as a football schedule.

I agree that there has been some unofficial designation of an intellectual, and cannot find out how one gets such a designation. I do know one thing: the truth becomes the truth and remains the truth by its ability to withstand any and all criticism.

10/30/2009 11:38:00 AM  
Anonymous Ska said...

I looked at some of the old schedules from the 1990s. In terms of difficulty, those schedules do not look much different than the current/future ones. College football was playing 10-11 regular season games at that time. Another game has been added to the schedule since then. Currently, there is also more parity in college football.
This is grueling for student athletes at a university like ND. Easy to criticize, much harder to understand and create solutions.
Was saddened to find that Mr. Pimentel is an ND grad. He sounds more like an ND hater. Even worse he aligns himself with the nut cases that openly stated their desire to make a mess and smear ND prior to commencement this year.
Mr. Pimentel's opinions on ND are not based on reality, but fantasy. In a perfect world....

10/30/2009 11:55:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ND is having trouble with the "soft" (I disagree with that characterization, BTW) schedule they are playing now. What arrogance to think that at this time, we should be playing anyone but the Tulsas, WMUs, etc. in those weeks where we have gaps between the usual suspects.

10/30/2009 12:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ND is doing what other top programs are doing -- weaker opponents, 2-3 tough games per year tops, more home games than road. Just look at Florida's out of conference schedule. Or Ohio State. Or Oklahoma. Etc etc. Everyone knows that under the current BCS system, it's the number of wins that counts (plus "style points" - you have to win big), not how tough your schedule is. If you want to compete for a NC, you have no choice. I can hardly blame ND for following suit. We've scheduled ourselves in the past right out of NC contention. Why? Just to prove we have "chests"?

10/30/2009 12:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Using the "everyone else does it...look at Penn State with Coastal Carolina" excuse didn't work when you were four and it shouldn't work now. The issue is with 7-4-1 is the lack of flexibility it creates in finding decent opponents. We're locked in with MSU, Purdue, Stanford, Michigan, USC, and Navy (among others) which already dictate most of your home and away splits. Without the away games, its very difficult to schedule top opponents. If the neutral site game has to happen, make the schedule a 6-5-1, with Navy every other year filling the neutral site slot. And offer a 1-1-1 series to traditionally strong opponents. The neutral site can work, just not with seven home games.

10/30/2009 12:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It has been widely written that Rockne scheduled "soft" teams for a variety of reasons. Most probably for some of the same reasons we have problems schedule teams today. Why would Florida, Georgia, LSU need to have regular scheduled game with ND? What do they have to gain by doing so? Nothing!

As to calling the current or recent past schedule "soft" that just means that people are not paying attention. ND has never, and I hope they never do, schedule a game with a 1AA school as Florida, Georgia, LSU, Ohio, etc. does.

All one has to do is walk the campus on a football Saturday to understand that NDs origins are alive and well. Of course there changes, but that is the necessary part of maintaining those origins.

10/30/2009 12:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Brian said...

Thank you, Pancho, for the support.
Mr. Pohl I try to save my doubts for Man's truths, not God's Truth. Alas, I fail more often than I succeed. I guess, like Pancho said above, I ,too, qualify as an imperfect Catholic man.
Now, back to football:
Let's face it, the 2010 schedule is uninspiring, at best. I recognize that the college football landscape has changed significantly since the "Glory Days". And, there is certainly greater parity these days. Just look at Cincinnati. But, as arrogant as it may sound, Notre Dame is truly a special place. Why should we accept lowering the bar to the point that we are just running with the pack? Win or lose, why not put some of the fight back in Fightin' Irish?
The 2010 schedule says to me that Notre Dame is ready and willing to accept mediocrity.

10/30/2009 01:08:00 PM  
Blogger Jacob F. said...

