The demise of Notre Dame football is as much its own doing as the mediocre won-loss record or anything critics want to say about head coach Charlie Weis. Notre Dame has become irrelevant on the major college football landscape.
At one time the rich tradition and history may have attracted the game’s best players or maybe the fact the Irish had their own television network (NBC) to televise their home games was a reason for players to go to Notre Dame. Today what decent team is not on TV all the time? Heck, the SEC has its own network too, as a matter of fact it has CBS AND several other ESPN channels AND a syndicated SEC Network channel.
In the five years under Charlie Weis Notre Dame has not beaten any team that has finished the season with fewer than four losses. What may be even more remarkable is that over the last three years Notre Dame is 0-5 against teams that have finished in the Top 25. Considering USC has been ranked all three years, the Irish have only played two other teams in three years that finished the season in the rankings. The hand-picked service academy, Commander-In-Chief Trophy schedule played by the Irish used to go hand in hand with the different set of rules the school somehow got the BCS to agree to, which gave Notre Dame a much easier path to a BCS bowl. By not joining a conference, Notre Dame does not have to share bowl money and could keep every penny of the BCS bowl $17-million payouts.
However, by not joining a conference, Notre Dame has missed on the most important traditions and elements that attract today’s best athletes: the chance to play in big meaningful games. How does Notre Dame sell a kid on the fact that if he comes to isolated, ice-cold-in-the-winter South Bend, Indiana he will get the chance to play against Army and Navy, Air Force. Sure, there’s USC and Michigan, but if one of those two opponents were the driving force for a player one time a year why wouldn’t he just play in the Pac-10 or Big Ten?
The best players 1) want to get ready to play in the NFL and 2) want to play the best competition. The biggest games every year are played in college football’s top conferences. The teams may change, but the spotlights remain the same. Showdowns in the SEC and/or Big-12 leading up to the conference championship games are similar to many in the ACC and the other BCS conferences. Throw in the occasional big non-conference games and anything on Notre Dame’s schedule pales in comparison.
Notre Dame has not dropped down to college football mediocrity simply because of its coach. The incredible greed, selfishness and arrogance of Notre Dame football, believing it was so much better than everyone else that it did not need to join a conference or share its revenues, has left it all alone. Not at the top, but on an island with a football atmosphere that no longer attracts enough good players to make a difference.