Saturday, July 28, 2007

Burning Down the Strawmen

Some folks have expressed frustration at the repetitive nature of Rock's House these days. Way too much Kevin White bashing, they say. You've made your point, isn't it time to move on to something more interesting?

All other things equal, I'd be inclined to agree. There's only so much talking one can do on any topic, and it's certainly possible the discussions regarding our Athletic Director have reached critical mass, meaning it's time to either talk about something else or stop talking and take some action. And that's certainly being mulled over.

But last night, I got a lesson in why we need to keep these topics on the front burner when I attended the annual NDNation White Sox outing. Along with the camaraderie and good time had by all, I had a very sobering conversation with one of our regular posters.

He informed me at his place of business is an ND alum who spends a lot of time trying to convince him and the rest of the Subway Alumni there that "those guys are just Internet crazies. They don't know what they're talking about. Things at ND are going just fine; they're just looking for a reason to bitch."

This is the kind of thing we're fighting against. This is the complacency or downright state of denial in which some of these folks live, and they're spreading that condition to people who consider them to be experts merely because they're in possession of a South Bend sheepskin. This is why we have to keep up the fight and keep these topics out there and keep people talking about them.

So in the interest of eliminating some of the hurdles in our path, allow me to burn down a couple of strawmen that this guy (and others) tend to erect when talking about our ilk and our position:

Everything Kevin White / the ND administration does is wrong. Untrue. Notre Dame is like any organization of its size. In the sheer volume of decisions and policies made or set in any given day, some of them will be good and some of them will be poor.

But just as not every decision will be a poor one, not every decision will be a good one either. And when a number of poor decisions seem to be emanating from the same source, logic dictates the suitability of that source be examined. Past targets of this scrutiny have shown themselves to be worthy of it, so don't be quick to dismiss criticisms as being some sort of smear campaign. We have lives, and lack the time to waste on such things. When we analyze problems (such as ND's business dealings with Adidas and the procedures used to hire and fire coaches), we analyze the actual data.

A lot of people love Notre Dame, and the natural feeling for most people is not to criticize things they love to avoid a sense of somehow "devaluing" that thing. People of intelligence should be able to do both and know that it's not to be done frivolously. Those with children have (hopefully) done it all their adult lives.

They won't be satisfied unless ND is playing five top-ten teams every year. Again, patently false. Last week, I did a scheduling analysis that I believe represents, overall, the wishes of the Ilk. That schedule follows a 4-4-4 model: four games against top-tier teams to challenge what should be a talented, well-coached Notre Dame football team (e.g. SC, Michigan, Alabama); four games against what should be token opposition given the schools' comparative abilities to attract coaches and talent (e.g. Duke, Stanford), and four games against traditional "mid-range" schools that, while they should be capable of giving ND a decent game, more often than not will come out on the losing end (e.g. Purdue, Michigan State, Pitt).

A Notre Dame football program operating at its top efficiency should have no problems with a schedule like that. It ensures at least one or two enticing football matchups in South Bend every year, and also ensures any ND team that participates in quality postseason play is not only tempered and ready for that ultimate challenge but has also truly earned the right to be there.

No one is saying the schedule has to be littered with the Top 10 and no other game will do. They're saying limiting ND's quality opponents to two a year, which is what the current plan calls for, is both ill-conceived from a preparation perspective and unbecoming to what Notre Dame has done on the field for more than a century.

To say that ND has to schedule more patsys so they can be assured of winning more games and getting to the BCS championship is unacceptable to me. I don't care if other schools are allegedly doing it, because I believe those schools are going to be looking at a backlash in the near future. Ask Ohio State season ticket holders how they feel about spending top dollar to watch this year's non-conference slate of Youngstown State, Akron, and Kent State. Some of them are quite displeased. I'm also not convinced other schools are doing it, as ShermanOaksND's analysis shows.

There's more to Notre Dame athletics than football, you know. Earth to Farmer Bob, come in Bob. This is the ND Basketball Guy talking. I'm quite well aware there's more to ND athletics than football. That's why Cross and I get into it all the time about his "AD of football" idea (which I still don't advocate).

But let's also remember that football is the straw that stirs the drink. That means it requires special attention to ensure it continues to produce the golden eggs that keep a lot of the other sports going. That doesn't mean trying to wring every dollar out of every orifice, but it does mean accommodating football where it reasonably requires it.