Let's not forget, in the modern world of college football this is, and probably always will be, about money. The fact is that Notre Dame has a lucrative contract with NBC that I am sure affects their "7-4-1" model. It would be nice to schedule a stronger opponent doing a home-and-home, but that would mean forfeiting that home game one year or finding another school to come to South Bend with nothing in return (Western Michigan?). The game and, more importantly, the business of college football is not the same as it was twenty years ago and Notre Dame has to compete with the big state-school programs playing in power conferences. Also, when was the last time Miami or Florida left the southeast to play a solid non-conference opponent? While it may be possible to find someone "better" than Western Michigan, Tulsa, and Utah to play, the powerhouses of the country that are clear upgrades like Florida and Miami may not be willing to even do a home-and-home anymore. They have a gauntlet of conference games they have to schedule and do not want to add a trip to South Bend to play a (we would hope) tough game on top of that. While we can debate the strength of these opponents all we want, I don't think it's fair to say that they are insulting everyone's intelligence by saying they think they put together a solid schedule. They are more aware (we hope, they do make a lot of money to handle these things) of these issues than any of us, and if you want to press them for more detail that's fine, but I think it's a bit unfair to completely dismiss their explanations.

10/30/2009 01:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My name is Matt, I don't have a Google account, so this how I will give my name (rather than be Anonymous).

I think what Notre Dame always brings out is the two sides of the Catholic family, the conservative side and the liberal side. These sides have always been at Notre Dame, see parietals and same-sex dormitories vs. Father Hesburgh's civil rights influence and the Center for Social Concerns. Notre Dame has an image of a special place, and while there certainly are some things very special about the place, the Grotto, the football team, the marching band, the beautiful campus, it is still foremost a university. No longer are waves of European Catholic immigrants harassed in cities like my grandfather's generation, and no longer is Notre Dame's football team a contemporary symbol for these European Catholic immigrants of fighting for recognition in a discriminatory society. This story is part of history, but it is not part of the present. European Catholics have, on the whole, integrated smoothly into American life.

With all this being said, the one thing I always wore uncomfortably when I was a student at Notre Dame was the idea that it's better than others. How is it better? A larger endowment than some schools? Well, yes. More national football championships? Well, yes. But is it inherently "better" than a school like Boston College, for example? On what criteria? On a magazine's subjective rankings (see U.S. News and World Report)? Both places have smart, dedicated students and both are Catholic institutions. One is in Boston, run by the Jesuits and the other is in South Bend, run by the C.S.C.

As for scheduling...I don't believe next year's schedule is a worry. There are many things out of Notre Dame's control, even more so with the 7-4-1 scheduling. As other posters have said, many traditionally successful programs will not want a one-off with a quality team like Notre Dame away, and why should they? Would we want a one-off with Texas in Austin? Or LSU in Baton Rouge? Why would we put our national title hopes on such a thin edge in this BCS world? In addition, there are new programs which play good football, including Utah, Tulsa, and Western Michigan. Also, I like playing the local teams in the Midwest, isn't Notre Dame a Midwest school?

In sum, I disagree that three non-traditional football opponents in one season + Obama on campus = Men Without Chests.

10/30/2009 01:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Gabby said...

I guess Juilliard wasn't available, (they have a really good band)

10/30/2009 02:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting how the football program at Notre Dame brought noteriety, fame and riches to this small Catholic School in the Midwest. Arguably, the football program allowed Notre Dame to become the preeminent Catholic University in the nation, if not the continent, if not the world. Now, that football has brought all of this fortune to ND, those who run the school want to take from the very program which put it on the map! It's a very liberal policy and I hate it. No wonder those same school officials brought in the most liberal President we have ever had to speak at the commencement. It is all too similar to the story of the ant and the grasshopper. Read for yourself by googling "ant and the grasshopper".

10/30/2009 02:50:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd like to voice my concerns about next year's schedule as well, but first let me address my problems with ND's stance on crime, education, war, divorce, healthcare, the swine flu, swine, pork chops, ribs - beef and pork, and the brat I had at the Morris Inn before the USC game.

