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For the Gipper

Observer Viewpoint | Wednesday, September 8, 2004

In the mid-1940’s, my father, Edward T. Chute, then a student at Notre Dame, witnessed the undefeated and untied dominance of the Frank Leahy-led Irish.

In the ’70s, my brothers, Edward Jr., Paul and Dennis, attended Notre Dame and celebrated as Ara Parseghian and Dan Devine carried the Irish to two more national championships.

In 1986, I graduated from Notre Dame following what was considered to be the aberration of Gerry Faust’s tenure, and, thankfully, this was followed by the resurrection of excellence under Lou Holtz in the late 1980’s.

Unfortunately, since 1993, the last credible edition of Notre Dame football, we have all suffered through 10 forgettable and embarrassing autumns. The reason for this decade of despair is not a mystery. For the past nine years, Notre Dame has had the first or second highest number of graduates on NFL rosters and had the most graduates in the NFL (40) for the start of the 2003 season. That’s more than USC, Michigan, Florida State, BYU or Syracuse, each of whom waxed the Irish within the past year.

It has not been a void of talent or overly rigorous admissions requirements that have held the Irish back. It has been a failure of coaching and athletic direction. Those entrusted to lead the University of Notre Dame and its crown jewel of a football tradition have gerrymandered the following coaches to lead Notre Dame football since 1981: Gerry Faust, Lou Holtz, Bob Davie, George O’Leary and Tyrone Willingham.

To translate the performances of these coaches via the perspective of typical semester Notre Dame courseload would have resulted in the following grades: F, A-, F, F (incomplete), F. Of course, with such a report card, any student would have appropriately failed out of Notre Dame. Why then, has the Board of Trustees and administration accepted such woeful marks from its athletic director and football coaches?

Whereas the honest petitions of thousands of alumni may be discarded by Patrick McCartan and the disconnected CEO’s who litter the Notre Dame Board of Trustees, I suspect that a unified call for change from the Notre Dame student body would be impossible to ignore.

On behalf of all alumni, parents, and the Notre Dame “faithful” who suffer with the Irish week in and week out but have little voice, I ask that you, the Notre Dame students, speak as one on behalf of all of the Notre Dame family. Your voice can change Notre Dame’s history at this most critical moment. Do so not just for the sake of saving Notre Dame’s wounded legacy, but for the sake of your classmates who wear the gold helmets and yearn to “play like champions” but for want of coaching that is the equal of their dreams.

Remember that, unlike your peers at Harvard or Duke, you have a national forum available to get your message out, the National Broadcasting Company. This Saturday, let the University and America know that the Notre Dame students will not stand for ignominy and failure.

George Gipp once said to Knute Rockne “some day, when the breaks are beating the boys, tell them to go out and win just one for the Gipper.”

In 2004, it is the athletic director and poor coaching that are beating the boys. So tell them, for the record, to go out and get a new coach and athletic director. Somewhere, the Gipper – and all the rest of us – will finally have a reason to smile.

Dr. John P. Chute

Class of 1986

Sept. 8