Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Tuesday Ramblings - Why Notre Dame Can't Win

So I missed in my Monday Hangover mentioning Notre Dame losing to Navy in South Bend on Saturday. It was another black eye for Charlie Weiss and the once proud program. The seat is once again getting very warm under the rather large posterior of the coach, who is becoming more prickly with each loss. But the question is whether Weiss is really at fault for the continued decline of the once proud and dominant program. Or is it possible that Weiss is facing headwinds that will keep the program from ever being able to push above that of a mid-tier Big Ten program?

I - Academics

It is a known fact that Notre Dame actually makes its student-athletes adhere to strict academic standards. Not only do they have stringent requirements to get accepted to the school, they make you attend class and get a degree. That obviously has a huge impact on recruiting and the ability to get the best athletes to don the golden dome helmet. Notre Dame has a graduation success rate of 95%, while Florida (68), Texas (50), USC (54) or LSU (54) were at or below the overall D-1 football average of 67%. What schools that are on par with Notre Dame? Stanford (93), Northwestern (92), Boston College (92) and Duke (92).

How can you honestly expect the Fighting Irish to be able to compete with schools that cater to kids that will leave school early, or would never qualify to attend strong academic schools? They can’t. So if Notre Dame insists on maintaining their academic integrity, they will not be able to attract these great athletes that have less intelligence than Megan Fox. The Notre Dame football players are not angels, but you don’t hear about guys like LeGarrette Blount (punching a Boise St player) or Brandon Spikes (eye gouging) or even JaMarcus Russell (lazy) at Notre Dame.

II – Recruiting Disadvantages

Notre Dame used to be the premiere football program in the entire country. Recruiting used to be as simple as, (a) Do you want to play for a national championship? (b) Do you want to be on national television every week? and (c) Have you seen Rudy and Touchdown Jesus? As long as you had the credentials, everyone wanted to play for Notre Dame. Things have changed tremendously, a big part of that is the continued explosion of 24 hour sports networks, and large television contracts with every major conference. That NBC contract used to be a primary recruiting tool to show high school kids that you’ll be seen on television which would increase your draft prospects. That is no longer the case as the Big Ten has its own network and a contract with ESPN, the SEC has a large contract with ESPN and CBS, and so on and so on. All of the games are on television and players will be found and will be covered if they have the talent to play in the pros. In addition, the increased draft coverage from the sports networks and the talking heads all over television and radio make sure that players from any school will be discovered.

The other large recruiting disadvantage that Notre Dame faces is the oldest adage in real estate: location, location, location. Notre Dame is in South Bend, Indiana. There is nothing in South Bend, Indiana other than Notre Dame. Now Gainesville, Florida is not a bustling metropolis but it definitely has a few things that Notre Dame cannot offer: sunshine, beaches, and talented co-eds. (not that there aren’t pretty girls at ND – I have friends with beautiful wives that went there, but let’s be serious overall). Charlie Weiss brings in a recruit during the off-season and reminds him to bring his boots and coat, while they trek through the snow to show him the campus. That same 18 year old kid then flies to Gainesville, and Coach Meyer reminds him to bring his flip flops and sunglasses while they walk among palm trees and talented girls to get to the swamp. He then flies to LA, and meets with Pete Carroll, also under palm trees, also with talented co-eds, and Pete tells the kid to make sure he gets to Hollywood Blvd or Malibu before he heads out of town. Do you really think that kid is going to choose Notre Dame over those options?

III – Surreal Expectations

Every preseason, the pundits talk about how Notre Dame is improved, and will be battling for a BCS bowl berth. Every recruiting class for Notre Dame is ranked high because it’s full of highly recruited high school players. But it’s a circular argument in that the kids are ranked high because Notre Dame is recruiting them, and Notre Dame’s recruiting class is ranked high because the kids are highly ranked. It’s a flaw with the entire ranking of recruiting classes everywhere. In any event, Notre Dame is expected to battle for a national championship and a BCS bowl every single year, which puts a tremendous amount of pressure on a team that does not have the same talent level as the top teams in the country.

In the past 10 years, Notre Dame has had 10 players drafted in the first two rounds of the NFL draft. Compare that to Wisconsin (11), Michigan State (7), Iowa (9) and Washington (7). Now look at the number of 1st or 2nd round draft picks in the past ten years at USC (32), Ohio State (25), Florida (20) and Texas (19). The talent disparity is obvious, yet Notre Dame is perennially expected to compete despite an uneven talent level.

The alumni and the media continue to push Notre Dame expectations way above where they realistically should be based on their talent. Notre Dame will never have a season that is a surprise on the upside; it will only have surprises to the downside. That is an impossible situation for any coach to face. And at Notre Dame, it happens every single season.

Overall, Notre Dame is a strong academic school that produces solid football teams and solid student-athletes. Yet that does not appease the alumni that demand a return to the excellence of the past. Unfortunately, the team is facing a very steep uphill battle in order to consistently battle for national championships again.

Did you see the dive/fall/landing of Javid Best of California getting to the house against Oregon State? It was a nasty, nasty fall after going up over the top, and getting crushed while up there. Thankfully it sounds like he was released from the hospital and will be able to resume playing in a few weeks after the concussion.
Oregon reinstated their RB, LeGarrette Blount that punched a Boise State player after their season opening loss. I think it makes sense, as the kid has missed more than half of his senior season, and if the coach, athletic director and conference believe that he has learned his lesson, then let him play. And if the team was only reinstating him because the team had a shot at the Rose Bowl, they would have brought him back for the USC game or before losing to Stanford.
The Chiefs cut Larry Johnson yesterday to complete a dramatic fall from grace for the former NFL stud. Johnson and Shaun Alexander are the primary examples to prove the curse of 300+ carries in one season. However, Michael Turner appears to be busting through that this season and has been getting better as this season has went on.
Oh, and are we surprised that the Allen Iverson experiment in Memphis didn’t work out? Now it looks like he’s going to retire because he can’t handle coming off the bench. After 3 games, he’s had enough. Just another example of what a selfish d-bag this guy has always been, despite how dynamic he could be on the court.

No comments:

Post a Comment