Thursday, August 02, 2007

The Increasing Irrelevance of Notre Dame

Yesterday I questioned Stewart Mandel’s pick of Notre Dame as an elite program, especially in comparison to Georgia since the mid 1980’s.

Certainly, to listen to the sports media, Notre Dame is one of the most – if not the most – premier programs in all of college football. Any quarterback at Notre Dame is instantly a Heisman candidate, whether the accolade is deserved or not (not, in the case of Brady Quinn).

Is such sports media adoration deserved?

Only for those living in far, far in the past.

Sure Notre Dame has their own TV contract. They have a wide fan base, and sell a mountain of paraphernalia. They have so much monetary clout that joining a conference is not only unnecessary, it would probably be detrimental. They even have their own, special clause when it comes to the BCS.

However, in the most recent era of college football, Notre Dame is barely relevant from a competitive standpoint.

It is true that over the last 106 years (since 1900), Notre Dame is the most winning program in college football, with a 74.77% winning record. It is equally true that the vast majority of that winning happened prior to the 1950’s, in the era of leather helmets, and in a time of far fewer college programs.

When you look at Notre Dame’s overall record in increasingly recent periods since 1900, starting in the late 1920’s that number 1 overall record starts to wane considerably.

Take the following graph –

What is displayed here is Notre Dame’s winning rank against all college programs since a certain date. For the period from 1900 to 2006, Notre Dame is number 1 (or from the period from 1910 to present, and 1920).

Starting in 1930, Notre Dame begins to fall. From 1930 to 2006, Notre Dame is the 6th most winning program. The ranking falls to 12th by 1960, 17th by 1980, and is 26th from 2000 to the present.

Going back to 1930, the following programs have better winning percentages than Notre Dame

1. Ohio State
2. Michigan
3. Oklahoma
4. Alabama
5. Tennessee

Which the exception of Tennessee, the other 4 might be considered “much heralded” programs, although they still receive nowhere near the modern press acclaim of the Irish.

Moving to more recent periods (say 1970 to the present), we find the following programs as more successful than Notre Dame –

1 Miami-Florida
2 Nebraska
3 Florida State
4 Michigan
5 Ohio State
6 Florida
7 Tennessee
8 Boise State
9 Penn State
10 Georgia
11 Oklahoma
12 Marshall
13 Auburn
14 Texas
15 Brigham Young
16 Southern Cal

Which brings us back to Mandel’s snide comment about Dawg fans “thinking Georgia was a USC or Notre Dame”.

Well Stewart, for those born since 1980, people in their mid-20’s (read college football fans), Georgia is better than USC or Notre Dame.

And so are a lot of other teams.

More recent history is even harsher to Notre Dame. In the past 7 seasons (since 2000), programs with better winning percentages than the legendary Irish include –

Louisville (8th ranked)
Texas Christian (11th ranked)
Toledo (15th ranked)
West Virginia (22nd ranked)
Utah (23rd ranked)
Northern Illinois (ranked 25th, just ahead of Notre Dame)

Of course, Notre Dame has achieved a recent record of note – the first team to lose 9 consecutive bowl games.

Just because the Beano Cook’s of the world have an idealized memory of Notre Dame glories that is echoed in all the sports press doesn’t make the modern Irish relevant to those of us under 50.

And, all the TV contracts and special BCS clauses haven’t made Notre Dame any more competitive than 26th overall this century.

The sports media will, of course, continue their special game of “Notre Dame Make-believe” for the foreseeable future – it is simply too much in their monetary interest not to.

(Perhaps their was no better recent instance of this “Notre Dame Make-believe” than when the Irish were courting Urban Meyer, when it was widely assumed he would take the Notre Dame job. I still recall the shock and outrage that Meyer would turn down the Notre Dame job for up-start Florida, and the star treatment was quickly transferred to Weis when he took the Irish job. Two years later, it’s Meyer that looking pretty smart.)

For the rest of us who are paying actually attention however, the practice of gushing over all things Notre Dame ranges from mildly irritating to downright amusing.

For this season, plan on plenty of the amusing, as increasingly confounded sports media types promote the “What’s wrong with Notre Dame” stories after every loss.


Griffin said...

ND fan here.

I have to speak up for the legions of young ND fans who yearn to be considered a separate entity from the "domers" and beno cooks of the world. We don't have the sense of entitlement that older generations do. We root for the Irish because, like many CFB fans, they were the team nearest to us ( Northern Chicago in my case ) when we grew up.

As for the team itself, I think the next two years will be litmus test. Ty was a good recruiter but not a good coach. Weis is a good coach and we'll see if he is a good recruiter. This is his 3rd year, so his players should start to see playing time. The only thing he proved the past two years is that he was able to take a random assortment of players and beat 95% of the teams out there, including UM & UT. (If it weren't for the "bush push", he'd be 1-1 vs. USC too.) It remains to be seen if he can take ND to the level of the top 5% of programs out there ( LSU, OSU, USC, UF, etc.. )

As always, love the blog.

Scotty #13 said...

I hate ND. They're a borderline top 40 team that gets way more hype than they deserve b/c the media loves them and they have a large and delusional fan base. This will be a great year for me, as ND will fall flat on their collective face many a game.

Robes said...

I hate ND and I hope they lose all their games this year, but their schedule won't allow for it. They finish the season with a stretch of Navy, Air Force, Duke, and Stanford.

Their first 8 games are:
GT (probable loss)
@ Penn St. (loss)
@ Mich. (loss)
Mich St. (win)
@ Purdue (50/50)
@ UCLA (loss)
Boston College (50/50)
USC (loss)

I wonder what ND will do if they lose 6 games. Willingham lost 6 games his 3rd season and got canned. I wonder what will happen if Weis does the same?

Henry Gomez said...

The may lose a few games but they are a shoe-in for the commander in chief's trophy again.

Anonymous said...

How sad it is that you must post about Notre Dame negatively to get hits. You've been reduced to stealing ESPN's strategy.

Get real. Georgia is no ND or USC, and neither is Florida.

Henry Gomez said...


Your comment is laughable. Our blog is quite successful and contrary to your thought, we talk very little about Notre Dame.

Can you dispute a single fact in the post? Where is your evidence?

I'll tell you something the Gators are that the Irish aren't...

Defending champions.

Have a nice day and thanks for your continued readership.