I will then analogize them with a pithy intellectual quote. Hooray for me!

10/30/2009 03:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm assuming you hope your opinion will be viewed as an expression of your courage AND your intelligence. Western Michigan is no powerhouse, but what do you actually know about their football program? You had the 'chest' to admit that it isn't that much. I also have to admit that I don't know that much about it...and I live near Kalamazoo! I went to one of their games several years back and was impressed with the team's fight and the fan's spirited support, in the face of a much better team. Possibly your intellectual courage is a veil for a lack of knowledge, often referred to as ignorance.

To base an argument on ignorance insults everyone's intellegence.

Mike T

10/30/2009 03:37:00 PM  
Blogger JohnThomas said...

These comments are hilarious. Can we please separate football and state.

No more crying about who the commencement speaker is. It's just a guy (or girl) who makes a speech at graduation, people. They do not oversee university policy.

10/30/2009 03:47:00 PM  
Blogger BOBBYTRACK said...

Years ago I rooted for Notre Dame. But then when they were offered conference affiliation in the Big Ten, the true pomposity and arrogance of their alumni was exposed. Instead of becoming part of something bigger and better (yes, academics being the priority), the school caved to the influence of its worst segment. It was as if joining a conference would soil the great lady (even though the school does so for other sports). And now, with a leader that still sees the advantages of conference affiliation, some hack football mad loser equates that leader with a man without a chest. Search for a mirror.

10/30/2009 04:04:00 PM  
Blogger Mike Coffey said...

ND has no business joining the Big 10. It's made up of giant land-grant institutions that have very little in common with ND. Those schools should have no voice in ND's policies or in ND's decisions. ND is not a secular research school and never has been. It should aspire to do well what it's always done -- give a quality education to undergraduates.

10/30/2009 04:24:00 PM  
Anonymous John1985 said...

Mr. Coffey,

I have one simple question which you probably not post or answer. I certainly hope that you have the courtesy to do so.

If the "Obama" portion of Mr. Pimentel's article is "not the focus of the article", they why didn't you edit them out? You had no obligation to post that portion. Now, after you allowed that portion of the article, you do not want comments. FYI - don't post things upon which you do not want comments.

10/30/2009 04:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

John Thomas,

The article is not about "football and state" but football at the University of Notre Dame. Despite the scandal of giving an honorary law degree to a person who dishonors natural law the author of this article is not complaining about the receipient but the university president who does oversee much of university policy.

Bob Pohl('71),

The Second Vatican council (Lumen Gentium) clearly stated that the diocesean Bishop is the arbiter of Catholic teaching for his diocese. You accuse the author of arrogance while you make an incredibly ignorant statement about the Bishop of South Bend. Your ignorance is more unfortunate considering you are a graduate of Our Lady's university. You may have a fat wallet but I doubt it is as fat as your head.

A good article Mr. Coffey.
Thank you,
Tim Lang

10/30/2009 04:38:00 PM  
Blogger Mike Coffey said...

The article was originally written as a Letter to the Editor of the Observer. They, for whatever reason, declined to print it.

I left the Obama stuff in because (a) he's drawing a parallel between ND's reactions to the negative responses, not commenting on the invitation itself, and (b) the article was submitted to us for inclusion in whole and I didn't feel I had the right to edit it.

I asked for no Obama comments because the invitation is not the subject of the article, ND's response to those who objected is. I'm not responsible for people allowing their politics or religion to cloud their reading comprehension.

10/30/2009 05:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here here. Good article.
If we're going to play another soft team from the midwest, shouldn't it be another Big Ten school. Indiana maybe?
With Michigan and USC each year, we really should be looking for one more big game, like we used to have, Miami/FSU/Tenn/Penn State/Texas/ or OSU. How about any of those schools, or Florida? Anyway, Western Michigan, come on.

10/30/2009 05:24:00 PM  
Anonymous Tim said...

