The College Coaches Banning NFL Scouts Debate

August 19, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Loyal Homer and Bleacher Fan.

It is plain to see that the NFL is creating quite a mess for college football programs these days. NCAA investigations into schools like Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina – for allegations of improper contact – reveal that the problem of outside interference on college campuses is both very broad and very real.

Alabama head Nick Saban is taking matters into his own hands. He is currently refusing to allow NFL scouts to even attend practices. Other coaches like Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly don’t view scouts as the problem. Kelly has stated that the Irish won’t ban scouts, but will instead attempt to address the situation by better educating student athletes about the issue.

It seems logical that colleges would take steps to keep agents out. But scouts? These guys are not the ones offering cars and houses under the table to amateur athletes. They are the ones with clipboards and stopwatches sweating in the stands trying to earn a living by discovering the next big thing. Scouts help make college dreams of NFL success possible. Are these guys really to blame as well?

Loyal Homer believes scouts do share blame. He will argue that programs are well within their right to ban NFL scouts to preserve their programs. Bleacher Fan, on the other hand, believes scouts should be left to do their job.

One argument will prevail while the other will be shut out faster than a scout with a roll of hundreds at a Crimson Tide practice. Who has the right idea?

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The Notre Dame Conference Affiliation Debate… Making A Big Move, Or Ten

May 31, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Loyal Homer and Bleacher Fan.

Another day, another Notre Dame joining the Big Ten rumor. Where there is smoke there is fire. Many are speculating that Notre Dame will join the Big Ten when the conference announces anticipated expansion plans this November. There are three main reasons why joining the Big Ten makes the most sense, and major reasons why joining the Big East, or remaining Independent, would be a big mistake.

Reason #1: Money Talks

It is no secret that a substantial influence on Notre Dame’s decision making process throughout the years has been financial gain. The Big Ten offers a very attractive package right now – more attractive than any other conference – given it currently pays each of its programs $22M per season. Even Indiana, the league patsy, gets its price.

Plus, the Big Ten Network is a huge success, especially financially, and any other schools that would join the Big Ten would only make its content more attractive, they would also inflate its dollar value. While the Big Ten may not have all of the hottest TV markets, each of its schools have massive amounts of loyal fans and some of the largest stadiums in the country. Sure, the conference is largely centered in the Midwest, but that does not make its draw too small or make the conference financially unviable. Perhaps in college football’s yesteryear, but no longer.

Reason #2: Great, Historical Rivalries

Joining the Big Ten would not force Notre Dame to give up on its greatest historical rivalries that draw millions of eyeballs every season. In other words, Notre Dame’s regular non-conference matchup with Southern Cal would be safely preserved and become a showcase Big Ten game. Ohio State and Michigan have their long distance, historically relevant games, and so does Notre Dame. Those rivalries are important for each school to draw crowds at home and on television and the Big Ten will preserve, endorse, and grow each important rivalry game.

Also, bear in mind that many of Notre Dame’s most storied and consistent rivalries take place against Big Ten teams like Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue, and Northwestern. I am referencing some GREAT rivalries. Take just one, for example, like Michigan State and Notre Dame. Besides just a few hours separating the two schools, 1966 wrote a memorable chapter in the rivalry. Both teams were undefeated and of course met in a game that would decide the national championship. Michigan State jumped out to an early lead only for the Fighting Irish to come fighting back to tie the game and controversially take the national title despite the teams’ identical 9-0-1 records to end the season.

Reason #3: Football Brand Matters

When Notre Dame dominated, its teams were nasty on defense and often featured a steady running attack that wore on opposing teams, allowing an efficient passing game to blow a game open. While speed is a bigger factor now in college football than, say, 20 years ago when Notre Dame’s name still carried an heir of dominance with it, the formula for winning in college football can still be: Dominant Defense + Strong Running Attack + Efficient Passing = Wins. That is the Big Ten’s pedigree, and that is the league where Notre Dame has the best opportunity to win a legitimately respected national power conference in football without comprising its identity.

