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The Spectacular Failure of Notre Dame

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There are failures that capture the public’s fascination. The botched murder trial of OJ Simpson, New Coke, and the Titanic are three examples. In college football, since 1994, no failure has surpassed that of the most visible college football team in the nation. Notre Dame is college football to some, but to observers of the sport they’re little more than a pleasing way to watch a team come apart when faced with stiff competition.

There’s little arguing about the success Notre Dame enjoyed until the mid 90s. Either adored or reviled, they were sure to stimulate debate mainly due to their staggering success. The names alone fill our minds with visions of great glory in the days of yore. No more.

Notre Dame commands an audience, but now it is to mock their attempts at being relevant in a system designed to reward conferences. The Irish simply aren’t battle tested and it shows when they play competition of an equal or superior talent level. Groan about Florida, Michigan, USC, or Ohio State and their schedules but first, dear Irish, salute them — for they have won national titles since you last one a single bowl game.

The prevailing wisdom among those who market college football was that a new coach would lead them back to glory, a coach who helped an NFL team to win multiple Super Bowls. Charlie Weis was anointed overnight as the savior of Notre Dame. Some savior.

Playing a schedule criminally weak, losing to Michigan and USC, a bowl loss last year, and last night a thorough and humiliating dismantling by LSU, Notre Dame is again considered irrelevant by all but their loyal fans and television executives who want to cash in on a name with no substance.

Coach Weis, out-coached by Les Miles, is not an offensive genius nor is he a proven winner in big games. Super Bowls are not won by offensive coordinators and Weis approaches defense as an afterthought at Notre Dame. He is, to put it mildly, in over his head. A once proud reputation is snickered at and if Weis doesn’t jump to the NFL soon he’ll find himself as a coordinator again.

One rule exists at a school like Notre Dame; win the big games. Coach Weis hasn’t, and with the loss of key seniors, he’s unlikely to win 10 games next year.

At Notre Dame that’s failure.

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