Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The Think System

I've probably devoted more bandwidth to l'affaire Beer Olympics than it deserves. But in the clamor to evaluate the situation (and hope beyond hope it's the proverbial straw on the camel's back for this kind of non-news news), I have yet to see a good critique of the true mistake-maker in the whole thing: The Olympic-class nimrod who not only took the picture but posted it on a public networking site.

I don't know where the picture originated, but for a site like The Big Lead to get their hands on it, they either took it (very doubtful) or were sent it by someone who saw it somewhere (very likely). This means some nitwit took a picture of football players at a party and, for whatever reason, decided to share them.

Now, obviously I have some experience running a website*, so I have a reasonably good idea what led to the posting. Someone had football players at his party and wanted to show his friends at home he was hanging out with them. One of the players' friends wanted to make sure everyone saw the goofy "uniforms" they were wearing. I'd like to think it wasn't because someone wanted to get them into trouble. But any or all could have been the cause.

Unfortunately, as so many in their situation do, the poster didn't think it through and realize what posting something on the Internet does.

So often, people on message boards or social websites or the Internet in general get caught up in the individual conversations or exchanges that take place through the electronic medium and forget the wider audience involved. If you're sending an email to your buddy, Joe, it never occurs to you other people might see it if Joe decides to forward it. If you're participating in a message board thread, you're focused on your discussion with a couple of other posters, not realizing thousands of other people who aren't posting are reading it (and maybe copying it into emails and sending it to even more people). When you put something on MySpace or FaceBook (or even LinkedIn), it goes beyond your 10 friends on the cheerleading squad, and may end up with teachers or parents before it's done.

It happens over and over (as detailed by The Fire). This isn't even the first Notre Dame-related example ... I recall an email written by a recruit's dad that ended up forwarded to thousands of people. In the email, he shared some details about his son's visit to ND, including some exchanges with coaches that were meant to be private. Both the dad and the kid ended up very embarrassed over the entire thing. But again, it wasn't thought through.

I suppose what bothers me the most about it is the response in these situations is never, "Gee, maybe I should think before I post something online", but rather, "Stop harshing our buzz, man, I can post what I want." You should never blame other people because you don't think. Remember the Miranda warning: Anything you say can and will be used against you. Would you walk into your parents' bedrooms and tell them, "Wow, you wouldn't believe how many beers I had last night" as a senior in high school? Would you tell your wife about the hot girl you were flirting with at a bar when you were away on a business trip? Only if you're an idiot. But if you post it online, you're as good as doing that. Idiot.

As I've said many times about NDNation, when you open something up to the public, the public tends to show up and you shouldn't blame them when they do. Unless the medium you're participating in is somehow restricted, like a premium content website, what's said to one is being said to all. To expect people not to read your publicly-available profile or site or post because you have a right to privacy is at best self-contradictory and at worst really really stupid.

So next time you're going to hit the "post message" or "upload photo" buttons, think for a minute: Who is the absolute last person I'd want to see this picture, and what are the chances he or she has Internet access? Then think a little more.

* private joke, relax

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

One for the Road

It's a tale of two cities on the Notre Dame scheduling front. Last week, the University of Connecticut backed down from a previous ultimatum, and agreed to sign a six-year deal with Notre Dame for football games that included their home games played at neutral sites. This week, Rutgers went the opposite way and backed out of negotiations because Notre Dame wanted the RU games played at the Meadowlands.

And now Harvey Araton of the New York Times tosses his two pennies into the fray. Good for Rutgers, says he, and fie on the Irish for pushing such unfair terms. What does the Big East need with Notre Dame anyway, since they look down on the conference with such disdain.

Setting aside for the moment the inherent instability of the Big East, it's perceived lack of value in football, and precarious standing in the BCS and bowl system to begin with, all of which Notre Dame salves with various signed agreements and association with the conference, and the pluses Notre Dame brings to the conference in the non-football sports, his overall point is good. I'm long on record with my opposition to 7-4-1. As a scheduling philosophy, it sucks cold diarrhea out of a dead cat's ass. Not only does it make for uninteresting matchups, it fails any litmus test of fairness, which the Notre Dame I grew up watching seemed always to be about. If you're going to play games against any school, you should be willing to play on their home turf at least once.

Just because people are willing to sell themselves to you for money doesn't mean you should take them up on it. I read stories like Ohio State canceling or moving games that were supposed to be played at Cincinnati, and it really rubs me in the similarly wrong way. It smacks of flop sweat and fear. God forbid the powerhouse program in the state test itself away from home. Perhaps if the Bucks weren't playing eight games at home every year, they wouldn't get waxed in bowl games the way they do. Just like ND's basketball scheduling philosophy, the 7-4-1 philosophy is rooted in revenue maximization, and even though "Come Sweet Cash" is an ND joke older than I am, it's still extremely off-putting to see it exhibited in such a bald-faced manner. A pimp dressed in green and carrying a shillelagh is still a pimp.

The only way to fight this tendency, both at Notre Dame and elsewhere, is to let the market speak. On the one hand, Connecticut decided the payday and exposure of a Notre Dame series was worth the PR hit with its fans by not bringing the Irish to Rentschler (which, it should be noted, isn't on UConn's campus either). On the other, we have the Scarlet Knights telling Notre Dame to take its ball and go home, literally. That's the best way to convince ND 7-4-1 is unworkable, although it's going to cost Rutgers in the short term. Maybe then when Alabama calls, Kevin White will find he has room in the schedule.

Having said that, the attitude Araton takes in the article is just as moronic as the 7-4-1 philosophy. It boils down to him criticizing Notre Dame for trying to leverage its prestige in order to gain terms more favorable to it. To try and brand ND as the only sinner in that congregation is a foolish enterprise. There's a reason the New York Times charges $330 to deliver in my neighborhood while I get my village's paper for free. I guess if Araton were running the organization, I'd have the Times on my doorstep every morning gratis, because, after all, it's not fair for the big bully NYT to force people to pay more for its content. I'm sure the folks who write for the Idaho Statesman or the Bangor Daily News would queue up to get Araton's salary --- why should he use his degree or his skill to demand a higher rate? I realize borderline Communism coming from the New York Times is hardly man-bites-dog, but they should keep it out of the sports pages.

When even mopey NYT scribes are hitting the mark on their Notre Dame hair-pulling, it's time for the Fighting Irish to re-examine their priorities. Would it kill them to go to Hartford or Piscataway at least once? Are they so focused on "no more heavyweights" in pursuit of the almighty dollar that we're doomed to slates of MAC teams? God I hope not.

