Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Why Meyer won't (probably) ever go to Notre Dame

Nearly 2 years ago I wrote a piece entitled “The Increasing Irrelevance of Notre Dame”.

I really had no idea at the time how accurate my assessment was, especially the “increasing” part.

In the two full seasons since I penned that post the Irish have fought their way to a 10-15 record, or .400. That recent history of futility puts them tied for 86th place among the NCAA’s 119 FBS teams, sandwiched by record between perennial homecoming favorites Louisiana Monroe and Louisiana-Lafayette (of 10-14 and 9-15 records respectively).

It now appears irrelevance has arrived.

And we are supposed to believe Urban Meyer might be headed there?

My article of two years ago was spurred by the assertion of Stewart Mandel that Notre Dame was an “elite” program, while Georgia was not. I submit that whether a program is elite or not contains both objective and subjective elements. As far as the objective ones go Notre Dame, ranked 41st by win percentage over the last decade, is not elite.

Subjectively our opinions are formed by life experience, and certainly when I was growing up Notre Dame was elite, and I can easily recall Notre Dame’s “national” championship of 1988. Perhaps this is the reason so many of today’s sports personalities, stuck in some sort of time warp, continue to consider the Irish among college football’s elite. Take the following sports commentators and compare Notre Dame’s standing during their formative (first 25) years –

Beano Cook – Born 1931. From 1931 to 1955 Notre Dame was number 1 team in nation with a 182-40-15 record.

Lou Holtz – Born 1937. From 1937 Notre Dame was 2nd team in nation (to Oklahoma) with a 174-58-11 record.

It’s no wonder they hold Notre Dame in high regard (Holtz coaching there aside).

Or, take the following 2 –

Mark May – Born 1959. During May’s first 25 years the Irish were 12th nationally with a 185-78-6 record.

Kirk Herbstreit – Born 1969. During Herbie’s formative years the Irish were 8th with a 215-71-4 record.

Complementary of Notre Dame, no doubt, but not anywhere like the first two.

Now consider young Joe Prospect. Joe is a high school standout who can play anywhere he wants and has definite NFL aspirations. He is just 18 years old having been born in 1991.

During Joe’s life the 10 most successful college teams by winning percentages are -

1 Florida 0.788
2 Ohio State 0.782
3 Florida State 0.782
4 Nebraska 0.764
5 Miami-Florida 0.753
6 Tennessee 0.744
7 Boise State 0.742
8 Texas 0.740
9 Michigan 0.727
10 Georgia 0.717

Notre Dame is 22nd, between West Virginia and Oregon.

Of course this considers that Joe was cognizant of football just after he was born. In the last decade, since Joe was 8, it looks like this –

1 Boise State 0.844
2 Texas 0.822
3 Oklahoma 0.820
4 Southern Cal 0.780
5 Ohio State 0.770
6 Virginia Tech 0.769
7 Georgia 0.766
8 Florida 0.750
9 Texas Christian 0.740
10 Miami-Florida 0.736

And the Irish find themselves 41st on this list, with a narrowly winning percentage of 0.565.

The last time Notre Dame won a “national title” was 3 years before Joe was born.

Quick – Who won the national title 3 years before you were born?

I’ll wait.

(I had to look it up – for me it was Texas).

To Joe, Notre Dame wins less often than other big school programs like (accounting for the last 10 years) Arkansas, Maryland, Clemson, South Florida, and Boston College. Large schools with decent programs all, and objectively more successful than the Irish over the past decade, but with nowhere near the deluded veneration.

Notre Dame simply isn’t relevant to Joe Prospect, and Urban Meyer knows this. Now the Irish are very relevant to Meyer, but that isn’t going to sell the talent needed to get them out of the funk they seem destined to slide further into. Notre Dame simply isn’t even a lateral move for Meyer at this point, it is a move downwards.

All this doesn’t mean it can’t happen. As the current high level of interest in all things Notre Dame can attest to, delusion is alive and well. And people make stupid mistakes all the time.

It’s just, for me, that I have yet to hear any compelling evidence why it should happen.

UPDATE (7/22/09): Just to be clear I am using the term "irrelevant" here as it pertains to Notre Dame's impact on the BCS Championship picture, or their general football competitiveness. Notre Dame has a large fanbase and will, for the foreseeable future, continue to sell football tickets and merchandise. They have a lucrative TV contract and likely attract sizable donations (though the information is non-public). They are just irrelevant to the outcome of the football season.


jj gator said...

Mergz, the only ones who really want "it" to happen are the rumor-mongers, Paul Finebaum, Peter Kerasotis, the vast assortment of Gator-haters, and even those amongst our own fanbase who are still peeved that Steve Spurrier wasn't rehired after the Zook firing.

Once again, you're spot-on. The schools of choice for the nation's top football prospects are in the warmer climates; the "glamour" programs right now happen to include such schools as USC (Southern Cal, that is), Texas and Florida.

Indeed Urban Meyer knows this as well; I also hope that the "novelty" of Notre Dame is slowly wearing off where he's concerned, that he'll continue on the right path with Florida, and realize that Gainesville is truly THE place to be. He and the Gators are a perfect fit - we see it, but outsiders and the media either don't, won't or refuse to see it.

Alex said...

I agree with your arguments for the most part, and definately hope that we can keep Urban around for a long, long time.

I will say, however, that the reason recruits pick Notre Dame is not because of the current strength of the program, but rather the exposure that it gives individuals. ND has at least 6 nationally televised games on every year, thanks to their exclusive TV deal.

This means that year-in, year-out, regardless of their perennially terrible performance, your TV exposure is on par or greater than nearly any other program, no matter how good they truly are. Any player who even remotely stands out from the rest can be heralded as the next great star.

We all know that Notre Dame is irrelevant, but they have a huge national fan base of people who still think they're great. Money talks, and that's how they recruit successfully every year. They give their kids a great shot at the money, even when they don't win.

geno said...

Dang! My three year prior team was ....Notre Dame!