The Steele Drum

November 10, 2009 10:04 AM

Notre Dame: No Ty, No Wins, Just Losses

You've got to wonder whether Notre Dame understands karma. If they didn't before, now that they've lost to Navy twice in a row and are about to fall short of expectations under Charlie Weis once again, then they ought to understand now.


The Notre Dame program, and its entire athletic administration, has been asking for this for five years. They've been begging to be humbled, to be brought low, to be slapped in the face with reality, to be confronted face-to-face with the consequences of a wrongheaded act that bursts beyond the bounds of their usual entitlement-bloated acts ...


... ever since they fired Tyrone Willingham.

Notre Dame was due to pay a heavy price for doing Willingham wrong, for doing wrong by a good man, for treating like dirt a man who deserved it less than anyone else the powers-that-be at that school will ever know.


Now, five years after yanking the rug out from under Willingham and bringing all the accusations and incriminations upon themselves whether they were indisputably proven or not, they're losing to Navy two times in a row at home. Try to put a shine on Weis's resume as much as you want (his Notre Dame winning percentage this morning: .593; Willingham's, .583), make excuses for his shortcomings, revise your history on what Willingham did and didn't do as head coach and why and why not he was fired - but Willingham never lost twice to Navy at home. Or at all, for that matter.


No Notre Dame coach had lost to Navy for 43 years, in fact, until this year's edition and the one two years ago managed that feat. Since Staubach was quarterback, since JFK was president ... you heard the litany of "since's'' in 2007 when Navy outlasted the Irish in South Bend. Navy simply should not have beaten Notre Dame in the 21st century, not for any reason, and not when Notre Dame's head coach has been given so much more leash than almost any other coach in his position and circumstance.


More leash than Willingham ever got, that's for sure. Because even if you give the powers-that-be in South Bend - whoever it was that really pulled the plug - the benefit of the doubt and say that Willingham's skin color played no role in any decision about him, the fact is that no other coach had been given less of a chance than Willingham had. Another fact: you single that coach out for that indignity, you weather every accusation thrown at you because, again, you've asked for it.


Yet the disservices being done at the hand of those aforementioned powers hardly stops at Willingham. Weis deserves better, too. Yes, he's pompous; yes, he got far more credit for others' successes than he should have and he never hesitated to accept it; yes, he wrote a lot of checks with his mouth that his recruiting and game management haven't cashed.


But Notre Dame went and chased him around frothing at the mouth, not the other way around. That hierarchy rushed to throw more money, years and security at him two-thirds of the way through the very first season of his original five-year contract. They were the ones who rewarded an unproven coach after a loss - the coach who replaced the one Notre Dame fired after he'd pulled the program's fat out of the fire and restored its good name after the George O'Leary resume-fudging fiasco. (One could refer to "resume-fudging" as "bald-faced lying'' if one wanted to be overly blunt.)


Finally, Notre Dame went ahead and stuck with Weis after the embarrassment of a 3-9 season, the year of the historic first loss to Navy, allowing him to return for Year 4, then Year 5, the two years Willingham was never granted. The idea was that this would justify it all, that the seeds of trust would bear the fruit of a BCS bowl.


It won't. Not after another loss to Navy.


Is Notre Dame humbled now? Does it now understand that it's been acting like any other big-time, trophy-chasing schools whose moral underpinnings are as weak as the programs they and their faithful turn their noses up at? Did trashing its head coach and breaking its tradition of letting coaches finish their contracts, so it could court and be rejected by Urban Meyer, then court and hire and then spoil and prematurely reward Weis - did all of that open the Irish eyes to what they really are, as opposed to what they want America to think they are?


Do they now know that they're the same kind of self-absorbed, self-important jerks who pay mere lip service to the whole higher-learning routine, who assign no meaning to written commitments, who have dollar signs in their eyes instead of pupils, who emphasize not educational ideals but rear-end-covering, who play musical chairs with coaches when it fits their needs, who are just as antebellum in their views of black coaches as the deepest of deep-South programs?


Most of all, can they define "karma'' without having to run to the library to look it up?


Of course, none of this is to disrespect what those who run Notre Dame and attend it believe. Karma is not part of the belief system of the Catholic Church, or any Christian faith. But Paul's letter to the Galatians is: "Be not deceived; God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.''


Even if that man picks head football coaches in South Bend.



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