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Sunday, February 10, 2008

Nothing Like Evidence

I originally made this point as a comment to the last entry. But I think it bears a little more scrutiny, so I made it a post.

If you need evidence that 4-4-4 works and is necessary, look at the title game this season.

LSU played in the SEC, a tough conference without a doubt. Few, if any, tier 3 teams in there, and even the 3's can be tough outs. They played a total of seven games against teams ranked at kickoff. Non-conference, they played VaTech, then had Florida, Auburn, and Alabama during the regular season. Then they went through Tennessee to get to the title game itself. No shortage of challenges there. Even with two losses, their strength of schedule and win in their conference title game got them to the BCS championship.

tOSU played in the Integer, usually decent but this year way down. Their non-conference schedule was a joke, including Youngstown State and Akron. They had no games against top-20 teams at all. But they won all but one, and managed to get into the title game based on one loss and the fact their conference doesn't play a title game.

The results of that game speak for themselves. The tempered, challenged team blew the doors off the team that had scheduled itself into the game. tOSU hadn't played anyone of note, while LSU had been challenged throughout the year. Their experience meant they knew how to respond when the chips were down.

You can't play six or more games against crappy competition and limit yourself to a max of two quality teams each year. It doesn't work. You may end up in the title game if you back into it, but you're not prepared. Eventually, the selection committee sees through your act and you don't get considered anymore. By then, there's a layer of rust on the program that might be difficult to remove.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

If you want something done right...'ve got to do it yourself. That's the best way to live your life, because if you're not going to look out for you, you can be damn sure no one else will.

Non-Irish fans get hot and bothered when we talk about ND's unique place in college sports, football in particular. But there are some ways in which that uniqueness must be acknowledged, even by the most virulent hater. And one of those ways is the school's relationships with other schools and conferences.

When it comes to football, Notre Dame is a Conference of One. As such, the person in charge of the Notre Dame athletic department must be both an athletic director and a conference commissioner. That person is responsible for protecting Notre Dame's best interests regardless of the situation, and must always take the necessary steps to provide that protection even if it means challenging relationships with friends.

But lately, it seems this vigilance is yet another victim to ND's jones for outsourcing important things.

Case in point: Stanford, and David Grimes' spectacular touchdown catch. I call it a TD catch because that's exactly what it was. It was called that way on the field, and all available video replays at worst showed nothing to contradict that call and at best clearly showed Grimes' hand under the ball as he hit the ground, making it a completely legal reception worth six points.

But in a stunning act of what could most generously be called ineptitude (and least generously something far more sinister), the Pac-10 crew in the video replay booth overturned the call made by the Big East referees. Citing some random video angle, to which the rest of the sports universe apparently lacks access, they decided all by themselves Notre Dame should have six fewer points in the game.

ND ended up winning, so one might be tempted to overlook the "error" as, in the end, not having mattered. I'm not tempted in that manner, however, because in a game won by a touchdown's margin, an error that grievous could have been very influential in determining the game's outcome. At some point, a similar error may cost Notre Dame a game, and it's hard to seek justice in that instance if you haven't sought it before.

So from where should this justice come? An admission of error would be a good start. Last season, when a similar officiating gaffe led to an undeserved victory by Oregon over Oklahoma, the Pac10 officials responsible received a suspension and the conference apologized to the OK program. I think that kind of public responsibility goes a long way towards preventing future problems.

Yes, ND still won the game, but the mistake was still one of high-magnitude and the players cheated out of their accomplishment still deserve the proverbial pound of flesh. Notre Dame's officials should be seeking that justice for their players and show those players that when they're wronged, their school has their back.

Trouble is, neither Kevin White nor anyone else at ND is doing that. Why, you ask? Because all officiating matters of this sort are arbitrated on our behalf by the Big East. You know, that conference we're not a member of in football, and whose interests in areas like bowl bids and national rankings more often than not conflict with what would benefit Notre Dame. They're in charge of determining if we were somehow damaged by officials' errors (or outright misconduct) and what, if anything, is done about it.

Since when is that someone else's job? Since now, I guess. I couldn't believe Notre Dame would be willing to kowtow and yield control over its own interests to that extent. But it was all confirmed for me in an email exchange with the ND athletic department.

I was told Notre Dame has to have a relationship with a league in the interest of getting officials to do its games, and this arrangement was all part of that relationship. Obviously ND found another way to do it for years and years when we didn't use Big East officials for our games, and I don't remember hiding under the skirts of the Integer when we were using (and getting screwed by) their crews.

I asked why, considering how the various conferences have interests and needs that conflict with ours, we didn't use neutral officials in all games. I was told using a neutral conference was "not realistic" because the conferences don't have extra officials "sitting around waiting to be assigned to games", and a neutral conference wouldn't have the incentive to send their best crews to do games outside the conference. Given the lack of consequence should the Big East not protect our interests, I'd rather take my chances of creating that incentive by paying neutral officials well than continue to hope for the Big East to get religion and cover our behinds (not that it should be their job to do that).

Official observers are at every game making sure there's no malfeasance, and ND's official position is our interests are protected. But when I asked what the point was of having this kind of relationship if the Big East wasn't going to bat for us, the response talked about politics and internal processes and how conferences aren't in the business of publicly acknowledging the mistakes of their referees. My position remains if the refs who screwed up so galactically in a potentially game-changing situation knew they'd face scrutiny for it, they'd take a lot more time to consider their decisions to make sure they got it right and a lot less time worrying about what the guys in the conference offices thought of how they "protected the family", so to speak.

Any ND fan worth his salt can point out instances of Pac-10 crews in the Coliseum bending the Irish over and taking away wins. Unfortunately, the Big East can't be trusted any more than the Pac-10 can, as our game against Pittsburgh in 2004 proves. And the next time the Integer goes to bat for us will be the first.

The days of conference affiliation for football officials has to end. They've made that change in basketball, which has a lot more refs participating in a lot more games for a lot more schools, and it's worked out very well. Take away even the hint of impropriety, and let the market and performance of the officials become the determining factor. Have the officials overseen by the NCAA to ensure what's best for the game takes precedent over what's best for the conference or an individual team.

Some program with strong cachet and a national bully pulpit should lead the charge for that reform. Too bad it can't be us -- we've rented our pulpit out.

