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The great divide

Gales, Kate | Wednesday, November 19, 2003

There’s an obvious divide between Notre Dame coaches. There are the greats. There are the goods. And there are the merely lamentable.Rockne. Leahy. Parseghian. The greats. Nine consensus championships between them, scores of All-Americans and a place in the history books for all.Devine. Holtz. The goods. A championship ring apiece. Two men of sheer determination, perhaps without the genius of Rockne, but who ultimately got the job done. Devine sometimes struggled through his seasons, but with a quarterback like Joe Montana, who could be denied a championship?Holtz started his first season 6-5. However, he led the Irish to a national championship in 1988 – our most recent win. His all-time winning record over 11 seasons was 100-30-2.Then there are the coaches that are forgotten in the eyes of our Irish history. Gerry Faust, Bob Davie, Terry Brennan, Joe Kuharich. No titles. No memorials. My dad, who entered school the year after the 1977 championship team, is still bitter about watching Faust painfully weaken the football program.It’s a funny thing about those titles, though. They set the good coaches apart from those who have been forgotten by the casual follower. In all of Notre Dame football history – and a more storied history has perhaps never existed – a coach has won a title in his third year.If he doesn’t have a national championship in the third year of coaching, he’s out.And the Willingham era is soon approaching that great divide.Ty is already in the record books as the first-year coach with the most wins and the first African-American head coach at Notre Dame.However, his 10-2 first season could almost cause him more problems than glory. The rebuilding stage crucial to any program, especially one in transition from the complicated West Coast style of offense, will take time – time that fans are loath to give. Davie, Ty’s highly criticized predecessor on the gridiron, in fact left a standout defense that was sorely missed this year.It remains to be seen whether Ty will be remembered as a good, as a great, or hardly at all. His second year seems to be ending on an upward swing. With a few more wins and possible bowl bid, perhaps the Irish will gain confidence in themselves. The third-year divide may not bring a title to the land of Rockne, but hopefully it will see a program on its way to living up to the shadows of the past that permeate the campus of Notre Dame.

Contact Kate Gales at kgales@nd.edu. The views expressed in the Inside Column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.