I think if we're not a little more "battle-hardened" we will continue to struggle against quality teams. We have three spots open in 2011; maybe go after Miami, 'Bama and Texas. Those would be fun!

10/30/2009 05:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rockne scheduled the Great Lakes Naval Training Center... Enough said.

10/30/2009 05:32:00 PM  
Blogger Scranton Dave said...

I too wish they would schedule like they did in the late 80s and early 90s, but you cant in this BCS age. The BCS rewards ( see Ohio St 2007) weak scheduling. 1 loss Penn St is 11th in the BCS right now with 1 of the worst schedules I have ever seen. Even if/when we get our team to where it needs to be, to schedule 4 elite opponents makes it nearly inpossible to play for a BCS Title with all these slug Big 10 teams scheduling all garbage and this seemingly growing sentiment to get the Cincinnatis and Boises of the world into the mix.

10/30/2009 08:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Coffee, the problem with allowing the Obama portion of the article to remain is that it draws together two issues that are not related. I had no problem with Obama speaking at ND. I think it is a great honor to have the President speak on campus. On the other hand, I am troubled by the scheduling policy

Mr. Pimentel's post makes the scheduling issue appear part and parcel with nut-job Randall Terry crowd that were walking around with blood covered baby dolls.

Mr. Pimentel and the other activist types should not be allowed to marginalize the scheduling issue! It would be a great shame for the powers that be to dismiss complaints about the schedule as the rantings of the looney fringe.

We need to bring the whole ND community together on the scheduling issue, not just the religious right!

10/31/2009 01:50:00 AM  
Blogger 'Til 2012 said...

That was Leahy, and back then GLNTC was a powerhouse.

Just saying.

10/31/2009 09:23:00 AM  
Blogger Faustin N. Weber said...

7-4-1 is about money, pure and simple. This way, ND gets NBC for 8 games/year. NBC gets a prime-time game to compete against ABC/ESPN.

All this talk about "widening the recruiting base" or "broadening the fan base" are secondary and comparatively irrelevant to the first.

10/31/2009 10:17:00 AM  
Blogger Mike Coffey said...

I don't know how many different ways there are to say this.

The issue has nothing to do with whether or not President Obama should have been invited. The point Mr. Pimentel is making is when the administrators of the University were faced with criticism from people who didn't agree with the decision (and I think we can all agree reasonable people can find opportunity to criticize), they reacted in a way that characterized those critical of the decision as somehow being unsophisticated. That's the same reaction they have to those criticizing 7-4-1.

10/31/2009 10:23:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

it's mixing oil and water i don't care how you wanna slice it. furthermore, it's a conclusory cheap shot taken at the administration without any factual backing. in the end, the point is (A) irrelevant to football and (B) ironically unsophisticated. btw, that pen name is ridiculous mike

10/31/2009 10:34:00 AM  
Blogger Mike Coffey said...

Yeah, except it's not a pen name. Frank is VaDblDomer on the boards, and he posted his letter when he originally submitted it to the Observer.

10/31/2009 10:53:00 AM  
Blogger John said...

The BCS has changed how schools scheduled...I am glad that ND has adapted to this change.

I am fortunate enough to be able to attend 2-3 home games per year. I like the home-weighted schedule even if it means that we don't have a home/home schedule with football powers...I just like going to ND home games and enjoying the campus and festivities.

I have business operations I visit in Texas and SEC country and they play their share of weak schools during the year. In their newspapers and local talk shows their fans are not whining about having too many home games. They aim for the BCS points and championship games for their legacy.

10/31/2009 02:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Like it or not, Mr. Pimentel's reference to the Obama commencement speech muddies the waters of his principal point, which is about football scheduling. Mr. Coffey can explain and re-explain what most of us already see - that Pimentel is constructing a metaphor, albeit one that has the twin disadvantages of polemical language ("bumbling attempts to defend" - inference here is clear) and disproportion of gravity of the issues - but the inclusion of the reference incites just the kind of emotional reactions apparent in the comments that lead away from Mr. P's central point. That's a rhetorical mistake at least.