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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Disconnect? More Like Chasm

Yes, it's been a couple days since the Mike Gundy contretemps, and plenty has been said on both sides. One might wonder why it's worth chiming in now.

But this article by Gene Wojciechowski piqued my interest, because not only was was it the first example I've seen of a media creature attempting to address the galactic disconnect that currently exists between sportswriters and the teams they cover and the fans of those teams (although other excellent examples exist like this one from the Fort Dodge Messenger), but it also addresses a pet Internet peeve of mine.

Here's the thrust of GW's jib:

The real work is to fix what's broken. There is a growing disconnect between the sports media and the coaches and players we cover, and the people who read that coverage. There have always been disagreements -- that's a given -- but there also was a common ground and a mutual respect. Now it's something much more polarizing. Mutual distrust.

I agree with him 100 percent. But I'd like to take it a step further and suggest a source for that growing disconnect.

It's been my belief that journalism in general, and sports journalism in particular, has changed its focus drastically in the last few years. It's no longer about the information you're sharing, but rather about how many people are the recipients of that sharing. I talked about this a little here in my comments about people like Pat Forde. The more hair they pull, the more people are talking about them, and the more eyeballs their advertisers get. No such thing as bad publicity, as the old saying goes.

Jenni Carlson's original article fed that beast as much as any other. Setting aside whether or not some of the things in the article actually happened, since when is the alleged mental fortitude or lack thereof of a backup quarterback news? Can you imagine Grantland Rice spending that many inches writing about a quarterback's psyche? Jason Whitlock, in a response in the KC Star, called it a "message-board attack", and he's absolutely right. As a message-board operator, I know this kind of crap when I see it, and if it had appeared on Rock's House written about a Notre Dame player, it would have been deleted as fast as I could move my mouse. That Carlson's editors not only didn't squelch it but featured it prominently betrays their motivations better than anything I could write here.

This is the bed that "real journalists" have made for themselves. When allegedly responsible entities like AOL are affiliating with and giving an imprimatur to people like Brian Cook of MGoBlog, who turned his entire site into pictures of kittens when Michigan lost to AppyState, it tells the reading public the paragons of journalism care a lot more about the entertainment value of the way the news is presented than the news itself. When writers replace research and insight with the daily trolling of message boards for stories, the inherent laziness trickles down and is reflected in their writing, which turns off the fans.

I appreciate GW's willingness to address this problem, but I find it incredibly ironic that this warning comes in an article on a website that is one of the biggest contributors to that problem. Let's face it, the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network elevated Entertainment above Sports a long time ago, to the point they should just change the logo to EsPN. People take positions to get ratings rather than to further a viewpoint. Their idea of giving the audience what they need is a ranting failed football coach putting on mascot heads. I love Lou Holtz to death, but that dog-and-pony-show he and Mark May put on during the week is on the level of Jane Curtin and Dan Aykroyd. I pity the people there who actually try to provide decent acumen like Jay Bilas and Andy Katz, because their efforts are being drowned under Chris Berman's parade of stupid nicknames.

If GW wants coaches and fans to start trusting sports journalists again, he can start by getting his employer to clean their own house.

Now, having said all that, the fans have a job to do as well. I talked about how I feel Carlson's effort was substandard even for a message board. Unfortunately, we see way too much of that on message boards all over the place, and that includes NDN. Carlson may have been wrong to call Reid a wuss, but at least she signed her name to it and has not shied away from the resulting criticism. Some message board patrons hiding behind anonymous handles should think about that next time they rant about how this player sucks or that player isn't trying hard and is a waste of a scholarship.

I sometimes wonder if NDN would be different if we abandoned handles and all made our names public, just as my fellow Ops and I do. It's a lot different when you can be directly taken to task for what you say, because it tends to make you think a lot more before you say it.

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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Physicians, Heal Thyselves

I swear, there are times I believe the people who operate various Michigan fansites are committing fraud. They expect people to pay for their "knowledge", and yet they know just as little (if not less) about a lot of topics than their posters do. Why people shell out good money to listen to those people is beyond me.

The latest mewling concerns the potential (edit: now confirmed) verbal commitment of defensive lineman Ethan Johnson to Charlie Weis. Proving that there's no song like an old song, they've dredged up the same tired whine they used when Sam Young chose the Fighting Irish over the Wolverines -- guaranteed major admittance. According to them, ND has a recruiting advantage over Michigan because UM requires admittance to some of their programs of study after a year or two of matriculation over and above the decision that got you into Ann Arbor in the first place. ND, they complain, doesn't have that hurdle. Any ND football player can major in whatever he wants, and this creates some kind of shadow of wrongdoing or academic shortcutting on ND's part.

News flash, boys: that's available to every Notre Dame student. This isn't something dreamed up for the football players, and it's not any kind of academic corner-cutting. That would be a Kinesiology department, but that's a discussion for another day. Notre Dame doesn't require a selection process at the upperclass level for specific majors because their overall admissions process is more selective.

Now before any of the Maize and Blue faithful get their panties in a bunch, the difference is Michigan is a much larger school and, as such, admits a wider range of academic student as a result. Therefore, they need a secondary process to determine the best destination for the students once they're there. Same thing is true for any large state university, which is why a lot of those universities have those policies. Notre Dame, on the other hand, is smaller overall and with no state constituency involved, applies a harsher standard for overall admittance. Once the student is in South Bend, they're allowed to select whatever major suits their fancy.

Granted, there's still a weed-out process in the form of classroom performance. I know a lot of pre-med guys who, thanks to Organic Chemistry, wound up in MIS classes with yours truly. There's no guarantees once you're in the program. You still have to get the grades, and in that respect, ND football players are held to the same standard as everyone else. I know that because, unlike the peanut gallery who've never attended a class in South Bend, I was actually there and saw them do it.

But turning it into a "recruiting advantage" is the most odoriferous level of bullshit. "Michigan is not going to sell their standards at the B-school to get a recruit." Right. Instead, they're going to shuttle him into a meaningless major and then cease to care whether or not he gets his degree once he's in there. Now that's a standard to which we can all aspire.

Here's a hint, Skunkweasels: Worry a lot less about how recruits are admitted to whatever college within a university, and worry a lot more about how that 33 percent graduation rate for African American football players is making you look. Instead of jumping down Jim Harbaugh's throat for being disloyal, how about an actual effort to keep your players' noses to the grindstone? How about providing guidance to these players to ensure they not only select a meaningful major but also see the effort through to getting the sheepskin? If you're going to treat your athletes like meat, don't be shocked when some of them decide they want something better than the grinder.

