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All the King’s linemen

Joey Falco | Sunday, November 7, 2004

Politicians come and go, oftentimes leaving behind nothing more than wisps of what once were promising campaigns, but not football coaches. Football coaches leave so much more -an image, a record, a history, a legacy. Football coaches define who we as a society are, and many loyalists go so far as to say that the coach at Notre Dame bears the distinguished secondary title of leader of the free world. Certainly, then, this explains why such a commotion resulted from the recent football coach election that overtook the highly polarized Notre Dame campus, engulfing the administration, alumni and student body in a civil war for gridiron supremacy. I remember it like it was yesterday.

After finally becoming fed up with the mediocre record, disappointing losses, shaky secondary, poor special teams and fickle offense that had become characteristic of coach Ty Willingham, a group of angry alumni decided to nominate their own candidate to replace him. Although much deliberation ensued, this Alumni Party managed to narrow their choices for coach down to three individuals – Super Bowl champion and lifelong Notre Dame fan Jon Gruden, undefeated Utah coach and former Notre Dame wide receivers coach Urban Meyer; and sniveling Stanford coach Buddy Teevens, whose unimpressive career record and total lack of Notre Dame affiliation left many wondering how his name managed to sneak through the cracks.

In order to select the best candidate for the job, the Alumni Party graciously permitted the student body to narrow down the field of three challengers through a primary election of sorts, in which various dorms voted in successive weeks, allowing each candidate the opportunity to run a grassroots campaign in each residence hall. However, the poor decision to set aside the first two weeks of voting for small, uninformed girls dorms like Pangborn and Howard proved disastrous, because by foolishly refusing to cast their votes for two of the candidates based entirely on superficial things like a physical resemblance to the Chucky doll or an outlandish first name, the relatively unknown and unqualified Buddy Teevens ended up gaining a surge of momentum that carried him through victorious primaries in every dorm that followed. Sadly, Gruden and Meyer were forced to head home and resume their successful coaching careers elsewhere.

Back on campus, the incumbent Administration Party immediately unleashed their attack dogs on the unsuspecting Stanford coach, leading one high ranking Willingham supporter to claim that voting for Teevens in the general campus election was equivalent to voting for allowing a rogue group of fundamentalist Michigan Wolverines to hijack an NDSP car and crash it into Notre Dame Stadium. In response, Teevens’ team of Alumni shot back in defense that the heroic coach had once saved the lives of many of his Stanford players from drowning during a freak boating accident several years ago, and would therefore be able to protect Notre Dame from the terrors of opposing teams.

This back and forth bickering continued for months, with Administration-backing priests making claims that God had told them that He sided with Willingham, and Alumni-backing donors arguing that Teevens would not surround himself with an incompetent staff as Willingham had done. The most malignant attacks, though, did not emerge until the very end of the campaign season after Teevens had pummeled Willingham in a Blue-Gold game that tested the coaching expertise of the two men. In one statement, Willingham’s top advisor attempted to spread fear throughout campus by referring to the Stanford coach as a heathen who, if elected coach, would replace Touchdown Jesus with a mural of George Michael.

Finally, as election day rolled around and students turned out in droves to wait in line for hours to simultaneously cast their votes for coach and receive a limited number of basketball season tickets, exit poll surveys conducted by student-led group Rock the Coach discovered that a majority of students sharply disapproved of Willingham’s past coaching record. However, despite these poll results, Teevens was overwhelmingly defeated, 15 dorms to 12 dorms, and the despondent Notre Dame students and Alumni Party were once again left with a coach who they had never really wanted in the first place.

Thinking back, I still can’t believe that we as a University willingly decided to select our football coach and leader in such a silly, superficial, and corrupt manner. This so-called democratic system really only served to leave the people angry, polarized and unwilling to provide the football team with the support that it desperately needed each weekend. Still, I guess we should just count our blessings and be happy that we don’t make even more significant decisions that truly affect the way we live in such a foolish, juvenile way. Actually, I don’t think I would even want to live in a country that would force its citizens to choose between two relatively unpopular guys like Willingham and Teevens who come from the same school and divide the population more than they unite it.

And that’s why I’m proud to be an American.

Joey Falco is a sophomore american studies major. His column appears every other Monday. He can be contacted at [email protected]

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