As far as football scheduling goes - I believe Pimentel nails his argument most effectively, though it's but the tip of the iceberg that's sinking the ship. Below the waterline are the two ADs who preceded Swarbrick, the last three HC hires, and the apparent uncertainty in the university's highest administrative councils about the direction in which they want the football program to go and the degree of importance that they envision for it in the university's life and reputation.

Jim Moran '71

10/31/2009 02:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All politics aside, I think that this is a very interesting article, and a good number of comments underscore a controversy that will not go away. (And I don't mean the scheduling controversy!)

Here's my take: as an ND alum, I always felt that the football team embodied the true spirit of Notre Dame, and the University's high moral character, based upon Catholic values and teaching. Those Catholic values and beliefs are what, I thought, set us apart. Detractors could always insult our football tradition, but they could never debase the core values that made notre dame "Notre Dame."

Whatever the schedule may be from here on out, the football team, to me, is now nothing more than a "football team." Schedules can alway be changed. However, some actions that fly in the face of core beliefs and Catholic teachings are irreversible.

In my opinion, whatever the future holds, Notre Dame football tradition took a turn down a different road last May. The higher road was left behind.


10/31/2009 03:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm with Mike Coffey. The example could have been the Obama invite (about which reasonable people did disagree and, for the most part, still remain reasonable), or the tailgating policies, or the ticket lottery policies, or any number of issues with respect to which the ND admin has displayed a penchant for dismissing its interlocutors as unsophisticated rubes. One gets the feeling that ND, for all of its Ivy envy, perpetually regrets being in good old South Bend! As a hometown kid and an ND alum, this is an old story, and Mr Pimentel hits it on the head.

Note that Mr Pimentel does not exactly take sides in the commencement issue. Rather, he points out how the university managed to insult its own Laetare honoree (who then withdrew) among other missteps.

Again, people can reasonably disagree about the content of last year's decisions. Mr Pimentel does not take a position with respect to the content of the decision to invite Pres. Obama. But he does take a position with respect to the decision making process that it displayed. Growing up in South Bend, this is an old story, unfortunately. It is not so much an "ND vs South Bend," thing, as it is an "ND vs anything that it not loved and respected by the Ivy league" thing. Has anyone checked how the Ivy views its football?

The end result, as Dr Ed Cronin once wrote, will be a small Purdue with a Golden Dome. ND apes what it is not, and will lose what it is.

10/31/2009 03:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As others have pointed out. The main issue here isn't a judgment on the Obama speech. I think introducing Obama at all dilutes the argument because people are so passionate about that issue. It's really about the dismissal of counter arguments as ill-informed, lacking in sophistication, or _____________ "Men without Chests" approach that is the problem.

10/31/2009 04:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am from Kalamazoo, and have a chance to follow WMU football.
They have a quality program. They have beaten Iowa twice, Indiana, and Wisconsin in the last ten years. I would perfer Notre Dame to be above playing MAC teams, but with their 7-4-1 set up, scheduling has become quite difficult. Living in the state of Michigan, I hear all the time from U of M fans, how MAC teams are so tough, when U of M plays them. Funny how they critize Notre Dame for playing the military acadamies. Such hypocrites, Notre Dame haters are. Just look at Mark Mays from ESPN (ND haters).

11/01/2009 01:18:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As an ND alum ('86) and an ND football fan, I have to say that this is the best article I have ever read on this site concerning not only decisions made about the football program but the nature of the thinking behind them. As I read the responses and enjoy some of them, in others I am fairly astounded by the lack of critical thinking when it comes to working through Pimentel's rationale and demonstration of the rhetorical path ND's administration has chosen. (I am particularly stunned by the vacuous thinking from some who claim ND degrees, but I'm sure they'll let me know they aren't big fans of my words, either.) His article is not (just) about the university's invitation of a controversial commencement speaker, nor is it (merely) about football. It is about the shifting character of the university that has led to questionable calls in both of these arenas, and likely in others as well. Pimentel is addressing the circular nature of their counter-arguments, their strawman, "heads I win, tails you lose" approach that he finds so disingenuous, and the likely place this rhetoric is taking one aspect of ND just as he sees it did with another.

