Let the light of “# 1” shine again
Observer Viewpoint | Wednesday, November 17, 2004
I remember the light that used to shine down upon us from the “#1” high above campus during the 1988 and 1989 seasons and the sense of spirit and confidence that accompanied it. I imagine that the students on campus today must look up at its darkened framework and wonder about the magic of a not-too-distant yesteryear.
I fondly recall traveling from New York to watch the Irish do battle during the late ’70s under coach Dan Devine, a few fleeting moments of glory under coach Gerry Faust during the early ’80s and, of course, my years as a student under coach Lou Holtz. I arrived at Notre Dame during the fall of 1989 on the heels of the national championship. Our team was number one in the land and the prevailing thought that year was not whether we would win but rather if the opposition would score. The campus was disappointed by narrow victories, somewhat sated by blowouts and devastated by that awful defeat at the callous hands of our archrival, the Miami Hurricanes. Ah yes, Catholics v. Convicts.
Much has changed. The landscape of college football has been altered and the 24 hours a day, seven days a week banter of cable television has enabled a multitude of schools to achieve somewhat comparable exposure. Granted, scholarships have been lessened and perhaps the playing field has been leveled but Notre Dame is not a University that has made a habit of relying on advantage. Just the opposite. Our school is one that has separated itself and risen to the top despite the fact that we are always at somewhat of a disadvantage.
In regard to football, we cannot attract players who yearn for warmer climates and athletic dorms – we cannot accept the individual whose main goal is the pursuit of sport at the absolute expense of academics – and we cannot assume that the nature of Notre Dame’s campus life is for everyone. Since its founding by Father Sorin, Notre Dame’s glory has been born from the seeds of adversity, and that adversity has led directly to our unique and welcoming grandeur. Our nickname, the Fighting Irish, is just one not so gentle reminder of that.
I am a committed alumnus and a diehard fan who was born and bred in the stereotypical Notre Dame family with a father who earned a degree in the ’50s and two sisters who attended the University before me. My love for the University and my somewhat fanatical devotion to the football program would make it easy for me to criticize this coaching staff. But I cannot. I find myself backing them and supporting them in the face of all the Notre Dame naysayers that I encounter everyday.
Although I have rarely been as frustrated with a Notre Dame team, perhaps that frustration is an initial spark signaling our bright future. I did not experience that level of frustration very often over the course of the last 10 years. But this current team is different, and they evoke those troubling emotions because they are capable of doing and achieving so much good. Perhaps the coaching staff must be held accountable for failing to realize this potential on the playing field but the potential is there, and we must attribute a portion of that to the efforts of coach Tyrone Willingham and his staff.
I truly believe that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and that Willingham will guide our University toward that light if he is given the chance. Better yet, maybe that light is not at the end of the tunnel but high above campus, festering in that all too dormant “#1,” which waits to shine down on the current student body once again. Then they will know that the old “#1” it is not mere legend, that the light did shine and can and will shine again.
class of ’93