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Letter to Notre Dame Board of Trustees

| Wednesday, November 30, 2016

So what do you think the Board of Trustees is doing this morning regarding the Notre Dame football program, which finished its season with a most disappointing 4-8 record after losing to archrival USC to cap a week that earlier brought NCAA sanctions to the program?

  • Nada
  • Nothing
  • Zilch
  • Trying to figure out how to personalize their luxury suites in anticipation of the grand opening of Campus Crossroads for the 2017 home opener against football powerhouse Temple with Brian Kelly returning as head coach of the Not-so-Fighting Irish for his eighth season, a tenure rivaled only by four previous Notre Dame head coaches in its formerly illustrative history
  • Staring at their collective navel
  • All of the above

Any talk of Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick making the hard decisions concerning the fate of the Notre Dame Football program — and to an intricately related extent, Notre Dame’s position as a respected institution of higher learning with a proudly Catholic bent — is a waste of breath. The collective board of enervating ennui above them is where the real problem lies.

So what exactly is the Board of Trustees — there are 49 of them, mind you — going to do about it? I mean, it isn’t just the Three Pillars thing they should be worrying about. We’re talking major cash cow here, and these things don’t exactly grow on trees.

You can’t tell me Notre Dame hasn’t taken a major financial hit with the fall from grace of its football program. I mean, there’s the Vivid Seats thing, a secondary ticket market deal with the devil we have engaged to address the obvious lack of enthusiasm for Notre Dame Football. As it currently stands, why would anyone with a firm grasp of what’s happening with the football program in particular and the related fallout to the University as manifested by the underfunding of the $450 million Crossroads project:

  • continue buying season tickets?
  • ever want to enter the ticket lottery again?
  • support an administration so numbskullingly bent on running its once proud football program into the ground?

It was rather obvious to anyone with a basic knowledge of college football that defensive coordinator Brian Van Gorder had to go after last year. So why did AD Swarbrick allow Coach Kelly to bring him back this year? Is Kelly such the Svengali that he controls most everything going on with football at Notre Dame — or was our AD that clueless regarding what had a very real possibility of happening this year?

Seven years in, and we’re back to where we started. Twenty eight years since our last grasp of glory, and we’re getting too old to count that high anymore.

What about the fans? What about the alumni? What about the students? What about the players? What about the menopausal Golden Goose formerly known as Notre Dame football?

You’d think at Notre Dame where CSC — Cash, Strictly Cash — reigns supreme, we’d at least begin to think about enacting meaningful change, if only for the Goose’s sake. Maybe a pill or two of hope that help is on the way — and not some stinking Jumbotron with nothing left for it to display when it inevitably gets here. We’re already saddled with the peripheral schmaltz of a rock climbing wall, artificial turf, smoke emanating from the tunnel and the seemingly-ubiquitous Ozzy Osbourne — and none of these things has one iota to do with winning football. I would hope that the giddy embrace of these distractions is not exactly what we should be touting in the courting of any prospective coach — i.e., one who really does know what it takes to win at Notre Dame. And so, it won’t be enough to announce that we’ve jettisoned our head coach; we really need to announce that whoever sold us this bill of goods is gone too.

Fortunately — or perhaps unfortunately for us older folk — we remember the days when we were somebody. And we have a hard time understanding why the current AD and president — who were around in those days too — seem to care more about the baubles and bling associated with Crossroads and something about improving the “Gameday Experience” rather than Notre Dame winning overall, whatever the odds.

A football program based on smoke and mirrors and edifice envy can only carry you so far. Sometimes you need to block and tackle and put the fade from the one yard line far, far away from ever seeing the light of day again. And so it’s time for the Board of Trustees to get its collective head out of its collective pocketbook and make it rain for someone obviously more worthy of leading us on the football field of glory — one ideally with real grass, but I digress.

And so, Board of Trustees, it’s up to you now to make it right after enabling it to be so wrong for way too long. No more hiding behind your bloated numbers. Do you not take winning seriously? Is it really enough for us to recount year after year the faded equivalent glory of our four Al Bundy touchdowns in one game from oh so long ago? Don’t you think we should strive for more?

Or have you never watched Rudy?

Michael Sydlik
classes of 1973 and 1975
Nov. 27

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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