Why the Big East Makes No Sense

Football is the college athletics cash cow. Period. All of the Big East’s great TV markets – like Philadelphia, New York, and others – do not matter much to Notre Dame’s football program. While the markets may be big, the audiences will not be since the quality of football is so poor. More, Notre Dame does not – ney, CANnot – associate itself with a poor brand of football that doesn’t suit its image. The disaster that is Big East football does not have an appealing brand that Notre Dame would care to be associated with… besides, are tickets really going to sell out for the big Notre Dame-Connecticut battle? Or Notre Dame-West Virginia? Without its history and storied rivalries, Notre Dame is just another football program struggling for notoriety. The Big East kills Notre Dame’s aura.

Why Remaining Independent Makes No Sense

When Notre Dame initially made the choice to become unaffiliated with any football conference it had massive financial incentives spurring the decision. Independence meant a multi-million dollar, exclusive TV contract Notre Dame did not have to share with any other school or conference. All of the money belonged to Notre Dame. It also allowed Notre Dame to have a free schedule where they could maintain a national recruiting presence by playing all over the country. The problem with the decision now is that as college football has evolved, it turns out conferences have plenty of money to go around. The Big Ten pays programs $22M per season, thanks in large part to the success of its own dedicated cable network. Exclusivity does not offer the same advantages it once did, and the need to maintain a national presence with games to fuel recruiting is null. Large institutions like Notre Dame have massive recruiting budgets – and the program would have that budget regardless of conference affiliation. In short, the reasons for becoming an independent have been rendered useless as college football has evolved.

Consider that travel expenses for the football team in the Big Ten may be dramatically reduced if Notre Dame were to join the Big Ten. Obviously that doesn’t matter much to a huge program with a huge budget, but it sure does matter for the school’s smaller sports that spend more time losing money than making it. While football is a major piece of this puzzle, the impact of a conference move will be felt through the athletics department and the entire department will participate in the decision.

It is time for Notre Dame to evolve and join the conference that best fits Notre Dame’s brand of football, its history, and financial needs. The Big Ten allows Notre Dame to adapt without changing its tradition.

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The Notre Dame Conference Affiliation Debate… Never Sacrifice Independence

May 31, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Sports Geek and Loyal Homer.

Notre Dame is a special program, and the world of college football exists to accommodate it. As a top-drawing independent school, Notre Dame has garnered unique privileges that are available to no other program in the United States. Those privileges, however, will hold only as long as Notre Dame REMAINS independent in status.

As one of the games most storied and beloved programs, Notre Dame is synonymous with college football. When the Fighting Irish are successful, so is college football. And, although success was lacking during most of the Weis era, the world of college football has ensured safeguards to help Notre Dame always return to relevance.

The first of those safeguards is an exclusive television contract with NBC. Through at least the 2015 football season, Notre Dame is guaranteed that every one of their home games will be broadcast on national television. This contract has brought the school more than $9M per year, and has generated more than $26M in financial aid and scholarships for students of the university. All of that would be gone, though, if Notre Dame joined a conference like the Big Ten or the Big East.

Notre Dame only gets to keep that television contract because they are not a part of a larger Conference of schools. Many of the major Conferences have either negotiated their own exclusive television contracts with networks, or have created their own network, and the Notre Dame contract would create a conflict of interest. While NBC would retain the rights to Notre Dame’s broadcast, the conference would also retain rights to broadcast the games of any schools within their organization. Unfortunately for Notre Dame and NBC, it would be the conference that wins out, as it would govern the organization for the school.

The second safeguard is a special BCS clause specific to Notre Dame.

Rules for determining an automatic BCS qualification state that only those schools which have won one of the six BCS conferences (the Big Ten, Big XII, SEC, ACC, Big East, and Pac-10) can be guaranteed a BCS invitation. For every other school in the country (including the remaining schools within those BCS conferences), they must hope for an invitation. Every school, that is, EXCEPT Notre Dame.