Besides, I have yet to see evidence that any of the recent non-football athletic successes at ND are in any way attributable to the current administration. Women's soccer and women's basketball have won titles, but their coaches' tenures predates Kevin White's arrival on campus. The policy of full scholarship funding was originally Dick Rosenthal's idea, and the implementation of that policy began with him and continued with Mike Wadsworth.

What's wrong with a Jumbotron that will show replays and honor special guests?

(yes, I used the dreaded J-word)

Nothing. Except that kind of 'tron doesn't exist.

Screens of that nature cost tens of millions of dollars to build and hundreds of thousands of dollars annually to maintain. Is that money going to fall from the sky? Of course not, which means any screen in Notre Dame Stadium will require advertising or other sponsorship money to run.

It's also not going to show any replays of the things the crowd would really want to see. Controversial plays or anything else that might make the referees look bad will not be shown. They're not shown at any other venue, so it's not likely they'll be shown at ND. Think you would have seen the Bush Push in 2005? Think again.

ND football is a unique experience, with the band, cheerleaders, student section, and crowd all contributing to an atmosphere unmatched in college sports. Why distract and detract from that atmosphere with cheesy graphics, TV spots, and Loud Continuous Noise?

There's no evidence that [insert topic here] is in any danger of happening. Not always publicly, no. You can sometimes get a warning bell or two from public comments folks in South Bend make.

But we're fortunate to have people on campus who are on our side. Those people work in myriad departments, including Athletics. They're appalled at some of the things being discussed, and irritated at the ineptitude they observe. Fr. Jenkins and John Affleck-Graves have a lot of hot potatoes in their laps, with four Dean positions to fill and having just finished a search for a new assistant Provost. They can't always be watching this sort of stuff, so we're happy to watch it for them. Does that make us arrogant? Maybe, but it's a fault we'll all cop to gladly.

That's the usual suspects all lined up in a row. I may revisit the topic if I think of more, and I've no doubt our loyal comment-makers will remind me of any I missed.

Edit: And sure enough, I missed the biggest one, which I've discussed here.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

In your scheduling article you make the assumption that you really can get those games you want in the future, thus making the 4-4-4 model easy to achieve. I think the real problem is the entire landscape of college football has become so dominated by money that alot of teams want to minimize the difficulty of their schedule to make sure they have a great season. Its one thing to say playing a big time game in season will make money and please the fans, but losing said game could cost a shot at the BCS title game and the money, merchandise sales and so on that comes with that. We may want 4-4-4 but alot of programs want 2-2-8 these days. I give alot of credit to USC for having such a quality OOC schedule. I think the BCS and NCAA needs to take urgent steps to make big in season matchups mandatory or worth teams efforts.

7/28/2007 09:20:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You forgot this one, copied verbatim from another message board:
"It amazes me that everyone who is qualified to prepare an acceptable ND schedule is posting here while the only unqualified individual in the world seems to be our AD."

And, for good measure, here's one from NDNation:
"Before you criticize the AD's office one more time, ask yourself if you could run the ND athletic department any better."

All is well! All is well!

7/28/2007 09:36:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your backdoor instincts are right. Yes, you are becoming tiresome in your ad hominen attacks on Kevin White. Seems to many of us that ND is finally getting its schedule in the best perspective. Please, no more Nebraskas buying out the stadium . . .

///happy alum

7/28/2007 10:29:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not an activist, but should a jumbotron ever be installed, I just might organize a boycott. The beauty of an ND football weekend is that it's not the NFL, it's not Texas A&M, it's not a multimedie experience. It's a five-senses experience. It's a chance to enjoy college football in a way that brings together past, present and future.

7/28/2007 10:43:00 AM  
Blogger Mike Coffey said...

Please, no more Nebraskas buying out the stadium

That's a non sequitur. The difficulty or lack thereof of the schedule had nothing to do with the Sea of Red. If ND had a competent coach for that team, the Sea of Red would not have happened.

We may want 4-4-4 but alot of programs want 2-2-8 these days.

As I noted, those schools are starting to get a backlash from their alumni and fans, who don't want to pay high ticket prices to watch meaningless games. I think enough schools would be willing to take on a third difficult game, at least, if it meant a nationally-televised matchup against ND they could use to revitalize their ticket and fundraising bases.

