I watched my last game from the student section yesterday.
I should have experienced a bittersweet feeling of nostalgia and sadness about the end of my last four years.
Instead, I felt relieved. Relieved that I no longer carried the necessary burden of responsibility of a Notre Dame student. Relieved that I am no longer obligated to pay a solid chunk of money from my minimum-wage job to watch that embarrassment of a football program. Relieved that I can without guilt make the choice to watch from my couch or, better yet, turn off the game.
I felt bad that this was my reaction. Part of my decision to attend Notre Dame four years ago was about being part of that raucous mass in the northwest corner of the stadium. It’s not like I expected good football, either. The four years before I came here saw a .480 win percentage.
It’s been a gradual buildup of my cynicism, but following this program is just so exhausting. I have not felt happy about a win since Stanford, nearly two months ago. This team and, especially, this coach are not fun to watch.
I think most students compensate by disengaging. They treat games like I treat my favorite NFL team – disappointed with a loss, but they’re not going to let it ruin their night, let alone their week. An hour later, and they’re back having a good time – the game was but an unfortunate interruption to their day of partying.
If you ask most students, “Do you believe Kelly will win a national championship,” they will say no. But they would probably feed the typical bullshit, “But he’s better than Weis.”
Is he though? I don’t mean that in terms of a binary coaching comparison. Yes, Kelly is a better coach than Weis. But is the state of this program better than under Weis? Technically and mathematically, yes. 8-5 is better than 7-6. But is that extra win or two that Kelly provides worth him being retained? Do you feel that much better watching this team than you did in 2009?
That’s why I would feel comfortable if Kelly leaves. I am now extremely confident that he will never win a championship, and that should be the only basis for keeping a coach. There are at least 30 coaches right now that I would rather have than Kelly – not because I think they are necessarily better than him, but because I believe their odds of a winning a championship are higher than 0.
Is Gary Andersen a better coach than Kelly? I don’t know, but he has not yet proven himself to be a failure. Andersen would not be one of the first coaches I would approach, but I believe a significant number of candidates are out there that would willingly take this job. Many of them are probably better than Andersen, and several of them have proven more competent than Kelly. And, no, Pat Fitzgerald is not on that list.
The biggest obstacle for this program right now isn’t academics, bad weather, or ugly girls. It’s apathy. If you believe “better than Weis” is the standard of a Notre Dame football coach, you have sufficiently lowered your expectations to the point of apathy. We might as well join the fucking Ivy League.
At the end of yesterday’s game, while I was trying to start a “Florida Gators” chant, the rest of the stadium engaged in a “We Are ND” shout. Although on its face I can appreciate the sentiment, I found myself growing angrier. The time is over for, “Oh, gee we lost, but don’t we all just love that we’re Notre Dame and that we’re better than everyone else?”
We’re not. We’re a shit football program. And people should be angry about that fact. They should be angry about losing three in a row and four out of five. They should be angry that we’ve won more than nine games once under Kelly and three times in the past 20 years. The end of that game yesterday was the worst time to feel proud to be affiliated with this program.
For this 20-year nightmare to end, that mindset has to change.