Within the BCS rules for automatic qualification is an exception EXCLUSIVELY reserved for Notre Dame as long as it remains an independent football program. This exception dictates that Notre Dame is eligible for an AUTOMATIC BCS bid if it finishes the regular season as one of the top eight teams in the BCS standings. No other school in the country (including members of the BCS conferences) has that guarantee.

In 2008, the Big XII’s Texas Tech finished the season ranked seventh in the final BCS standings, and held a record of 11-1 (with the only loss coming to the top-ranked team in the nation). But the Red Reaiders were excluded from the BCS. Likewise, in 2007 it was the Big XII’s Missouri that missed out despite being the top-ranked team entering conference championship week, and finishing the season ranked SIXTH in the BCS, while conference rival Kansas was invited to the Orange Bowl after finishing the season ranked two spots LOWER than Missouri.

Those are only the two most recent examples of what is an almost ANNUAL snub for at least one team in the top BCS standings. As long as Notre Dame remains an Independent program, though, it will never have to worry about a BCS snub. For the Fighting Irish, a top-eight finish EQUALS a conference championship.

The decision for Notre Dame is simple – remain independent and GUARANTEE a highly lucrative television contract and a special exemption within the BCS rules, or willingly throw those GIFTS away by joining a conference such as the Big East or Big Ten, where instead of having special privileges RESERVED for it, Notre Dame would have to COMPETE for them and risk the snub of losing that competition.

As long as those rights are reserved exclusively for the University of Notre Dame, it would be FOOLISH to willingly give them up in order to join conference play.

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The Notre Dame Conference Affiliation Debate… Big East Bound

May 31, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Sports Geek and Bleacher Fan.

Perhaps no program in college football is as polarizing as Notre Dame. There’s usually at least one team in every sport that fits that bill. MLB has the Yankees. The NBA has the Lakers. The NFL has the Cowboys. NCAA basketball has Duke. That’s just the way it is. With all of the talk surrounding expansion in college football, Notre Dame is right in the middle of every conversation. Should Notre Dame remain independent? Should it join the Big Ten and help it become a super conference? Should it join the Big East? We know what head coach Brian Kelly wants to do, but it will be interesting to see how this plays out in the coming months. As for my opinion, I believe Notre Dame should join the Big East.

If you go to the Big East’s Web site you will see a list of the programs that are members of the Big East at the top right of the page. There are 16 school logos listed, representing each of the Big East members. The very recognizable “ND” is the seventh one listed. The bottom line is that Notre Dame participates in every sport in the Big East… except football. The Fighting Irish just finished its baseball season as a Big East team. Remember the deep run the basketball team made in the Big East tournament back in March? Why not go ahead and join the Big East in football, just for simplification purposes? Sure, the Big East is a little down in football right now, but on the bright side, maybe it’d be easy to win a conference championship and play in a BCS game!

There is a lot of money involved for sure, though Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick has publicly said, “Questions of this nature are too fundamental to be about money.” In addition to the conference tie-in money Notre Dame would be allotted, I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least mention the NBC television contract, as Bleacher Fan has described in detail. Notre Dame also is in position to grab a BCS bid if it finishes in the top 12 of the BCS. That’s all well and good. But what happens if they finish outside the top 12? There is no pecking order for independents. If they finish the season 6-6, it’s not like they can be slotted into the Alamo Bowl. That’s the kind of record that gets you into the Hawaii Bowl, like it did in 2008. That’s also the kind of record that gets you fired, like it did for Charlie Weis at the end of last season.

Joining the Big Ten, as Sports Geek tries to explain, isn’t the answer, either. I’m not convinced by anything anyone has said from Notre Dame that they want to be involved in a super conference. That would mean pulling out of the Big East in all the other sports. I’m aware that college football is the driving force behind possible expansion, and with good reason, but the Irish has built rivalries up with other schools like Georgetown, Louisville, and UConn in college basketball. Join the Big Ten and Notre Dame would have to try to do that with the likes of Iowa and Northwestern.

