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Archive for Wednesday, December 5, 2001

Notre Dame’s standards unrealistic?

Coaching the Irish not a job for the faint of heart, but let’s hope ideals don’t change

December 5, 2001

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A coach who won 10 more games than he lost, and on whose watch the graduation rate of football laborers reached 100 percent, has been fired.

The charges against Bob Davie are that he failed to meet Notre Dame standards.

A winning record and a perfect graduation rate might suffice on other campuses, but not at South Bend, Ind.

Notre Dame's standards are . . . what is the word? Ah, yes. "Lofty."

Those standards strike some as . . . what is the word? Ah, yes. "Unrealistic."

It says here that if Notre Dame can find a coach who can produce a national championship, graduate every one of his players, and all the while not lower admission standards or water down that cruel schedule, and keep NCAA investigators off the doorstep, then he should not only be hired but immediately bronzed.

The man who fired Davie, the athletics director Kevin White, is also the same man who signed Davie to a five-year contract extension this time last year. So in just a year, Davie apparently went from someone you want to keep to someone you can't shed fast enough. That is the unfortunate nature of the business.

White noted that Notre Dame has won 11 national championships in football. True enough, but only one in the last 23 years, and that one was a dozen years ago.

There is a school of thought that White and Notre Dame live not so much in a fantasy world as in a time warp, that what worked before won't work now. Idealism has gone out of style.

Their argument is that it is not possible to keep pace with, oh, let's pick somebody at random here Miami, say and still maintain demanding admission policies and stern academic requirements.

Whether they like it or not, goes the argument, there have to be some accommodations made, some adjustments for the times.

There has to be . . . what's the word? Ah yes. "Compromise."

Let us hope with the most severe sort of passion that they are wrong in this contention, that this argument is misguided, boneheaded and just plain ... what's the word? Ah, yes. "Wrong."

Let us hope that someone will fight to keep the standards, not lower them, and resist retreat or surrender or alibi even if it is all dolled up and passed off as compromise, as though the word alone would excuse the sin.

The argument that admission standards are detrimental and discourage the prime beef from signing on is a lame one. The fact is, Notre Dame has a built-in recruiting advantage that far exceeds any disadvantage. For a long, long time, it was the automatic destination of Catholics with speed, size, strength, or, preferably, all three.

It can, in accomplished and energetic hands, be that again.

And Notre Dame is still a magic name, still a place of overpowering mystique.

And if that sounds hopelessly idealistic, well isn't that part of what the college experience is supposed to be about, fighting the good fight, immersing yourself in a cause in which you believe?

So now Notre Dame is in the market for a coach. This is not a job for the faint of heart. In fact, there is not a college coaching job to equal it. But for anyone with a coaching ego, it is intriguing, tempting, seductive.

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