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ND football disappoints

Letter to the Editor | Tuesday, November 11, 2008

We have all been here before. We were here in 1985 when Miami beat Notre Dame 56-irrelevant, in 2000 when Oregon State took Notre Dame to the woodshed and in 2004 when BYU embarrassed ND in the opener. And yet again, we find ourselves at that same familiar place after the recent ND football no-show in Boston.

We are at that familiar point in time when we know, beyond any reasonable doubt, the fate of the Notre Dame football coach. The performance in Boston was such a gross distortion of Notre Dame football, that there can be no other way forward, other than a complete purge of those who produced this version of the Irish. Some within the University will wave their hands for awhile and show you statistics to indicate that there has been improvement in passing yards per game and sacks allowed per game, etc., but those are ruses to distract you from reality. The reality is that those of us who were blessed to witness Notre Dame football under Ara Parseghian, Dan Devine and Lou Holtz can attest that this Notre Dame team is light years away from the historical standard. I cannot even imagine what those who witnessed Leahy’s teams must be thinking.

So, once again, we will all go through the usual drill: Thousands of alumni are writing their letters to Fr. Jenkins, Mr. Swarbrick and Mr. Notebaert, withholding their annual donations to the University, stadium attendance will begin to look like a men’s basketball game, bookstore sales will go down and the NBC ratings will reach the lower limit of detection, as alumni like myself decide to take my kids to the park rather than do penance for five hours every Saturday. And we will all wait and watch to see what Charlie, Jack and Fr. Jenkins are going to do in the next Act.

At some point, perhaps at the end of this season, or the end of the next, a change will be made in the Notre Dame football head coaching position and we will cast our lots with yet another hopeful saviour for America’s once-finest sporting team. It should be noted that I admire Charlie Weis and what he has accomplished in his life personally and professionally and for his unyielding public devotion and defense of Notre Dame. Since he is a fellow alumnus and loves Notre Dame as much as any of us, I suspect he will put Notre Dame above any personal life-illusions and will yield the chair if he thinks it is for the betterment of his alma mater.

I also trust that Mr. Swarbrick and Fr. Jenkins appreciate that, as we enter into our 16th year of non-competitiveness, it is more than possible for Notre Dame football to become permanently irrelevant, save a radical change in course. Don’t let the NBC contract fool you. That contract has wrought the worst possible malady upon Notre Dame and its leadership: complacency, the misguided sense that all is well with the Notre Dame “brand” when, in fact, the “brand” has been critically ill for 15 years.

And what of the rest of us? We continue to grasp more and more tightly onto the illusion that Notre Dame football will someday be great once again. Much like the protagonist in “The Great Gatsby,” many of us came so far to Notre Dame and have felt such exhilaration at how Notre Dame football proudly represented us in the past, it seems nearly impossible to believe we cannot grasp the same greatness now.

Notre Dame football is our “green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us.” Notre Dame football, as we once knew it, has eluded us for two decades. But just like Gatsby, “that’s no matter – tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther … And one fine morning – So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

John Chute, M.D.


Class of 1986

Nov. 10