The echoes are all that is left of the mystique. Yes, Virginia, Notre Dame Football is irrelevant.
Over the 10 days, anyone with either a functioning auditory or visual cortex has been bombarded with the minute-by-minute sordid details of how ND has (mis)handled their search for a new Head Football Coach. Pundits and alums all have their theories on what needs to change: The Admissions Standards, The Offense, The Schedule. All of that is fine and dandy, but a comment from one of my dual-sport athletes (football/track) summed it up best. I asked him about what he thought about the Notre Dame program and he said, “Coach, no one any good that I know wants to go to Notre Dame!” This young man was a consensus Top 25 player coming out of high school that was recruited by every top program in the country. In other words, this young man’s unique insight to the rarefied air of elite college football recruiting confirmed what many others and I had suspected.
Notre Dame Football is played out.
Notre Dame hasn’t won a bowl game in 11 years.
Notre Dame has won 1 National Championship in the last 25 years.
Notre Dame has hasn’t had a first-round NFL draft pick at a “skill position” (QB, WR, RB) since Jerome Bettis in 1993. 1993!!!
Given the above information, why is it such a mystery that ND has slipped from its lofty perch at the top of the college football mountain? Do you really think a 6’4” 18-year old wide receiver that runs a 4.3 40 yd dash really cares about all of the championships that ND won in the '60s and '70s? Heck, I’m 5’7” and couldn’t catch a cold, let alone a football and I don’t care! And let’s not even get into the whole academic thing. As I alluded to in a previous post, it’s all about the NFL, not the GPA with so many of these kids (and coaches).
“But they have an EXCLUSIVE television deal with NBC! How can they be irrelevant?”
The growth of satellite TV and pay-per-view cable packages has made it possible for basically any major team to be seen every week. The NBC deal is quickly becoming a white elephant.
Notre Dame has become a place for largely second-tier skill position players. This decline began near the end of the Lou Holtz era and continued through Bob Davie and still exists today. Why is this happening? I'll compare it to the business world.
When an industry leader in a competitive market fails to anticipate a fundamental change in the marketplace and make the appropriate strategic adjustments, things can get ugly very quickly and that company will lose it's commanding share of the market.
In recruiting terms: Kids don't want to be ugly, they want to be with the industry leader.
Notre Dame is Betamax.
USC is a DVD. A DVD being watched on a 52-inch "High-Def" plasma screen.
Bottom Line: Elite athletes win championsips. Notre Dame hasn't had either for quite some time.