Show some consistency in your loyalty
Observer Viewpoint | Thursday, November 11, 2004
To the current students of the University, I feel the need to enlighten those who may be confused regarding the leadership of our football team. This past Saturday, Notre Dame students stared at their television sets in a fixed glaze of disbelief, excitement and, for some, relief. Eyes were glued until the very last second of play to ensure the Irish victory.
Following the game, students bellowed out in excitement; running through dorm hallways and chanting down South Quad, only to be followed moments later by silence and crude reflection: if we can beat Tennessee (no. 11) and Michigan (no. 9), then why can’t we defeat the mainstream teams like BYU and Boston College (no. 21)?
Students, who moments before were heard avidly commending our fearless student-athletes, were still complaining about the leadership of coach Tyrone Willingham. In addition to doubtful believers, the alumni’s impatient, hard-to-satisfy attitude seems to eclipse our community’s air of success.
First, I feel that it is imperative for me to share certain facts with you about college football. In today’s world, there is more parity in college football compared to the “glory days” under coaching legends such as Rockne, Leahy, Parseghian and Holtz. The resilient streak of Notre Dame’s football preeminence – 11 national championships from 1924-1988 – made Notre Dame college football’s benchmark for excellence. Due to the reduced number of scholarships and the expansion of television game coverage, there are now many exceptional football programs throughout the country. That’s why smaller teams like Baylor can defeat historically dominant programs like Texas A&M (no. 22).
The ship is clearly turned in the right direction, and now is not the time to take the wind out of the sails. Defeating Michigan and Tennessee demonstrates the caliber of our team. The school doesn’t need disruption now, from the alumni or band-wagon fans. Instead, it needs to fill the holes and develop consistency. Willingham’s presence will develop that consistency. You will have some of the best high school football players aspiring to play under Willingham. Let’s not dwell on the losses of the past and lose the next year or two’s future All-Americans because of the uncertainty of Notre Dame football leadership.
Willingham has proven that in addition to high academic standards, both at Stanford and Notre Dame, he has been able to attract and motivate football players that can play at a top 25 program level. Be careful what you wish for, alumni, for if Willingham leaves, he will be successful at whatever job he takes – college or professional level. (Could you imagine him taking the Florida head coaching job, with a hot bed of Florida talent without the academic pressure in addition to the incredible economic support that the University of Florida’s football program is accustomed to receiving. He’d probably have a national title within three years.)
If Willingham and the Irish beat no. 1 USC in the Memorial Coliseum, that should guarantee him a contract renewal. The alumni, as well as the student body, need to realize that our football organization is well equipped with some of the best coaches and student-athletes that put it on the line every weekend. As the saying goes, football game day is like “Any Given ‘Saturday.'” The jesters of the court could bring mighty kings to their knees on a so-called “good day.” The players cannot blame anyone if they fail; there are simply no excuses on the athletic field. Rather, they must be prepared for their next opponent who would love nothing more than to boast about beating the Irish. We are the fans, they are the coaches; they are the players; and “We are all ND.” They need our support. They need our encouragement. And they need our loyalty now more than ever. That is the essence of the Notre Dame “family.” To the players and coaches I say this: Get ‘er done, and Go Irish!