The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



Responsibility lies with Father Jenkins

Michael Sydlik | Tuesday, November 24, 2009

 Let’s go back five years to see how we got to where we are now.

1. Newly-elected Fr. John Jenkins acts in December 2004 to fire Tyrone Willingham prior to his formal installment as President in the spring.
2. Kevin White, his athletic director then, publicly states that he had no part in this decision — in fact, he did not agree with it — yet is retained to embark on a program of watering down Notre Dame’s schedule for the near-eternity by employing the Ohio State model of 7-5 (later to be perfected to 7-4-1) with the inclusion of increasingly-crappier teams over time. (And after the 10 year deal-in-the-making with Rutgers fell through, Mr. White then agreed to a five year contract with upstart Connecticut — and we all know how that turned out.)
3. Obviously, with White not being on board with the firing, no real homework regarding a replacement had been done other than living on a prayer that Urban Meyer would obviously want to come to his “dream school” and work for the group that for over a decade just couldn’t seem to shoot straight.
4. After nearly-constant abuse on various Notre Dame Football-related blogs, said former athletic director leaves of his own volition to pursue employment opportunities at a school with which we hoped to “aspirationally peer.” That he was never outright fired at the time of the Willingham dismissal or essentially told to hit the road a short time later is especially telling.
5. And this special telling is that Fr. Jenkins — and not Jack Swarbrick — is essentially calling all the important shots on the football program at Notre Dame. Now why would I say this? Well, think about it. When Jack Swarbrick, a lawyer with zero experience in running a college athletic program of any kind — not even considering football at any level — is hired to be the new yes-man in town, he promptly proclaims that he and Fr. Jenkins have a “shared vision.”
6. So what then does Mr. Swarbrick proceed to do upon his hiring? He promptly proclaims upon meeting with Charlie Weis in the summer of 2008 that both he and the coach have the same “shared vision” too. So now what you have is not just two but the top three people responsible for the football program at Notre Dame all running around sharing the same flawed vision for the long-ago-storied Notre Dame Football program.
7. So then you start the 2008 season thinking you’re on Easy Street, but when cracks start to show up in the offense, it becomes painfully obvious that the book on beating Notre Dame is to rush only four, double on Tate and Floyd, and wait for us to absolutely not exploit such a defense obviously stacked against the pass by trying to develop some semblance of a running game.
8. And then you finish the season out with an embarrassing loss to lowly Syracuse and the customary blowout loss to USC. But instead of firing the guy with so many flaws at being head coach of a major college football program, both Swarbrick and Jenkins let said coach B.S. his way into keeping his job by throwing out some nonsense about saving the recruiting class, having an experienced Jimmy back, and being in the “BCS conversation” with an overall experienced roster returning next year also.
9. Then, come this year, the new AD with the apparent good father’s blessing, proceeds to further tarnish the Notre Dame Football mystique by adding powerhouse programs such as Utah, Tulsa, and Western Michigan to our illustrious home schedule so as to clear the field for our obviously-overmatched coach next year as a follow-up to inking multi-year deals with Army at really cool, off-site venues at the same time. Then the season that was never-meant-to-be turns out to be the same-as-it-ever-was as our head coach outright refuses to commit to the run with opposing teams continuing to stop our decided schematic advantage dead in its tracks with the same rush-four, double-on-the-outside-receivers, and wait-for-us-to-blow-up-on-offense defense.
10. Now the new yes-man in town is going around making inane statements that his evaluation matrix for Coach Weis — which includes a lot more data points than mere wins and losses — doesn’t begin until after this week’s impending debacle. So give me a break. Fr. Jenkins got exactly what he wanted when he hired Jack Swarbrick, no more and no less, so it’s going to have to be up to the good father himself to make the right decision for the first time in nearly 15 years regarding the football program at Notre Dame. And I’m not sure he’s up to it given his track record over the last five years. And if he isn’t, he should step aside and let someone with some basic knowledge of college football step in and do so.
11. So if you truly care about the Notre Dame Football program and its importance in the lives of so many people — as well as the prestige that college football success at Notre Dame affords the University — please, please, Fr. Jenkins, do the right thing here and do it sooner than later, real soon to be precise. Otherwise, it may be forever too late.
Michael Sydlik is an alum of the classes of 1973 and 1975.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not 
necessarily those of The Observer.