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Cheese also comes from dopey coaches

Beware, gentle readers: All is not well in Wisconsin, land of cheese and driving the speed limit in the passing lane.

It seems now-second-year UW football coach Bret Bielema is a little cranky. Four months after the games were played and two days before his program's spring game, Bielema is still pissed off his team didn't get a BCS bid.

And who does he blame for that? Notre Dame, of course.

Bielema is still smoldering because his 12-1 team was left out of the Bowl Championship Series last year even after outperforming the Fighting Irish, a team Bielema says is virtually guaranteed a BCS berth every year....

Bielema knows the rule exists so the BCS has an open spot for each of the major-conference champions. But he wonders why BCS rules treat Notre Dame, an independent, nearly the same as a conference champion.

"I understand why certain teams get exemptions; I don't understand why Notre Dame does," Bielema said. "If they want to play by conference rules, join a conference. They don't take, maybe, into consideration past bowl history. Notre Dame hasn't won in the last nine bowl appearances, or whatever it is. And to me, we've proven over time that we deserve the opportunity."

I expect this level of dumb from Integer fans, but when it start to bleed into the coaching staffs, we've got trouble in River City. There's so much wrong in there, I hardly know where to start. So we may as well begin the beguine at the beginning.

"...the Fighting Irish, a team Bielema says is virtually guaranteed a BCS berth every year."

There aren't any quotes around that sentiment, so I'm left having to pray Bielema didn't actually say something that dumb. No, Bret, Notre Dame is not "virtually guaranteed a BCS berth every year". They have to do the same things you do -- win a minimum of nine games (although that's not always guaranteed to get them in) and finish ranked in the top 12 of the BCS poll. If they were "virtually guaranteed a BCS berth every year", I imagine they'd have more than three appearances in the ten seasons the BCS has been in effect.

In fact, it's more difficult for them to get into the BCS than it is for you because they have to depend on sentiment and how the other teams do. All you have to do is win your (sometimes crappy) conference. Ask some of those nine-win Integer squads that made it to the BCS in recent years how tough that was. Or query some of the Pac10 teams before SC got their checkbook out. Go check out the roster for the 2002 season BCS games and get back to us how "guaranteed" ND's position is.

"Bielema knows the rule exists so the BCS has an open spot for each of the major-conference champions."

If so, he doesn't "know" much. The rule doesn't exist to protect major-conference champions. All of them already have a bid, so the number of overall teams doesn't matter.

The rule exists because of the payout schedule for BCS appearances. Neither the Integer nor any of the other conferences wanted both second-school payouts to go to the same league, so they set that maximum to ensure the widest spreading of wealth possible. Typical of the Communistic practices conferences usually engage in, which is why I'm glad ND isn't in one for football.

Bret obviously still has post-seasonal traumatic disorder and is looking for someone to blame. Instead of the Notre Dame strawman, Bret should target his anger at some other targets, like....

His conference. The Integer power brokers agreed to the two-team rule to protect their bank balance. They also set up the unbalanced schedule that didn't give the Badgers a shot at Ohio State. Complain to your conference commissioner, provided he's not too busy sending bizarre press releases about recruiting classes and investigating phantom boogeymen who are talking down one of his crappiest programs.

The BCS voters. You know, the guys that voted Michigan ahead of you even after they got pounded by the Buckeyes. Your league pumped up the "Battle of the Century" crap so high, the Wolverines didn't fall like they should have after that loss and your Badgers paid the price.

Himself. Personal accountability, there's a novel concept. Hey Bret, how about you take responsibility for your team not being able to keep its foot on Michigan's throat after they came out completely flat against you in September. Or taking responsibility for playing a horse-manure schedule, particularly out of conference, that most likely cost you precious BCS points. Or how about just saying, "The buck stops here, if we missed the BCS, it's because we didn't get it done when it counted". That's what Charlie Weis would say, after all.

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Saturday, March 24, 2007

Show 'Em How It's Done

This seems to be the Year of the Demotion for Division I coaches ... lots of guys jumping to a lower-tier job before the (inevitable?) push. One-time wunderkind Steve Alford beat feet for New Mexico. Joe Scott bailed out of Princeton to UDenver. And in the highest profile cannonball, Tubby Smith left the Bluegrass of Kentucky for the blue fingers and toes of Minne-soda, eh?

It's doubtful any of these moves will affect ND directly, unless the unleashed dominoes result in an assistant coach moving up in the world. But I found the whole Tubby situation to be very interesting, and possibly educational to the folks in South Bend. While Minnesota is hardly ND when it comes to exposure and leverage, MN athletic director (and 1967 ND grad) Joel Maturi acted in an incredibly decisive and efficient manner in getting rid of an underperforming coach and going after the highest profile candidate he could. As a result, he landed perhaps a bigger fish than his constituents could have expected and showed himself to be a quality candidate for a similar position at ND.

Maturi's been a busy man this year, replacing both his football coach and men's basketball coaches. But both replacements were handled with exquisite precision. When Glen Mason's team lost its bowl game in a terrible performance, showing a distinct lack of preparedness, the already-embattled coach was given his walking papers immediately, even though the team had won three of its last four games to get to that bowl game, and Maturi had a replacement within two weeks. When Dan Monson's squad started out 2-5, Maturi said the program was "not in the position we want it to be in" and asked for (and got) Monson's resignation, leaving him free to conduct an exhaustive (and quiet) search that yielded Smith.

That someone with a Notre Dame pedigree could take such forceful action makes me wonder why the people who are actually on campus can't do the same in some cases. Think about the last two coaching searches under the Dome, with the charlie foxtrots of Urban Meyer and Pat Casey. Where would ND be in football had Kevin White, in the aftermath of the horrific performance of Bob Davie's squad in the 2000 Fiesta Bowl, done what his gut should have told him needed to be done and fired Davie outright and immediately? At the very least, would the University's public image have taken the beating it did so many times in the last three years? I think not. And it's frustrating to still be waiting on renovations to the Joyce Center while watching Maturi put together a plan for a $288 million football stadium for a school that hasn't been competitive in football in my lifetime.

There's a Notre Dame alumnus showing us how the job should be done 500 miles west of where he should be doing it. Maybe that should be ND's next search.