Why should anyone think Mr. Pimentel is "muddying the waters" when BY DESIGN he is establishing his point by illustrating it in concrete terms drawn from two very different arenas of the university's life?

11/01/2009 01:36:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The University should not compromise its academic aspirations in its efforts to maintain its Catholic identity" - Notre Dame Faculty Senate, 4/9/2008

Rather than a small Purdue with a dome, as Dr. Cronin wrote. I submit the effort is well underway, to transform Our Lady's University, into Duke with a dome and a few statues.

Is the football team not aligned with our Catholic identity? Gold helmets, Touchdown Jesus,etc.

I keep thinking about the pre-game locker room scene in Rudy - "Notre Dame Our Mother...PRAY FOR US!"

Given the lack of "Chest" effort in recent years, to maintain and protect her Catholic identity, I really wonder if she's still listening?

11/01/2009 08:14:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does anyone on this board know that Notre Dame paid out $950,000 to Washington State University just to play them in last night's game??? This was on top of the money that NBC paid to WSU. "Men Without Chests"--the administration of ND--are purchasing wins for the team. How ethical is that? Seems to me it's simply another unethical move by the leaders of this once great university.

11/01/2009 09:01:00 AM  
Blogger JohnThomas said...

How do I address this to the proper "Anonymous"?

I'd like to know what you mean by this:
"Despite the scandal of giving an honorary law degree to a person who dishonors natural law." How does Obama dishonor survival of the fittest? Or were you talking about man-made law?

If it is abortion you're alluding to by "natural law", do you think every ND Law School grad is pro-life? Is that a pre-req for a degree?

Also, I was commenting on these posters' comments, not the article.

11/01/2009 11:14:00 AM  
Blogger Larry B said...

Forget the political stuff- the most incendiary/divisive part of the article is this:

"But that itself is the problem. The powers that be don’t want the supposed scheduling problem solved. Rather, while alumni have always overwhelmingly opposed joining a conference for football, those in the Dome and JACC – specifically John Heisler – "know better" and want it (and for reasons having nothing to do with athletics and everything to do with those whose opinions matter in academia)."

Haha, are you kidding? This sounds like it was written for The Onion. Criticizing the idea that the administration might make a decision which affects the football team's schedule but is aimed at improving the university's academic standing is ridiculous. It's called perspective, Pimentel. Try to find some. I also like Coffey's point(s) here:

"ND is not a secular research school and never has been. It should aspire to do well what it's always done -- give a quality education to undergraduates."

There seems to be a problem with cognitive dissonance here. Joining a conference and reaping the subsequent research-related benefits would not advance the university's goal of providing quality education to undergraduates... because... why?

Look, I love ND football. That's why I come to NDNation. But while reasonable minds may have been able to differ about whether or not it was a good idea to invite a pro life president to commencement, I don't think they can differ regarding whether the football team's scheduling traditions or the university's academic aspirations are more important. And I just know someone is going to say that I'm using a straw man, that that's not really the argument here. But read Pimentel's words again. As near as I can tell, this is part of what he's trying to say: "The administration is using the schedule to nudge the university towards joining a conference because doing so would benefit the school academically. And that's bad, because the alumni don't want to join a conferece!" Pretty depressing.

