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Strange Bedfellows

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Notes from the Geetar

As 2018 comes to a close (and I continue my attempt to figure out this new WordPress GUI), I wanted to strum a few last notes. And it was important to write this article today, even though long-time NDNation readers likely will be stunned by it. Because today, December 31st, on his last day under the Dome, I want to commend John Heisler.

I’ve known John ever since the site got started coming up on 20 years ago, and regardless of whether or not we agreed with something the other said or did (and I imagine we both would have a litany available if asked), our relationship has always been professional. He was very helpful to me when I was putting Echoes together, he approved our initial credential request to cover ND basketball, and he always had an answer to questions asked at the ready

But my 20 years of experience with him is the tip of his ND iceberg. John grew up in South Bend, and although he didn’t attend ND, he was watching games in Notre Dame Stadium and the then Joyce Center with regularity. He followed his matriculation at Mizzou cutting his teeth under the inimitable Roger Valdiserri in the Sports Information office, taking over the job when Roger retired in 1988.

John wore many hats over his 40+ years at ND. He managed media types, he helped with football scheduling, and sometimes was a one-man PR campaign for all things Fighting Irish. And all along the way, he wrote wrote wrote — 10 books about ND history, a slew of tributes to some legendary ND people, anything to keep some skin in that game.

Those 40+ years at ND come to an end today, and hopefully this article will be one of many saluting him for long years of service. But (probably) unlike those other articles, I’m going to take it a (slightly acerbic) step further. Because I think when someone leaves ND after such a faithful tenure, ND folks deserve to know how it happened, and suffice it to say I don’t have a lot of confidence other outlets will cover this aspect of his journey.

Now probably would be a good time to make clear nothing typed here has come from John or anyone else in the athletics office. Let’s just say a couple rather upset birdies flew in my window, and in comparison, the holy-shit-there’s-an-eagle-on-me guy had it easy.

As mentioned, John wore a lot of hats over his ND career, but lately, his hat stand had been shrinking. He no longer was assisting with football scheduling, his SID duties long had been passed on, and he was spending most of his time on the writing aspect. Apparently, back in October, his boss (and we all know who that is) walked into his office, told him ND couldn’t afford to pay someone who was just a writer that level of salary, so as of December 31st, he would no longer be paid.

WTF???

Let’s face it, John carried a lot of water over the years in the athletics office, and given some of the bonehead moves and statements that have come out of that place, I imagine some of those buckets were heavy indeed. His loyalty was absolute, and the bullets he stepped in front of were numerous. The Weis era alone probably was enough for its own hypertension prescription.

His reward for that level of loyalty? An unceremonious bounce. And I’m sure the version of the story I heard that John would be let go just short of a milestone that would be financially advantageous to him was exaggerated, because after all, we know loyalty is always rewarded in Jack’s domain {sarcasm off}.

Since originally hearing the story during Pitt weekend, I’ve cultivated details from other folks, and talked about it with ND people both pro- and anti-John. The reaction, as with many things, covered a wide spectrum from sorrow to schadenfreude. But regardless of where it came from, each reaction shared a minor variation of the same sentence: “What kind of a piece of shit fires someone like that?”

No doubt a very savvy kind.

Enjoy your retirement, John, you’re better off. And past arguments aside, I’ll buy you a beer any day.

View Comments

  • John is a wonderful, humble, classy individual who has been consistent and absolute in his loyalty and dedication to Notre Dame. I marvel at his writing skills backed by outstanding research. His example inspired me to do a better job at my literary hacks for NDNation. It was great to see him on Saturday so I could let him know how I felt. He was very gracious in spite of the shoddy (my word, not his) treatment he received.

  • ND couldn't afford his salary. What a joke. The millions and millions that have been paid out to shit coaches-- some of whom less than loyal-- with their buyouts is embarrassing. Notre Shame indeed.

  • The university's treatment of the athletic department has gone downhill since the departures of Hesburgh and Joyce. Subsequent administrations have only viewed it as a cash cow, and are only interested in the bottom line.

  • This is straight from the $warbuck playbook. He did the same to Joe Piane. 42 years of service as ND cross country and track coach and unceremoniously dumped. Neither he nor Jenkins acknowledged Piane's long tenure to the university. Just grab your hat when you walk out the door. The play is repeated now with Heisler. Swarbrick and Jenkins are dark souls.

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