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Monday, February 26, 2007

If You Can't Beat 'Em ... Suck It Up

Driving home from dropping the kids at school today, I was listening to ESPN's Mike and Mike in the Morning. While I still have some residual dissatisfaction with the way Irish alum and program co-host Mike Golic handled himself in the wake of the Tyrone Willingham firing, his son will be wearing the Blue and Gold in a couple of seasons. Given that I also like Mike Greenberg from his days in Chicago sports media, I figured it was time to move on. Besides, given a choice between the WWL and Mike North (the presence of Irish alum Anne Maxfield notwithstanding) and a third run through the morning news, the choice is clear.

During the program, they were discussing the subject of player movement in the pros and how it can create interesting (if not awkward) situations both for players and fans. What do New York Yankee fans do when their team signs someone from the Boston Red Sox? Could Bears fans stomach winning games with Brett Favre at the helm? Can you envision Spike Lee wearing a Bulls jersey?

That got me to thinking -- if you can't beat them, should you really join them? Or is it better to suck it up until you can beat them?

Greenberg seemed much more in tune with my way of thinking on this subject -- I don't want to win with that guy, I want to beat that guy and have him leave my field with his head hanging in shame basking in his looserdom. Grow your own and use them to bludgeon your opponents into submission, I say.

Over the course of the drive, I tried to think of coaches or players I could not stand having on ND's roster, no matter how good it made the Irish.

It was difficult in basketball, because there isn't a lot of hate going around these days. Of course, there are the old standbys like Tom Kleinschmidt, but those are days long past. I did come up with a few -- Gerry McNamara, Eric Devendorf and Jim Calhoun sprang to mind immediately -- but I'd probably have to give it a lot more prayerful meditation.

In football, however, it was easier. Coaches made the list a lot moreso than players because players tend to be temporary while coaches seem to last forever.

The day Pete Carroll or Urban Meyer are named as coach of Notre Dame, I begin a hiatus from Notre Dame football until they leave, and I don't care if ND wins five MNC's in a row. Carroll is a snake oil salesman who has a maturity less developed than the players he coaches, and I want him at SC for a long long time until we can deliver a couple of well-deserved ass kickings. Meyer is a self-promoting jagbag who has already used ND for his own personal gain once. Karma, for him, will be a bitch and a half, and I want to watch it and enjoy every nanosecond.

Steve Spurrier? I'd take him. Yes, he's arrogant, but most coaches are, and I don't have a particular antipathy for him. Terry Bowden, on the other hand, makes my skin crawl both physically and metaphorically.

Corwin Brown I can handle just fine. Lloyydd Ccarr? Nuh-uh. And Cheaty McSweatervest can take his SUV's and AIDS Awareness curriculum and go scratch.

Did I miss anybody?

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Friday, February 09, 2007

Alanis Morissette on Line One, Coach

Call the Webster folks, their definition of irony is about to get a refresh.

The big story in the post-NLOI day flotsam is poor poor wronged Ron Zook. He just can't understand why people are looking askance at this year's recruiting effort. It baffles him that folks would wonder why highly-ranked prospects would want to play at a school in the middle of nowhere with bad facilities and next to zero fan interest. He wonders why people are raising their eyebrows at the ability of a guy who was mediocre at his previous coaching stop and (so far) downright horrible at this one to sway blue-chip players to cast their lot with the Illini. He's stupefied folks would assume wrongdoing from a school that has a laundry list of recruiting violations in major sports and a recruiting coordinator, Mike Locksley, who was at least proximately involved with at least one high-profile violation at his last port of call.

It's irresponsible, says he. There's no proof, says he. It's not right, says he.

Then in his next breath, he asks for rain on his wedding day.

It's no secret the IL folks think the Notre Dame coaching staff is behind all this. Apparently they're not shy saying it off the record, and the volume of articles in the past two days backs this up, including this one, for which I was interviewed but not quoted.

Never mind that Michigan and Ohio State have more to lose with IL being a recruiting power than ND does. Never mind that both those schools lost players to Zook this season as well. And never mind that Michigan has a history of being quick to tattle on their Illini brethren the minute they get uppity. It's Notre Dame's fault, dammit, because Charlie Weis is just plain terrified of the Coaching Juggernaut that is the Zooker.

Do they have any proof of ND's involvement? Not any more than their recruiting detractors do. But that's not stopping them from going to the media and whining about it and defaming ND just as Zook's critics are allegedly defaming him.

Illinois is just as good as "playing the game" as anyone else. Is it a coincidence the same day the NYT piece appeared, a corresponding puff piece on Arrelious Benn -- a player who had enrolled in December and who hadn't had anything newsworthy happen to him in the month he'd been in Champaign -- was run in the Washington Post? Local paper or no, I'm sure Locksley's connections from his Maryland days had nothing to do with it. After all, in a medium where every cent counts, the Washington Post has plenty of inches to spare on a story with no actual news in it.

The facts of the matter are these: (1) Ron Zook may be a good person and a great salesman, but he's also a horse-manure coach. (2) Illinois may be a great school, but it's a crappy football program with zero tradition or support and a history of not exactly keeping to the letter of the law NCAA-wise. If Zook or Guenther think they're going to pull a top-15 class into that environment after two seasons of 4-19 ball and no one is going to whisper, or if they think college football aficionados would need prompting by coaches to find that whole thing suspicious ... well, in the words of Dan Hawkins, go play intramurals, brother.

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

What are your intentions?

Usually that's a phrase you see in bodice-ripper novels ... austere Southern plantation owners determining the plans of suitors while their daughters swoon in the corner and whatnot.

But it seems such a question has found its way into recruiting. Plenty of movement both to and from ND and other places in the closing weeks of the recruiting "season" has led to questions about what a verbal commitment does or should mean.

The lack of an early signing date in college football makes the jobs of coaches much more difficult. Not only do you have to continue to pursue the undecided guys you're after, you also have to watch over your own henhouse to keep the other foxes away, oftentimes for six months or more.

That doesn't seem to be an efficient use of coaches' time to me. So bearing in mind how much I despise the process and believe it to be beyond repair, I give you my Personal Rules of Ethics regarding recruiting. You're welcome to accept them as axiom or not, but this is how I roll.

If a recruit is verbally committed to a school, he should not accept solicitations from other schools.