Whatever happens is sure to create a wealth of discussion, and it’s something I’m sure The Sports Debates will revisit at the appropriate time. But for now, the best possible option is for Notre Dame to become part of the Big East in football!

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The Brian Kelly Coaching Decision Debate – Know Who Butters Your Bread!

December 18, 2009

Read the debate intro and arguments from Babe Ruthless and Loyal Homer about whether or not Brian Kelly should have coached the University of Cincinnati’s BCS bowl game.

It is not often that someone can win a debate by answering the debate question with another question. That is exactly what happened, and this time it worked in Babe Ruthless’ favor! Babe Ruthless posed the rhetorical question – “Would I drop everything at my current position if I was offered the job of my dreams?” My honest answer to that question is, “Yes, I would.” It is important to finish what you start… MOST of the time. Cincinnati’s former head coach, Brian Kelly, is not building a model airplane or remodeling his bathroom, though. Coaching Cincinnati was Brian Kelly’s job (note the past tense of that phrase). Kelly’s CURRENT job is to be the head coach of Notre Dame. As much as he may have been committed to seeing Cincinnati succeed (and I am sure he will be rooting for Cincinnati in the Sugar Bowl), his priority became the success of Notre Dame the moment that he signed his contract.

This is not an attempt to deny Bearcats players and fans their frustration, anger, or disappointment in Kelly’s decision. As Loyal Homer points out, it is a bitter pill to swallow when you have expected support from someone, then at the moment you perceive the greatest need for that person, they are either unable or unwilling to provide the promised support. The fact that they do not like his decision, though, does not mean it is the incorrect one.

Consider the implications had Kelly made the decision to coach Cincinnati in its bowl game. He would have been splitting his time between two universities, each with very different needs. As a result, he would be unable to fully commit himself to either. Notre Dame needs Kelly to focus on building a staff and recruiting to the university. How can he be expected to do that if he is studying film in Cincinnati? Likewise, how can he truly focus on preparing to take on the Florida Gators if his true employer is demanding his time elsewhere? It would be unfair to BOTH institutions if he were to try and split his focus between the two.

Kelly’s decision, although unpopular in the Queen’s City, was the right one to make. Notre Dame is his new home, and his new employer. Having contractually agreed to lead Notre Dame’s football program, he owes them 100% of his time and energy TODAY, not in one month after he coaches more for a school he no longer formally works for.

If it is any consolation to the Bearcat faithful, Rich Rodriguez’s absence on the sideline when the West Virginia Mountaineers took on Oklahoma in the 2008 Fiesta Bowl did not seem to have an impact at all, and Rodriguez has failed to even sniff a HOPE of playing in the BCS since leaving Morgantown. As fate has already seen fit to provide a little karmic payback for what Rodriguez did at West Virginia, perhaps the monkey’s paw has something similar in store for Kelly!

Cincinnati has been dealt a difficult blow, but the worst thing the team could do now is to wallow in self-pity. Instead, use the situation as motivation as they prepare for the Gators on January 1st!

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The Brian Kelly Timing Debate – It is a Question of Commitments

December 17, 2009

Read the arguments from Babe Ruthless and Loyal Homer about whether or not Brian Kelly should have coached the University of Cincinnati’s BCS bowl game.

It was viewed as the height of treachery.

On December 17th, 2007, despite repeated denials that he was not leaving West Virginia, Rich Rodriguez announced that he would be the new head coach of the Michigan Wolverines. While there were many factors within Rodriguez’s exit from Morgantown that led to his vilification, one of the biggest reasons for the ill-will was his seeming abandonment of the Mountaineers as they prepared for a BCS Bowl Game. Instead of sticking around and coaching West Virginia in the biggest game of the season, he took the Michigan job and left the Mountaineers without a coach when they arguably needed him most.

