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Let ’em play coach

Dan Murphy | Wednesday, November 12, 2008

This weekend 60 Notre Dame athletes in the prime of their lives donned the blue and gold and came out ready to fight. They laced ’em up with fire in their eyes, gnashed their teeth into their mouth guards and shoved their ponytails out of the way.

No, senior defensive tackle Pat Kuntz hasn’t pulled out his eighth new hair style of the season, I’m not talking about the football team. Anyone who saw Saturday night’s loss to Boston College should know that. I’m talking about the Irish Women’s Boxing Club’s annual Baraka Bouts tournament.

The literal Fighting Irish spend three hours a day, six days a week working out in a hot, dingy basement for their seven minutes of glory once a year. Workouts consist of thousands of jumping jacks, hundreds of push-ups and sit-ups, and more than a handful of bloody noses.

These girls don’t get scholarships. They don’t get their faces plastered all over television. They don’t get pampered with every possible advantage a college student could have and they certainly will never make a dime from all their hard work. So why the hell do they do it?

Simple – For the love of the sport. For the satisfaction of a hard day’s work and the feeling of accomplishment after the fight – win or lose.

Charlie and his boys should take notes.

The Irish football team came out Saturday night without an ounce of fight in them. Maybe there was a lack of motivation. Maybe a quadruple overtime loss the week before, five straight losses to one of your biggest rivals, and a shot at bowl eligibility weren’t enough. Maybe not.

Notre Dame showed up in Boston flatter than Howie Long’s haircut. Maybe the reason was that they lost their love of the sport. It’s about as simple as Weis’ offense is complicated.

Weis comes from an NFL background with one of the most complex and successful offenses in league history. The problem is, just like those 60 young ladies who left their hearts in a boxing ring Friday night, Weis’ players are college students. They’re not professionals and everyone needs to stop pretending they are.

College football, in my book, is the greatest sport in America. The rivalries, the unpredictable ups and downs and the pure emotion that it is played with make it great.

Coach Weis comes from an atmosphere where finely-tuned athletes doing their jobs creates success. In his press conference after Saturday’s loss, he said that the offense struggled because players were trying too hard to make the big play. Weis said if they had done their jobs they would have been more successful.

Coach, you aren’t talking to Tom Brady anymore. You are talking to a pack of teenage superstars. Of course they are going to try to play outside their ability, most of them don’t even know what their ability is yet. It’s time to simplify things and just let the kids play ball.

Over the past three years Weis has consistently brought in the best high school athletes in the country. There is no doubt that he is about as good of a recruiter as there is. I guess slapping a handful of Super Bowl rings on the kitchen table has that kind of power. But it’s time to let all that work start paying the dividends.

Last weekend Texas Tech toppled the No. 1 team in the country and moved to an unprecedented 8-0. How’d they do it? With ten seconds left on the clock and the score tied, all four Red Raider receivers ran straight lines down the field. They had their smart, strong quarterback throw it up in the air to their best young receiver and he made the play.

No one in the Western Hemisphere would tell you that Tech recruits better than Notre Dame. The Irish have the talent to play with any team in the country; they just have to let them play.