This should be the overall idea. In an ideal world, recruits should not verbally commit until they're sure of their choice. Players shouldn't commit just to reserve a spot. When you commit, you're asking coaches to adjust their plans based on your choices. When you change your mind on those choices, you've inconvenienced people to an extent jobs may be lost as a result. Be sure when you give your word.

A school should be able to offer solicitations to recruits already committed to other schools, and should be able to respond to solicitations from committed recruits, subject to two conditions: (1) If that recruit asks the other school to cease and desist, that school should no longer contact the recruit in question, and (2) If communication is to continue, the new school should demand the recruit notify the school to which he is currently committed that the communication is taking place.

Again, in an ideal world, the new school's staff should be open about their intentions with the current school's staff, but I stopped believing in Santa and the Tooth Fairy a long time ago. But they should demand the recruit be honest, as honest players make good teammates no matter what program lands them.

It doesn't bother me that ND took another shot at Martez Wilson. At one time, he was considering ND strongly, and ND made a defensive change that could have had an effect on his choice. The young man responded he wasn't interested, so that was that.

It also doesn't bother me that ND came back to Brian Smith. Again, he had strong interest, and the change in coaches made him more attractive to ND. He accepted the contact, so it was right for ND to continue it. He was also above board with Iowa, letting them know that ND had talked to him and he intended on talking to them further, leaving Iowa free to make whatever decision it felt was best.

By that same token, FL was not in the wrong to contact Justin Trattou. They asked, he responded, so fine. The problem was in the secrecy -- the FL coaches allegedly asking Trattou to keep their conversations private. If you're going to open up your recruiting, you owe it to the school to which you're committed to let them know. And if you're going to go after a committed recruit, one would hope you have the honesty (if not bravery) to be up front about it and not ask them to sneak out of the house like a 15-year-old going to her first kegger.

Ditto Greg Little. I highly doubt he had an epiphany this morning that UNC was the place for him. He had been assuring people for weeks he was ND-bound. If you're going to alter your decision, be a man about it and tell the people involved how they stand. Waiting until the last minute and figuring it's easier to apologize than ask permission is something my nine-year-old does. If you're so unsure on your decision that you can make a signing day change, you shouldn't have committed in the first place.

If a committed recruit is communicating with other schools, the school to which that recruit is committed is within its rights to no longer consider him committed and no longer consider its scholarship offer valid.

I have no problem with Iowa pulling the scholarship offer from Brian Smith. They didn't feel he was committed to them, so they acted accordingly. If ND had pulled Trattou's or Little's scholarship offers in response to movement by them, they would have been within their rights as well. You have to do what you have to do to fill out your class, and sometimes a relationship doesn't work out.

I'm not sure how CW and company are going to move in the Brave New World of recruiting we seem to be in, but it's obviously time to take the gloves off. I've got no problems with that, as long as they don't start sucker punching.

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Monday, November 27, 2006

An Ethical Dilemma?

Is West Virginia about to get screwed?

No, this isn't a setup for an inbreeding joke, but rather a question whether or not the Big East is willing to prostitute itself for $4 million.

Right now, Louisville sits at #6 in the BCS standings. Depending on how things shake out, they're likely to receive a bid no matter what happens this weekend. A Florida loss in the SEC Championship would only help them. They're unlikely to lose to Connecticut on Saturday, so I don't see that affecting the calculus.

Rutgers and West Virginia, who play this Saturday in Morgantown, are also contending for bids, sitting at #13 and #15, respectively. The results of that game will decide the Big East champion and the automatic BCS bid, and here's where the chicanery can come in.

If West Virginia wins, Louisville will win the title outright being the only one-loss team, meaning they won't be eligible for a BCS at-large bid. Both Rutgers and West Virginia will have two losses. Rutgers likely will drop out of the BCS top 14 altogether with the loss, meaning they wouldn't be eligible for the BCS at all. It's also not guaranteed the Mountaineers would move into the top 14 with a win, since Wake Forest -- which will play in the ACC title game that day as well -- could move up significantly with a win there. Even if WVU does inch into the top 14, there are other teams ranked ahead of them (e.g. Notre Dame) much more likely to be picked. So a West Virginia win most likely limits the Big East to one bid.

If Rutgers wins, OTOH, both they and Louisville will finish with one loss. Rutgers will win the conference thanks to the head-to-head tiebreaker, meaning they get the automatic BCS bid. Louisville, however, still sits high in the BCS rankings, so it's possible they may receive an at-large bid. At the very least, they are more of a logical pick than West Virginia given their ranking.

No matter how you slice it, the Big East's chances are better with a Rutgers win. They don't want to "blow" the automatic selection on Louisville, since the Cardinals already have a strong chance for a bid without it. They'd love for Rutgers to pick up the auto bid, leaving Louisville eligible for an at-large and the extra $4 million for the conference that comes with it.

Notre Dame fans have seen this kind of thing up close when Pittsburgh came to town during Tyrone Willingham's last season. The Panthers were looking to become bowl-eligible at 5-3. However, ND had an in for the Big East bowl selections, and an out-of-conference victory over Pitt could have locked up the Gator Bowl for ND.

The Big East provided the officiating crew that day, and any ND fan who watched that game can tell you, we saw some of the most head-scratching calls in recent memory, rivaling that of some of the Pac10 crews encountered by Notre Dame in Los Angeles over the years. Pitt ended up with four penalties for 39 yards, while the Irish were flagged 10 times for a whopping 119 yards. Result? A 41-38 Panther win.

Now the Big East is faced with a similar dilemma. If Rutgers wins the game, the BE might get that second BCS bid. Sure, they might win it anyway, but WVU has an excellent ground game and a decent defense.

My suggestion to Mountaineer fans? Watch the refs very very closely, and remember it's not what the flag is thrown for as much as it's when the flag is thrown. Look for those holding calls that wipe out first downs and set up second- or third-and-long. See how closely they call the pass interference situations. Make sure the focus on one end of the field matches that of the other.

ND fans have been there, and the results weren't pretty.


Monday, November 20, 2006

Rematch? Let's do it

When it comes to the BCS, I'm not a big fan of the concept of The Rematch.

And don't interpret that as a push to get ND involved -- they'd have to beat SC by at least two TD's to convince me playing in the NC game is a good idea.

I just don't like the concept that Michigan can waltz into the NC game after losing to tOSU without doing something to counterbalance the loss.

Yes, they beat ND and Wisconsin. That was two months ago. Between then and now, they scraped by Penn State, Northwestern, and Ball State. Not that the Buckeyes didn't have any unimpressive outings, because they did, but we can play that game until we're (maize and) blue in the face.