I don't agree with everything the administration has done in the last 10 years/wants to do in the next 10, but I can't really take issue with their desire to advance the university's academic standing by joining a conference. I couldn't care less about how my fellow alumni feel about the issue. The inmates shouldn't be running the asylum. "We've never been in one before, and change is scary!" isn't a good argument, yet it seems to be the unwritten foundation of the article. We're not going to be able to put together the kinds of schedules the team had during the Holtz era whether we're in a conference or not. Staying out of one isn't going to magically make SEC or good ACC teams decide they're OK with playing us. In case you hadn't noticed, college football is changing. Refusing to adjust on the grounds that "ND is different and special and should try to keep doing all the same stuff it's done in the past" would be dumb and counterproductive.

11/01/2009 11:46:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So Coffey,

This article isn't a critique of the 7-4-1? It isn't opposed to that type of schedule? It's just addressing the school's reaction to people's reactions?

I must have read it wrong because to me it sounds like he's complaining about both decisions and about the fact that the University defended them - very productive. That said I don't have a very well developed chest.

11/01/2009 02:08:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For John Thomas, I am likely not your intended anonymous, but for what it's worth as found in the dictionary:

"Natural Law–noun. A principle or body of laws considered as derived from nature, right reason, or religion and as ethically binding in human society. Contrast with 'positive (man-made) law'."

Natural law is a term derived from the nexus between theology and jurisprudence--two disciplines that used to intersect as a matter of course. It is often related to general revelation (as opposed to special), i.e., that which can be known about God through the natural order. "Natural law" and "natural selection" (which you refer to with the "survival of the fittest" remark) have nothing to do with each other.

I would also remark that whatever the pre-reqs for graduation from ND (or any other school claiming Catholic identity) the "pre-reqs" for calling oneself Catholic are well established by a higher, outside authority, and all the discussions and resolutions by the Faculty Senate or any other body at ND can never change that simple truth.

Go Irish. And thanks for posting this stuff, Mike.

David Thomas, '86

11/01/2009 04:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Despite what the author may believe, everyone in Michigan knows where Western Michigan is located. MAC schools such as Western and Central Michigan, routinely play against the BIG 10 with success, especially against MIchigan State, and recieve BCS recognition.

As much as I would l prefer a return of teams like Tennessee and Penn State to the schedule, the addition of MAC schools who recieve BCS votes no more degrades the schedule than playing schools such as Idaho and Neveda.

If ND is williing to play lower caliber BIG 10 schools, in all honest EVERYONE in Michigan considers the MSU program to be a joke, and other not so prominent programs what is the harm.

11/01/2009 05:07:00 PM  
Blogger ssdoc said...

Kudos to the author of the article. Great food for thought as to what the administration is about in this day and age. "The truth shall set you free".......but it may not make you happy.

As far as the dillution of the schedule goes, I feel your pain. No doubt it is difficult to get quality opponents with the 7-4-1 formula. That is why we have the Tulsa's and WMU's on the schedule. They need the payday and the exposure and we need a game.

It is understandable that we will have problems attracting upper tier D-1 schools for a one and done format. It won't happen. The best we can hope for is for conference door mats that need the same things that the mid major teams need, see Washington State. You cannot get something for nothing. We either go it alone and take our chances or succumb to the wishes of NBC. The alternative is to join the Big 10. Pick your poison.

As a graduate, I have always felt we were different. Some will see that as arrogant......I did not say better just different. This is how I describe ND to people in the Southwest. I attended the USC game and sat next to two ex-players during the game. One said to me that he hoped the students appreciated the fact that football is important to the school. History and tradition.......enough said.

11/01/2009 06:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey David: I'm an ND grad. But I didn't realize I was attending Catholic church rather than a private Catholic university, with a broad range of disciplines, until I read your thoughtful albeit simplistic analogy of the discussion to Natural Law

11/01/2009 08:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know why Western Michigan and Tulsa made the schedule - Oral Roberts and Robert Morris didn't have open dates. The whole outfit is just one big joke, so desperate to beat anyone because they can't beat real teams. Let's see how the BCS computer chokes up when Western Michigan, Tulsa, Army, Logan and St. Mary's are factored into the Irish #.

11/01/2009 09:10:00 PM  

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