Administration has mismanaged football team
Observer Viewpoint | Sunday, December 5, 2004
The administration has failed the student body, the alumni and, most importantly, our classmates on the football team that chose to play at Notre Dame over a variety of other schools. Coach Tyrone Willingham was a man of deep integrity and honor that, absent the blowout losses of this year, was progressing in his reconstruction of the Notre Dame football program. The offense had showed flashes of brilliance this year, but this was not enough for the older alumni, and certain elements of the student body, who demanded that Notre Dame win now.
Thus, we fired Willingham with the obvious goal of hiring Urban Meyer, a former Notre Dame special teams/wide receiver coach and famed rebuilder of programs, and yet we messed this opportunity up as well. Meyer will instead be replacing Ron Zook as the head coach at the University of Florida. Why? There are two reasons.
The first was that he was concerned about the academic standards at Notre Dame and our inability to win unless they were lowered, which the administration refused to do. Tony Rice, the quarterback of our last national championship team, was also Notre Dame’s first Proposition 48 admit, and he graduated from Notre Dame with a degree in Psychology. The school frequently admitted individuals with lower GPAs and SAT scores than their classmates under Lou Holtz, and since this policy has changed, we have watched the gradual decay of our football program. By shrinking the pool of players that we can recruit with our high academic standards, the administration is restraining the football program from recruiting players that instead are going to our opponents, such as USC, Tennessee and ironically, Florida.
In addition to refusing to lower our academic standards, the University allegedly offered Meyer considerably less money than the University of Florida. This truly boggles my mind. As a Floridian, one of us is acutely aware of the fiscal crisis ongoing on the institutions of higher education in my state, and yet it was able to offer more money to Meyer than Notre Dame did, a school with an endowment of well over $2.6 billion. Notre Dame is currently paying off the millions of dollars in buyouts to two of our former coaches, and the administration refused to go the extra mile in hiring the new one?
The mismanagement of the football team, a group of individuals that represent our University in the national spotlight and has to contend with long hours of practice in addition to the rigorous coursework at Notre Dame, is inexcusable. The shameful manner in which Coach Willingham was fired, in addition to the failed attempt to hire the coach we had identified as the man that would allow us to have a true “Return to Glory” is indicative of the poor stewardship of the football team under University President Father Malloy, and a bad omen for the direction the football team will take under University President-elect, Father John Jenkins.