Usually when you see rematches in other sports, there's been some time to digest and interpret the results, and the loser usually has to accomplish something to get the second bite at the apple. For example, in basketball, the NCAA tries to keep conference members in separate brackets until the Elite 8, and does their best to avoid in-season rematches in the first round (or two, if they can help it). The loser doesn't just step back up to the plate for a do-over.

That's probably how it will be, and one has to reconcile oneself to that fact. There will always be illogic when it comes to resolution of the MNC issues, particularly because it's the discussions those bits of illogic generate that the NCAA wants most of all.

But like George Carlin, I've got a lot of good ideas (and the trouble is, most of them suck). And I've got one here.

If Ohio State wins the rematch, fine. No possible gainsay of them being deserving of a championship.

But if Michigan wins, now you've got a tie. Each team won one game. Logic screams for the rubber match.

I say, give it to them.

An unofficial game, unsanctioned by the NCAA, meaningful only to the people who wish it to be so.

Play it in the dead week right before the Super Bowl.

Try to find a neutral venue that will still draw a crowd. Not sure if Toledo has a big enough stadium to do it. Maybe they could flip a coin between Ford Field and Browns Stadium. The latter might be more fair, as it's more than an hour away from each campus, and it seats 8,000 more people.

(Heck, play it in Notre Dame Stadium. That way when the game is done, we can lock the doors and tear gas the lot of them. But I digress.)

Split the tickets 50-50 between the schools. Televise it on pay-per-view. Have the talking heads at the Worldwide Leader come up with a pithy slogan (given that's all they're good for these days) -- "Border War to Settle the Score", "The Putz vs. the Nuts", "Bo and Woody: The Final Seance", whatever.

All proceeds from all sources -- ticket sales, viewing charges, concessions, etc. -- go directly to charities designated by the schools. Given 73k seats, a couple hundred thousand PPV's sold, and all those Midwestern Protestants eating a lot of cheese fries, that's a pretty healthy payday for some lucky not-for-profit.

There's no loser here. The two fanbases get to yap at each other for a few more weeks, which makes fewer weeks they're bothering the rest of us. The players get one more shot at their rival without missing classes (I know, pretend it matters). Sears Homestores will be able to sell a whole new round of couches. And all in the name of charity.

Never happen -- makes too much sense.


Monday, October 16, 2006

Visions of BCS Bids Dancing....

It's mid-October, the first BCS poll has been released, so it's time to start thinking about possibilities for ND.

Note: All of this assumes the Fighting Irish win out this season. A loss to any of the teams remaining on the schedule will probably preclude ND from BCS inclusion, even if they beat SC. If the loss is to SC, it's possible they might stay in the top 14 and therefore be eligible for inclusion (and I can see a bowl wanting a 2-loss ND team instead of the BE, ACC, or BXII second-place finisher), but given how late the loss would be, it might be too much to overcome.

Available Teams.

There are four at-large slots available. Let's look at the conferences and find the most BCS-worthy possibilities:

Integer. The MI/tOSU loser will almost certainly be a BCS participant, particularly if both teams are undefeated going into the game. If the winner is ranked in the top two and is selected for the NC game, the Rose Bowl will be under a lot of pressure, both internally and externally, to select the loser of the game as a replacement, provided that loser only has one loss. The Integer is almost guaranteed two slots.

Pac10. If we assume ND has to go undefeated to get to the BCS, there won't be an undefeated team in this mix. However, Sagarin has the conference rated #1 right now, so that may carry some weight to counterbalance the losses. SC, Cal and Oregon seem to be the possibilities, since everyone else has at least two losses, and Cal has already given Oregon their one loss. Three straight weekends will determine how many Pac10 teams are BCS-bound -- Oregon at SC on 11/11, Cal at SC on 11/18, and ND at SC on 11/25.

Big XII. Texas is the standard-bearer here, but they already have one loss. They're also the only BigXII team in the BCS Top 15, with Nebraska (plays Texas this weekend, has to travel to A&M, would have to play the tougher South winner in the championship game) and Oklahoma (already lost to the Horns, lost AP for the season, still has to play at Mizzou & A&M) the only other BCS Top 25 entrants. Texas A&M and Missouri only sport one loss, so it's possible those teams might sneak in. But I see the Big XII as being a one-bid conference, especially if Texas is that team.

SEC. Too close to call right now. Florida is ahead in the Eastern Division, and the next team is a 2-loss Georgia that seems on its way to a meltdown. Tennessee remains a possibility if Florida stumbles again. On the other side, it's Auburn and Arkansas. While I think the SEC teams will beat up on each other enough to keep them out of the NC game, I also think their publicity machine is strong enough that they'll have a second team in the BCS this year, most likely either the NC game loser or the runner up in the winner's division.

Big East. The WVU/Louisville winner probably will have the inside track to the NC game, provided they can overcome an atrocious strength of schedule and a lack of love by the computers. But even if the loser of that game ends with one loss, they'll be hard-pressed to get into the BCS because I don't see a lot of bowls falling all over themselves to make the invitation. Granted, both schools travel well, and there are four at-large bids. But still.

ACC. Yuck. You've got GaTech, Clemson, and Wake Forest all with only one loss overall. Clemson has already defeated Wake, so they have the inside track to their conference championship. GaTech still has to go to Clemson and host Miami (and Georgia). The chances of the ACC having a second BCS team is almost zero. They're lucky they're getting one in there.

Other conferences. The only ranked non-BCS teams are Boise State at #15 and Tulsa at #25. Tulsa already has a loss, so its unlikely they can get into the top 12 and the automatic bid, but stranger things have happened. Boise still has to go to Idaho and San Jose State, but the chance exists they'll finish undefeated, which will probably be enough to rank them ahead of the ACC champ and get them in. If they lose even one, they're dead.

Summary: The way I see it, the Integer and SEC are the only conferences virtually guaranteed to get a second team in there, while the ACC is virtually guaranteed only one slot. For the other three, it will depend on how things break.

If ND finishes the season with only one loss, they're a lock to be BCS top eight and automatically eligible. If they lose to SC, they could still possibly get in if they remain in the BCS top 14 and the other also-rans in the BCS stumble and/or Boise gets hit with a loss.