In 2009, the University of Cincinnati Bearcats played to a perfect 12-0 record, won a second Big East Conference championship, and are scheduled to take on the Florida Gators in the Allstate Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day. Like the Mountaineers of two years ago, though, the Bearcats will be without the head coach that led them to a perfect season. Brian Kelly, who just wrapped up his third season as the head coach of the Cincinnati Bearcats, accepted the position of head coach at Notre Dame and will not be on the sidelines for the Bearcats as they play to close out their season in perfect fashion.

Understandably, many of the Bearcats players are upset by Kelly’s decision. Quotes like “I’m fairly disgusted with the situation” and “He went for the money” and “It’s like someone turned their back on us” have been heard throughout Cincinnati’s locker room. After having successfully navigated through the entire college football season, it makes sense that the players would feel betrayed, used, or abandoned because their coach has left them for greener pastures. For Kelly’s part, he has defended his decision by stating that his job is now to build a successful program at Notre Dame. While he loved his time spent in Cincinnati, he had to shift his focus to his new job, which meant that he could not coach Cincinnati in January.

Thus, today’s topic – Should Brian Kelly have stayed to coach the University of Cincinnati in the BCS bowl game?

This is a very complicated question. Brian Kelly was forced to choose between two conflicting loyalties. On one hand, Kelly had spent the past three years building a program in Cincinnati, and those years of hard work finally paid off. After building strong relationships with his players and implementing his plan on the field, Kelly had elevated the Bearcat program as close to the pinnacle of success as it has ever been. It only seems right that Kelly should stick around and finish what he started.

On the other hand, he is now a hired employee of Notre Dame. As such, he is paid by the university to make the football program successful.

In debating this issue, Babe Ruthless will argue that Kelly made the right decision by deciding not to coach Cincinnati, while Loyal Homer will argue that Kelly should have stuck around to finish what he started before moving on to his new responsibilities in South Bend.

Burned bridges may be a Bear(cat) to deal with, but does the luck of the (Fighting) Irish make it all worthwhile?

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The Brian Kelly Timing Debate – Just A Little Bit of History Repetition

December 17, 2009

Read the debate intro and the opposing argument from Loyal Homer.

Currently there seems to be a whole lot criticism of Brian Kelly for his decision to leave the head coaching job at Cincinnati for the head coaching job at Notre Dame before the big Sugar Bowl showdown with Florida. Sorry Cincinnati fans, but you are going to have to face the facts – Brian Kelly is gone and he had the right to leave.

Cincinnati needs to man up about the whole situation because I am starting to get a whole “woe is me” vibe from the Bearcats. That has no place in college football. (Crying?! There’s no crying in football!) In fact, Cincinnati fans should knock off the whole “he left us before our big game” act or else they are going to come off as hypocrites. Though it may seem like an eternity ago to Bearcat fans still riding the high of Cincinnati’s Kelly era success, just three years ago Kelly did the exact same thing to Central Michigan University, but I do not remember too many voices in Cincinnati questioning Kelly’s ethics then. What’s that Bearcats? Coach got your tongue? (Get it? They are cats… the Bearcats… whatever, you get my point.)

I am sure that many at Central Michigan felt equally “betrayed” and “abandoned” – if not more so – when the Chippewas lost the coach that brought the programs its first winning season in seven years for a bigger, flashier coaching gig. I am sure that many Chippewa players felt stabbed in the back when their beloved coach left them before their big game – the Motor City Bowl. But I do not remember too much sympathy coming from the Cincinnati fans. In my opinion, Kelly’s detractors can either admit that since Kelly left Central Michigan before their big game it is only fair that he leaves under similar circumstances or they can form a support group for hypocritical crybaby college football fans. I think they should choose the first option, though I find the latter far more interesting.