7/28/2007 11:12:00 AM  
Blogger Ed said...

In fighting an addiction (behavior which is repetitive and self-destructive) one must recognize one's insane behavior. Insane behavior is best described as doing the same thing over and over without achieving a desired result.

The very critical difference in the gnashing and wailing that NDNation periodically undertakes is that through this very behavior, a very major and excellent result was achieved (c4c). Therefore, the sane and logical thing for NDNation to do is repeat that which works. To not have the argument/debate until a desired change is made would be to engage in insanity.

As to ShermanOaks contribution to our understanding of scheduling, I find it informative, but not dispositive. White's argument is that the "Joneses" are going forward utilizing a cupcake scheduling philosophy. If we are to compare ND's forward thinking, we must have the data (FUTURE skeds) regarding our wannabe peers. My suspicion is that White is correct in his assumption that the majority of traditional powers are dumbing down where possible. I would like to see the actual data before we excoriate him for seeing something that isn't there as regards scheduling.

7/28/2007 12:37:00 PM  
Blogger Matt said...

It's a cop out to state that Jenkins and Graves '...can't always be watching that sort of stuff'. That's their job and they need to be held accountable for the for long list of problems that have happened with White. If you want to say that they can't be involved with every Jumbotron discussion ok but they sure as heck know about the licensing contracts and the failed coaching searches. The jumbotron nonsense and the schedule flaps are just topics for discussion where people can and do have differing opinions. These are non winning ways to get White out because you can't demonstrate financial harm. Sure, you can reasonably argue what 'might' happen in the future and argue about loss of tradition etc. Until you say, 'We're losing freaking money with this White!' the other stuff is just noise. With the coaching bumbles and that Adidas contract, by cracky, now you've got stuff you can hold in your hands. Are Jenkins and Graves too busy to notice that? Now, perhaps they are directing their energies to filling the dean positions and then will turn to the AD. But, it seems to me that if Jenkins can get on a plane to Utah to talk to a football coach--before he officially became the Boss, he has a pretty good idea--and actually cares--about what's happening in that department. So, I ask, why hasn't White been held accountable and fired? This Adidas contract, Jenkins knows about this-he's not too busy. No, there's a reason for this White's continued employment. I'm still, however, waiting to hear it.

7/28/2007 01:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I must have missed it. Has someone in the athletic department mentioned that a Jubotrom is being considered?

7/28/2007 02:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a recent ND grad and have a direct quote from John Affleck Graves, "There will never be a jumbotron in ND stadium."

7/28/2007 07:04:00 PM  
Blogger zahm93 said...

To be honest, I have never posted a comment...I use NDNation every day for news of the Irish, but have never felt compelled to respond as the opinions of NDNation have seemed in tune with my own. However, after reading weeks of NDNation comments about the state of ND's athletic department(ie...Kevin White), I'd like to offer my relatively uneducated, but genuinely heartfelt thoughts of such comments. I fully understand and respect NDNations's mission about keeping a watchful eye for any indication that White is directing us along a path of mediocrity for the sake of money--the Jumbotron talk (ludicrous, to say the least), scheduling Baylor and Duke as "home" opponents, and the supposed "Shoegate." However, as others have posted, why should we blame White for trying to schedule some alternative "home" games that bring ND to fertile recruiting grounds even if NDNation may not want to travel to the game? WSU is not a bad opponent at all, and the other tier III teams seem only to allow ND a reasonable shot at a BCS bowl. I'd love for ND to play only tier I teams, and show our nastiness even in defeat--but how is that possible in today's BCS climate? With respect to Kevin White, I am not claiming he hasn't made mistakes with contract buy-outs and using the "barnstorming" allusion poorly, but our teams across the university have been supported to the maximum--how can you claim he hasn't done a great job increasing scholarships and hiring top coaches for many other sports? With respect to Adidas, let's see how it shakes out--I don't see Kevin as a guy who just throws up the white flag...Your concerns and mine are the same...but to call for his removal--to me--is not only premature, but embarrassing and acts against us nationally.

7/28/2007 09:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


First of all thank you for this great article. I too was beginning to tire of the complaining of the schedule but this really laid it out.