Available Bowls

After the two bowls that lose their "host" team to the National Championship Game pick, the order of march is Sugar, Orange, Fiesta. Hard to tell right now how things will fall out, but let's examine the possibilities:

The Rose Bowl. While the chances are not zero here, they're probably as remote as you can get. The only way ND ends up here is if the bowl has to replace one of its host schools. It's highly unlikely the Pac10 would need a replacement if ND goes undefeated and knocks off SC. The Integer champ will probably be the MI/tOSU winner, and if that team is undefeated, it would be selected for the NC game. However, the bowl would be under a lot of pressure, both externally and internally, to select the MI/tOSU loser as the replacement, particularly if that team has only one loss. If the second-place team had two losses and the Pac10 rep was not SC, however, all bets would be off. I could see an ND/Cal game being pretty attractive to the committee in that case.

The Sugar Bowl. This is the most likely destination for ND. New Orleans is desperate for a high-profile Sugar Bowl to give tourism a boost. If they lose their SEC rep to the NC game and have two picks in the first three, there's no way they'll pass on an eligible Fighting Irish team. Even if they don't lose their rep, they pick first after the NC bowls do, and an ND/Florida game is a publicity natural. Even ND/Auburn or ND/Tennessee would grab TV sets. The conspiracy theorist in me could see the BCS working behind the scenes with the other bowls to make this happen.

The Orange Bowl. Not a likely destination. The bowl folks won't want the rematch if Georgia Tech is the ACC rep. The SEC runner-up would ensure plenty of bodies in the seats, especially if that runner-up is Florida. And the Sugar isn't going to get the Irish get by, so since the ACC rep isn't going to be anywhere near the NC game....

The Fiesta Bowl. Probably the second-most-likely destination, but only if the BigXII rep is lost to the championship game. Since they also have the NC game this year, they'll probably get short shrift on the actual bowl, but even though ND was just there last year, the bowl might want them as insurance against a snoozer matchup.

I imagine this will all be clearer the first week of November or so, but for now, it's fun to dream.

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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Welcome to Penn State? I guess not

"Welcome to Notre Dame".

You can't get through a football Saturday without hearing that phrase somewhere on the campus ... from the parking lot attendants, the ushers at the stadium, the security guards at the Joyce Center, the folks at the Basilica, even from the fans themselves.

If there was a poll for Safest Venue for Visiting Fans, you can bet Notre Dame would top the list. Browse the fansites of Irish opponents after their trips to South Bend, and you'll typically find raves about the hospitality of Notre Dame and its fans (usually with the disclaimer "despite all the assholes we encounter on the Internet" thrown in there somewhere).

Every now and then, I wish it wasn't that way. Everyone wants "their house" to be the intimidating, home-field-advantage-granting atmosphere that can help the team when they need it. Maybe all this welcoming hurts the team. Maybe opponents should feel a little less comfortable.

But then I remember stories from friends who went to Miami in 1989 or Ohio State in 1995 or any game ever played in Boston. I don't want Notre Dame fans hurling epithets at women walking with their kids. I don't want Notre Dame fans throwing urine at people. I don't want Notre Dame fans getting sued by the fans they tackle in a drunken stupor.

"Welcome to Notre Dame"? Fine by me.

I suppose that's why this Daily Collegian article bothers me so much.

Collegian staff writer Andrew Staub found himself without a press pass for Saturday's Notre Dame / Penn State tussle, so he went about documenting his effort to "get [his] hands on what many referred to as the toughest ticket of the weekend". On his way he talked about the reception he received:

"I parked my car in a lot about a mile from the stadium where both Notre Dame and Penn State fans were tailgating, many of them in the same party."

"I even wore a Penn State Center for Sports Journalism hat into Friday's pep rally. Nobody said a word to me. Penn Staters even sat in the crowd. No drinks were dumped on them. No obscenities yelled."

"Overall, Notre Dame fans were great and got along well with Penn Staters."

All par for the course. As I said, I'll risk the lack of intimidation to behave like an adult, and I'm glad to see a good portion of my fellow ND fans feel the same way.

But then the next line stopped me in my tracks.

"I hope they don't expect the same next year when they come to State College."

Just like that. No apology or shame for the situation. No call to his fellow fans to emulate the behavior he saw. Just a simple expression (and apparent acceptance) of ignorance. Rolled right off the tongue without hesitation.

Thanks for the hospitality, suckers.

My father is a native Philadelphian, and many of my cousins attended PSU. In the post-game discussions Saturday, Dad expressed a strong desire to make the return trip next September to Happy Valley. We could rent an RV, he said, and make a weekend out of it. My cousins could come up and meet us there, and it'd be a great time, tickets or no.

Outwardly, I was enthusiastic about the idea. But visions of a vandalized RV danced in my head. Harassment from drunk coeds. A weekend of beer showers. And God forbid the Irish lose -- we'd have to leave by halftime.

It's not that I'm antagonistic by nature. I'm a mind-my-own-business kind of fan that doesn't go looking for trouble. But I've found in the past that makes no difference, and I doubt it'd make a difference here.

At the time on Saturday, I figured I was overreacting. It did sound like a fun trip. Sure, why not?

Then I read Mr. Staub's article. "Why not?" became "Why?"

I watched the game in the Joyce Center lot at bbdome's always-excellent annual mega-tailgater, complete with 44" TV. Just before kickoff, we were joined by three PSU girls who, sans tickets, needed a place to watch the game. We accommodated them with seats and food and drink, and except for a situation early in the game when they were being a little too enthusiastic in their cheering, everything went fine.

Just before halftime, one of the young ladies got into a bit of distress. She was having an asthma-related attack, and didn't have an inhaler with her. Fortunately, one of the other girls in her party did, and she availed herself of it and came out fine.

But for the rest of the game, every five to ten minutes or so, someone in our party checked up on her to make sure she was all right. We moved her to one of the shady seats, and got her some water. My dad missed most of the second half because they got to chatting about our relatives and friends who work at major news outlets, which interested her as a journalism major.

At the end of the party, the three PSU students walked away after thanking everyone profusely for their hospitality.

I thought of that young lady as I read the end of Mr. Staub's article. What would happen to a Notre Dame student who found herself in respiratory distress in Happy Valley? I would hope fans there would give her the same level of attention we gave our Nittany Lion friend, but reading that article, I'm not so sure.

I'd like to think my lack of surety would bother PSU fans, but reading that article, I'm not so sure.

I'd like to think I'll be making the trip next year, but....

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