Kelly brought the Cincinnati program to the top of the Big East Conference. He brought them an undefeated regular season in 2009, and somehow he is the villain for using this success to get a promotion. All of Coach Kelly’s critics need to put themselves in his shoes. Sure, he might have made promises to the team that will now go unfulfilled. Yes, he is leaving them just before one of the biggest games in the school’s history, but would you really do anything differently? If you think Coach Kelly is selling out, ask yourself this question and really, really try to be honest about it: “Would I drop everything at my current position if I was offered the job of my dreams?”

Kelly has earned a promotion and, like anyone else, he has the right to accept it. If a Double A pitcher gets the call to move up to the majors during the minor league postseason, should he turn it down so he can stay with his teammates? No, that would be ludicrous because a shot at the big leagues is his ultimate goal. Similarly, Kelly’s ultimate goal should be to coach winning football at the highest level of competition possible. That is exactly what the job at Notre Dame offers him.

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The Notre Dame Job Envy Debate – The Most Enviable Position in South Bend is in the Visitors’ Locker Room!

December 16, 2009

Read the debate intro and the opposing argument from Babe Ruthless.

Describing Notre Dame as the best head coaching job in college football is like saying that the best head coaching job in the NFL is with the Cleveland Browns. Both jobs are for storied programs with a great history (and exposure in front of a loyal, rabid fan base), and both are about as stable as a toilet-paper table in quicksand.

If you haven’t noticed, the revolving door has been spinning on high in South Bend over the past few years. During Notre Dame’s hey-day, coaches like Knute Rockne, Ara Parseghian, and even Lou Holtz, stuck around for 10-15 years at a time. Brian Kelly, who was just last week named the newest head coach of the Fighting Irish, will become the FOURTH head coach since Holtz retired 13 years ago. It seems to me that the best head coaching job in college football should be one that comes with a little stability.

Make no mistake, Notre Dame is a step up for Brian Kelly. With all due respect to the University of Cincinnati, he now has a marketing machine at his disposal to help him recruit talent to a more prestigious institution than Cincinnati. Do not confuse a step up in caliber from Cincinnati as being the best coaching job, though. There are too many other jobs in the NCAA that offer more pay, more support, success, and a LOT more security.

The Ohio State Buckeyes

The Buckeyes program offers just as much prestige and history as the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, but they have managed to remain relevant in the national conversation over the past 20 years. Unlike the Irish, who have not been able to claim a national title since 1988, Ohio State has won a national championship in the last 10 years, and has played in the championship game twice in the past five seasons. This season also marks the fifth consecutive season the Buckeyes are participating in a BCS bowl game. Notre Dame has been absent from the BCS since 2005 (where they were soundly throttled by the Buckeyes).

You want history? The Buckeyes played their first season in 1890, only three years after Notre Dame’s first season. If legacy is what you’re after, the Buckeye’s head coaching history competes very favorably with Notre Dame’s. The Irish may have had Knute Rockne and Lou Holtz, but the Buckeyes had Paul Brown and Woody Hayes. Both schools also boast seven Heisman Trophy winners, but none have come from Notre Dame since 1987, when Tim Brown won the award. Once again proving their ongoing relevance, the Buckeyes have seen two Heisman winners SINCE Brown won it over 20 years ago, with Eddie George and Troy Smith earning the honor in 1995 and 2006, respectively. As for fan support, the Buckeyes play in front of an average home crowd of more than 100,000 for EVERY home game!

University of Southern California Trojans

Like Ohio State, USC carries history and tradition to rival Notre Dame, and their national relevance today far surpasses that of Notre Dame. What else does USC offer that Notre Dame does not? The top paying coaching job in the country! Pete Carroll earned a whopping $4.4M this year, which was the top draw for any college football coach. Sure, Charlie Weis earned a very respectable $4.2M at Notre Dame, but it was not the HIGHEST paying job.


The model of success in college football today comes from the SEC. In terms of recruiting, Alabama has had one of the two best recruiting classes in the nation for three consecutive years. Before that, Florida was at the top of the recruiting heap. In the time of Alabama and Florida’s recruiting dominance, Notre Dame has had one successful year of recruiting in 2008 when they were ranked as having the second best recruiting class of the year. Outside of 2008, Notre Dame has not had a recruiting class better than eighth.