My only disagreement would be the 4 elite games. I say we have 3 elite games along with the bowl game (hopefully a BCS game), making 4 elite games. Just adding one more marquee opponent would be great. USC, Michigan and a Tennessee or Alabama.

Once again Mike thanks for explaining in a reasoned way. You have changed my mind.

7/29/2007 11:01:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As an alum `49 I`ve try to give you all the leaway you need. However, I`ve grown weary of your constant self justification.

I hope that you get satisfaction from your offerings. I no longer will try to.

Get a Life!!

7/29/2007 11:06:00 AM  
Blogger Matt said...

My days of 'Pay, Pray, and Obey', with respect to Notre Dame, went out with Monk and his gang. Monk embarrassed Notre Dame a whole lot more than the voices that were questioning his moves/decisions--and not just at the athletic level. No, we were embarrassed nationally by the President of the University, not by the people questioning decisions. Rigorous debate and questioning is healthy for an institution and should not be feared. I can think of 660 million reasons why the Los Angeles Archdiocese might have wished for a bit more questioning and debate. I want that group of passionate people questioning moves and motives because they will hopefully prevent a return to the dark days of Wadsworth and Monk. Jenkins and all of them should be on notice that they are accountable. They needn't fear it.

7/29/2007 12:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Notes from the Geetar:

Thank you for clarifying many of the points which have been raised in recent days/weeks. I like the concept of 4/4/4, and I believe CW and his staff are building the team that can excel in that environment. My only concern is that as other "top" programs ease through their less difficult schedules they will likely be undefeated and meet in the NC game while our Irish are left out. Having said that, I believe your points are correct.

7/29/2007 12:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Sir John said...

I think Kevin White is a nice, well meaning man. I also felt the same for a guy called Ty. Change is needed once again

7/29/2007 04:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please, no more Nebraskas buying out the stadium

That's a non sequitur. The difficulty or lack thereof of the schedule had nothing to do with the Sea of Red. If ND had a competent coach for that team, the Sea of Red would not have happened.

* * * * * *

Whatever that is, it's not a non sequitur. If you schedule terrible teams that have no fans, there is no risk that team's fans will invade ND Stadium. Of course, the small side effect of this strategy is that your own fans are left to wonder why they should attend the games either at home, or at our new alternative "home" games in San Antonio, Orlando, or Dallas.

7/29/2007 10:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anyone who capitalizes "adidas" is not qualified to comment on any contract Notre Dame has with the company (particularly if you don't have a copy of it).

7/30/2007 05:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Blueprint said...

Strange that we talk about the coaching debacles like they happened in a vacum. Lets remember up until Weiss saved the day no one seemed to want this job anymore.

KW can't fully be blamed for that.

I think everyone is over thinking the scheduling component. With the parity in NCAA you can't predict from year to year who will over achieve and who will fall short.
Look at teams like Navy and Rutgers last year, or MI and TEN the year before. How can you look 5,10,or 20 years out and make sense of a potential schedule.

I say keep our traditional and most hated rivals like MI and SC. Add in a few regional rivals like Purdue and MSTATE, gotta play the acadamies some as well. Other than that mix it up.

Also other than our reputation who is this 7-4-1 schedule hurting?

I am not an alum, but am a SB lifer. This town has crappy economics. Home games can be a pain for the locals, but they are also a huge factor in the SB economy. 1 or 2 additional home games means millions of extra dollars for the area and it needs it.

I am at the point where I don't give a crap about all these issues any more. I want a winner. I want to compete and beat elite teams, and I want a fricking Bowl victory.

I would gladly conceed a jumbotron for an undeafeted season and a NC.
They will never put one up anyways Who the hell are they going to flash up there Regis or Dicky V? Jumbotrons are best suited for replays and hot cheerleaders. 2 things we will never have at ND.

Let's not foget the most important tradition at ND: Winning. Being Catholic, private, national, coveted, or whatever we are, all came out of winning.

Straying from that priority is what almost led this program to ruin in the last 10 years.

Why aren't we talking about our inability to recruit a full back and run between the tackles? I think that is a bigger part of what is wrong with ND than any of this other stuff. Interesting that our best showing in the Weiss era (SC 2 years ago) we ran the ball like 60 times. Why don't we run to demoralize our opponents any more? That is ND. I miss you Lou!

8/01/2007 12:13:00 AM  

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