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Thursday, August 19, 2004

Wake Up the Echoes

Notre Dame wants to make its football schedule more competitive, so says the report in USA Today. What precisely does that mean?

Well, if you look at AD Kevin White's statements from the "if you build it, he will come" standpoint, it could be taken to mean that if you fill up your schedule with the power programs, you'll get better recruits, and, ergo, you'll end up playing in a BCS bowl game every year. That's a risky proposition, though, for a program that hasn't done much in the past 7 years or so. (Colin Cowherd had a good take on this on ESPN Radio this morning).

And, if you look at it from the "we haven't done much lately so how do we puff up our record" standpoint, then you'll be looking at how can Notre Dame continue to schedule Army, Navy and Air Force and perhaps avoid getting shellacked by Miami or Florida State. Will it be the case, then, that instead of opting to schedule Texas, LSU, Tennessee and Florida State that Notre Dame will look to start heated rivalries with Temple, UConn and New Mexico?

Practically speaking, the Fighting Irish should look somewhere in between. For example, keep your intrastate rivalry with Purdue and, naturally, keep the service academies and USC. That's five games right there. If you need 7 more, you should look in the following places. First, schedule say at least 2 games that you can win against schools that have solid academic reputations. There would be no shame in scheduling Vanderbilt, Rice or Duke on an annual basis. That would make sense. But, as for the remaining five, schedule one more game against a California school, namely Stanford or Cal (that gives you additional recruiting exposure in fertile Northern California), and then, with your four other games, go with BC, because they're a Catholic school. So, that gives you three more games. Schedule outstanding schools -- Michigan, Penn State, Virginia, North Carolina, Texas. You don't have to schedule schools with recruiting standards that don't come close to yours, but you can achieve a solid balance with schools like that.

If that's what Kevin White means, then there's no shame in that. As Colin Cowherd pointed out, Notre Dame also should examine every aspect of its program to ensure that it's recruiting the right type of Division I athlete, that it has the right coaches, etc. There was an interesting article in SI this week or last week about how Nick Saban at LSU and Pete Carroll at USC recruit "athletes" whom they can put at a variety of positions and how those schools have excelled at evaluating talent. The point being, it's not always your academic standards and the schedule, it's also the type of athlete you put on the field.

So long as Notre Dame can schedule 4 "big" games, 4 very competitive games and say 4 games that it absolutely should win, no one should criticize the Fighting Irish's schedule as being any less competitive than a Big 12, SEC or Big 10 schedule. And, besides, Notre Dame has one disadvantage compared to every other school: everyone gets up to play Notre Dame.

Kevin White's scheduling will bear close scrutiny. Because Notre Dame's ever-loyal fan base wants to wake up the echoes, not drown them out with the cacophony of whining if AD White starts trying to sell season-ticket packages against Mid-American Conference schools and the perennial Division I doormats.

Remember the old line that the three toughest jobs in America are President of the United States, Mayor of New York City and head football coach at Notre Dame? Well, being AD at Notre Dame is probably just one step below.

Notre Dame runs a very clean football program and does many things the right way. I, for one, look forward to a return of the Irish to the annual conversations about who is a top 10 football team.


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8:51 AM  

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