How has that recruiting success worked out for the SEC? How about three consecutive national championships, with a possible fourth coming in January?! The SEC has provided some of the best talent to set foot on the gridiron over the past five seasons and all indications point to continued success for the foreseeable future. While Brian Kelly is tasked with trying to resurrect a Notre Dame program that has not seen championship-caliber football in twenty years, the coaches of the SEC seem to perennially experience nothing but victory.

All of these examples lead to the same conclusion – the head coaching position at Notre Dame is very impressive, but it is far from the best there is in the nation. There are plenty of programs with the history and legends that Notre Dame has. Whether the goal is to play in front of a monster-sized fan base (Ohio State), earn the highest paycheck in the country (USC), or to lead a program that successfully turns top-tiered recruiting classes into championship football teams annually (the SEC), there are better options than the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame.

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The Notre Dame Job Envy Debate – Notre Dame is Simply The Best

December 16, 2009

Read the debate intro and the opposing argument from Bleacher Fan.

At one time or another, most red-blooded American males have daydreamed about being a head football coach. Each week millions live vicariously through their most beloved play callers. But what do those lucky enough to actually be coaches dream about? I bet they dream of coaching for Notre Dame.

Notre Dame is by far the best coaching gig around. But, coaching at Notre Dame is not for everyone. If a coach is looking for a warm paradise to call home, then Indiana may not be at the top of the list. If a coach is looking for a soft schedule littered with pushovers, then I suggest continuing the search. And if a coach is hoping for a small market free from media intrusions, then Notre Dame is certainly not the right school. But if a coach seeks a challenging schedule, a team with an enormous national fan base, and a rich legacy steeped in the tradition of winning, then there is no place better than Notre Dame.

The perks of coaching for Notre Dame are phenomenal. Notre Dame literally sets its own schedule. The Irish are one of a few schools that compete at an elite level of college football without having to play in an NCAA-affiliated conference. Despite lacking a conference affiliation the Irish are still BCS bowl eligible. Heck, they have their own “Notre Dame rule” where they are guaranteed a BCS bowl if they simply finish in the top eight of the BCS.

On top of all of the football perks, Notre Dame is one of the premier schools of scholar-athletes. In an era of prima donna players that create media circuses (e.g. Exhibit A: LeGarrette Blount), Notre Dame has attempted to establish a bastion for the academically focused student-athlete – a seemingly dying breed. The Irish also benefit from a national appeal to Roman Catholics, Americans of Irish Descent, and fans of great football. Take me, for example. I grew up a world apart from Indiana, but being the grandson of someone named Patrick Francis O’Reilly, was their any doubt I was going to pull for the Irish? I don’t think so. Notre Dame’s immense following draws crowds wherever the team plays, opening doors for invitations across the U.S., thus, creating another perk by making the Irish even more profitable.

Notre Dame football boasts an impressive list of accomplishments. The Irish lay claim to seven Heisman Trophy winners and 48 players and coaches in the College Football Hall of Fame. The Irish also have an impressive list of All-Americans and national championships to boot. Sure, other schools (like the University of Southern California, the University of Michigan, and The Ohio State University) have accomplishments and accolades to brag about as well. What sets the Notre Dame apart is its unrivaled history.

Tradition defines a team, and today the words “Notre Dame” are synonymous with football history. The ghosts of the Gold and Navy are interwoven into football’s past. Legends like Knute Rockne and the Four Horsemen are not only Fighting Irish heroes but icons of football history. Do I even have to evoke the name of Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger? (Once all the “Rudy!” chants have stopped I will continue.)

Notre Dame is even credited with the popularization of the forward pass, forever changing the way the game is played.

It is tradition that ultimately separates the Notre Dame coaching job from all other high profile college football head coaching jobs.

