By Brendan Loy
On Facebook yesterday, one of my law-school classmates made an observation about Charlie Weis’s then-imminent departure that I suspect will be heard in certain corners the sports media this week, as Weis’s firing is used to advance the evergreen storyline of Notre Dame’s fall from grace. (The only story the sports media likes better than “Notre Dame’s fall from grace” is, of course, “Notre Dame’s return to glory.”) The observation is:
What coach would want to come to ND, considering that the moment they walk in the door, there’s pretty much going to be a number on their head?
My response? Bollocks:
That’s true at EVERY high-level program. If you don’t win within 3-5 years, you’re done. Do you think Florida regrets firing Ron Zook after 3 years and replacing him with Urban Meyer? Do you think Alabama regrets firing Mike Shula after 4 years and replacing him with Nick Saban? Do you think USC regrets firing Paul Hackett after 3 years and replacing him with Pete Carroll? I could go on.
There’s nothing wrong with firing bad coaches. The key is to find the right replacement. The reason Notre Dame has had three consecutive relatively quick firings (within 5 years) is because it’s had three consecutive bad coaches. It’s the hirings you should be criticizing, not the firings.
All coaches at the top programs have “a number on their head…the moment they walk in the door.” They get paid handsomely to deal with the pressure, and they have the potential of huge rewards if they succeed. Again, see Meyer, Saban and Carroll, all of whom have basically become gods among their respective fan bases, and have the potential to become living legends (a la Joe Paterno) if they decide to stick around for a few decades.
So, in conclusion, there is nothing unusual about ND in terms of the “number on their head” thing, and it’s no reason for coaches to run away screaming. Now, the recruiting difficulties caused by high academic standards might be such a reason — but if Charlie Weis proved anything in his tenure, aside from the fact that he’s a bad head coach, it’s that you CAN recruit top-level talent at the skill positions to Notre Dame, academic standards notwithstanding. ND will never be USC or Texas or Alabama or Florida in terms of its recruiting, but it also isn’t doomed to become Northwestern or Duke or (current ephemeral success notwithstanding) Stanford.
Pat Forde has more on this topic. He concludes: “Notre Dame football can rise again, no question about it. But to do so, the school has to make its first good hire in nearly a quarter of a century.”
Irish-haters can snark as much as they want about the frequent firings of recent years, but at worst, those just mean that Notre Dame is behaving like all other major programs routinely do. Does this translate to “Notre Dame is no longer special,” as some claim? I don’t know what the hell that even means. But it seems to me that, if Notre Dame started not firing coaches with sub-.600 winning percentages after giving them a fair shot, that would be a sign that the program has given up all aspirations of greatness and has officially become mediocre. If self-enforced mediocrity is considered “special,” then okay. I think most Irish fans would rather win.
(We can debate whether Willingham was given a fair shot — though his subsequent flop at Washington seems to suggest he was a lost cause anyway, as some intuited at the time — but I don’t think you can argue that Davie and Weis weren’t. They had their chance; they failed. Next!)
BYU QB Max Hall “faces a review…and a possible reprimand” for saying he “hates” Utah. LAME. http://bit.ly/6XiYdy
By Brendan Loy
SI’s Stewart Mandel says the problem with this college football season isn’t that there are “no dominant teams,” as many people have said. It’s that there are “too many dominant teams. Six of them, in fact.”
The delineation couldn’t be clearer in this week’s BCS standings, which feature six undefeated teams (Florida, Alabama, Texas, TCU, Cincinnati and Boise State) … then no one else with fewer than two losses. Just to punctuate the point, No. 6 (12-0 Boise) even beat No. 7 (9-2 Oregon).
I hadn’t noticed that, but it’s true. There are six unbeatens in Division 1-A, zero 1-loss teams, nine 2-loss teams, and fourteen 3-loss teams. Wow.
Anyway, let it be noted that in any “Plus One” model, including the “Mandel Plan,” one of those six, presumably Boise State, would be left out of the championship picture (assuming Cincy beats Pitt, and Boise takes care of business vs. New Mexico State). Moreover, there would undoubtedly be a fierce debate about whether the SEC runner-up should be taken at #4, ahead of one of the “lesser” unbeatens (TCU, Cincy, Boise), particularly if Saturday’s game in Atlanta is the Instant It’s-a-War Classic everyone is expecting. It’s quite possible we’d end up with a #1 vs. #4 SEC rematch in a designated semifinal bowl, and #2 Texas vs. #3 TCU in the other bowl, with the Bearcats’ and Broncos’ cries of “OMG WTF?” falling on deaf ears.
Which isn’t to suggest that a Plus One wouldn’t be a dramatic improvement over the current BCS system. It would. But only an 8-team, 12-team or 16-team playoff can truly resolve a season like this.
RT @TheBigLead Irish Illustrated reports Weis to meet with Irish at 3pm Mon. to tell ‘em he’s gone; “buzz among the players” is Bob Stoops.
Best-case scenario for TCU, outside of a Texas loss to Nebraska: they get “passed over” by the Orange AND Fiesta Bowls (in favor of Cincy/Pitt and Boise, respectively), and end up in the Sugar Bowl, playing the SEC runner-up. As Utah learned last year, beating the SEC runner-up will do wonders for your level of national respect.
Of course, if Clemson upsets GT for ACC title, Orange Bowl will want to avoid rematch w/ TCU, so will probably take Cincinnati or, if the Bearcats lose to Pitt, either the Panthers or Boise State. Which would leave TCU playing Iowa in the Fiesta Bowl. Again, not much potential for perceived “validation” there.
Georgia’s win over Georgia Tech yesterday was bad news for TCU. The Horned Frogs are probably Orange Bowl-bound, assuming Texas beats Nebraska and GT wins the ACC. A win over red-hot 12-1, Top 7-ranked Yellow Jackets would’ve been big validation for TCU. A win over 11-2 GT with late bad loss to weak Georgia team, less so.
US Bank wants me to pay a $39 late fee + $6 in interest charges for a bill that I paid, in full, ON THE DUE DATE at 10:20 PM MDT. Apparently this is because “payments made after 7:00 PM CT will be processed the next business day.” But the original bill didn’t say “pay by 7pm on 11/18.” It said “pay by 11/18.” I paid on 11/18. Period.
By Brendan Loy
Tee hee hee:
Yep: I won another bet with Mike Tran, my “Irish Bruin” buddy from law school. If UCLA had won, I would’ve had to post a picture of myself in UCLA gear as my Facebook profile for a week. Instead, Mike has the distinct privilege and high honor of sporting cardinal & gold for three days. (I gave him “odds” because USC was favored.)
The picture is recycled from a prior bet — a consequence of no longer living in the same part of the country. That’s okay: it’s an oldie, but a goodie! I just love the expression on Mike’s face…