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Football Commentary: Now is not the time for quitters

Chris Khorey | Friday, September 21, 2007

While making the long drive back from Ann Arbor last week, I was listening to the Boston College-Georgia Tech game on the radio. As the game wound down and the Eagles claimed victory, the announcer started reading through their next few games.

“They’ve got Army, UMass and Bowling Green. Then they go to Notre Dame.

“I don’t think they’ll be challenged in any of those games.”

Army, UMass, Bowling Green – and Notre Dame

That’s what three embarrassing losses have done to the Irish. Suddenly they are lumped in with the worst of the service academy teams, a MAC school, and a team from Division I-AA.

The rest of America has given up on this team and this school. ESPN is laughing. Taco Bell feels so bad that they’re giving away free nachos to make Irish fans feel better.

But here at Notre Dame, people don’t give up so easily.

There are nine games left in the season, and some of them may be ugly.

But this campus cannot quit on this team.

Pep rallies may have a different atmosphere than they have in the past. Instead of being about getting pumped up for victory, they will be more about getting through adversity together. More like “Notre Dame, Our Mother” than “Notre Dame Victory March,” if you will.

Rallies cannot become morgues. The team will be there regardless, so which will motivate them more – students cheering their entrance or a bunch of empty seats?

The same thing needs to happen in the stadium on Saturdays. The Stadium needs to be full and enthusiastic at every positive play.

At the very least, there’s not much else to do on a home game Saturday. But more importantly, the Irish family has to be there for the students that work every day to represent this University on that field.

Of course, that brings up the other side of the coin – the team.

The only reason this campus would ever quit on this team is if the team quit on the season. Losing can be tolerated if the players are giving their all on every play of every game.

But being resigned to defeat, giving up on a play, or watching the quarterback get sacked when you could have prevented it is not acceptable. Nor is laughing on the sidelines while your team is getting killed.

There were disturbing signs of quitting during the Michigan game. Hopefully, Charlie Weis’ “back to training camp” approach will adjust the attitude a little, but really, this team’s attitude is its own responsibility.

There are nine fifth-year seniors and ten true seniors on scholarship on this team. For all but a couple of them, this is their last season of college football – and it might be their last season of football, period.

They need to step up. In their play on the field, of course, but much more importantly, in their leadership in the locker room. The young players that make up so much of this team need someone to turn to, and “leading by example” isn’t going to cut it.

And for the younger players that have been thrust into action this season, there’s no longer any reason to be nervous. They’ve already lived through the worst, now they need to make things better. It’s time to play like a champion.

This season may live in infamy in Notre Dame history, but that’s no reason to quit.

It’s time to circle the wagons. No one cares what ESPN says. No one cares about the ugly stats. Even the win-loss record doesn’t really matter anymore.

The only thing that will make the rest of this season worth playing is for this entire campus to stand up and say, “We won’t quit. We’re going to get better.”

Because at Notre Dame, people are loyal “what tho’ the odds be great or small.” The odds may be great right now, but this team has talent and the coaches have very good track records. Through hard work and perseverance the Irish will be champions again – and soon.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

Contact Chris Khorey at ckhorey@nd.edu