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The Replacing Charlie Weis Debate – Anything Weis Can Do I Can Do Better!

November 23, 2009

Read the arguments from Sports Geek and Loyal Homer about which head coach in college football is the best selection to replace current Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis.

How do you replace Charlie Weis at Notre Dame? Easily!

Notre Dame is a school steeped in tradition. Driven by values exceeding the “just win, baby” mentality of many organizations in sports, Notre Dame football prides itself on a Catholic foundation, a commitment to excellence both on AND off the field, strong character, and a deep respect for the program’s history and legacy developed over 120 years by legends such as Knute Rockne, Frank Leahy, Ara Parseghian, and Lou Holtz. Should Notre Dame decide to part ways with Weis at the close of the 2009 season (which is absolutely what athletic director Jack Swarbrick SHOULD do), the formula for replacing him is not a complex one – fall back upon those values so prized by the university, and look for the candidate who best exemplifies them.

Luckily for Swarbrick, that very candidate exists… and he lives only 100 miles away! Pat Fitzgerald, current head coach of the Northwestern Wildcats, is the perfect candidate to be the next head coach of the Fighting Irish.

Like Notre Dame, Northwestern is a university that holds its student-athletes to a higher academic standard than most schools within the Division I FBS ranks, as demonstrated by the fact that Northwestern and Notre Dame are two of only SIX schools within the Division I FBS to post a graduation rate of more than 90 percent for its football players. This standard, which is generally viewed as a hindrance to the football program because it limits the pool of eligible recruits, has traditionally prevented Northwestern from seeing any sustainable success on the college football field. Being a part of the Big Ten Conference and facing annual opponents such as Ohio State, Penn State, and Michigan (okay, maybe not recently, but you get the idea) becomes an exponentially more difficult challenge when facing stricter recruiting guidelines than the competition.

Notre Dame, through the reputation and history of its football program, has been able to overcome some of the barriers that strict recruiting guidelines may create (it does not hurt to have an exclusive contract with NBC, either). Notre Dame still manages to draw some of the top talent in the nation, but Weis – to this point – has failed to successfully develop his players to the standard that many have come to expect from the Fighting Irish over the decades.

In contrast, Pat Fitzgerald has lacked the recruiting power of Notre Dame, but has still built a successful on-field product. Although Northwestern has not developed into a national contender while under his leadership, Fitzgerald has brought a level of consistent and sustained success to the Northwestern program that has never before been seen in Evanston, Illinois. Prior to Fitzgerald’s appointment as head coach of the Wildcats, Northwestern had only been invited to six bowl games in the entire history of the university. Since becoming the youngest head coach in Division I FBS history following the tragic death of the Wildcats previous head coach Randy Walker in 2006, Fitzgerald has already earned an invitation to one bowl game (the 2008 Alamo Bowl) and is poised for a second invitation in his short four-year tenure, finishing 2009 with a bowl-eligible record of 8-4, including two wins over top-25 opponents (Iowa and Wisconsin).

Fitzgerald, a college football Hall-of-Famer who was a standout player for Northwestern himself in the mid-1990s, has a strong, personal understanding of the traits that can make a player successful both in the classroom and on the field. He has demonstrated an ability to recruit talent and coach it successfully under the increasingly stringent guidelines of his university. He knows what it takes to turn unique talent into wins on the football field (something Charlie Weis has not been able to do). Just imagine what a charismatic, intelligent, and proven leader like Fitzgerald can do with the marketing and recruiting power of Notre Dame at his disposal!

Fitzgerald has managed to produce greater results (relatively speaking) than Charlie Weis, a fact which Fitzgerald himself will readily point out! He possesses all of the qualities prized by Notre Dame, and has proven that he can successfully build a program without sacrificing the standards of the organization he represents. If Notre Dame finds themselves in the hunt for a new head coach at the end of the 2009 season, it should look no further than Pat Fitzgerald. Plus, he’s Irish-Catholic… it’s the perfect match!

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