I would have loved to center this, stupid SBN CSS
Quick what do you think about when I mention the Notre Dame Fighting Irish? Touchdown Jesus? The Gipper? Frank Thomas (blessed be His name)? Knute/Ara/Leahy/Lou? Home of the College Football Hall of Fame? Rudy? That ridiculous Leprechaun thing (the cheapest mascot in all of sports, hands down)?, Freek Bass? this guy? The doucher, bandwagon fans?
What if I told you that Notre Dame is a sham of a "power"? And that the "tradition" of the Irish mainly predates WWII for the most part, and that only three and a half decades have defined their "dominance?"
The purpose of this post is to show you that ND is actually merely an above average program during the best of times, and generally mediocre most of the time. More importantly, ND's relevance ended with Lou 20 years ago, and their historical "dominance" was a creation of Northeast media love, which likewise ended about 60 years ago.
Let's start our journey with an illustration of two teams' accomplishments over the past 30 years.
One team is a traditional national power, the other is more of a regional phenomenon. Both have strict student admissions policies. Both have had a legendary coach lead them at some point over the past thirty years. Both had a rough decade with several seasons at or below .500. And, as you guessed, one of these teams is Notre Dame. Who is who?
Team A: One Heisman Trophy, One National Championship, 221-124 (.659%) seven 10-win seasons, Bowl Record 7-13
Team B: One Heisman Trophy, One National Championship, 267-107 (.713%) thirteen 10-win seasons, Bowl Record 10-13-1
Team A is Notre Dame. Would you be surprised to know that Team B is another private school, with demanding admissions policies and a strict student code of conduct? Yep, Team B is the BYU Cougars.
Surprising? It should shock absolutely no one. Well, it shouldn't shock anyone who actually digs deeper and realizes that Notre Dame has not, for most of the average viewer's lifespan, been relevant whatsoever.
But what about Notre Dame's wins? The second mostest evah?! This is a wee bit deceiving. In fact, only three (arguably four) coaches, with a total of 45 years (out of 123 years) were responsible for nearly 400 (387) of those victories. For the other 80 years of ND's glory and tradition and "dominance", they won a grand total of 450 games...about 5-6 wins per season.
ND has been playing football for 123 years. Want to know how many 10 win seasons they had? 15. That’s it. About one every 9 years. Who has the most? Oklahoma with 31, followed by Alabama with 30 (about once every 4 years). Notre Dame is tied with BYU for 10 win seasons, and neither are in the top ten.
Of those 15 ten-win seasons, Lou Holtz gave them half of them. In 7 years, he was responsible for fully half of ND’s great seasons.
Their Bowl record is a joke as well. ND has only appeared in 29 bowls. And, they have a losing record there (14-15). Before the rousing Hawaii Bowl victory, they hadn't won a bowl game since _1994_.
But what about Notre Dame's great coaches? No knock on these guys. They could flat out coach and win...four of them, in any event: Frank Leahy, Knute Rockne, Ara Parseghian and Lou Holtz (LOU?!)
Oh, sure, Ara Parseghian won two NCs and 95 games, while Leahy had four and Rockne three. But Sweet Lou only had one NC, the same as much-maligned Dan Devine. But, Lou was responsible for a grand total of 14% of NDs wins, at the time of his resigning. For all of the storied "tradition" of ND, Lou's 100 wins in 11 years are the most of any Irish coach since shortly after World War II, when Leahy retired in '53. And, they are second most _all time_ behind Rockne's record. But, for the 60 years after Leahy, ND would be, as they were for most of their existence, an average team most years.
But, what about the National Titles? ND claims 11, and has 8 wire service championships. Yes, yes they do....and seven of them occurred on or before 1949. We will revisit these shortly.
But, but, Notre Dame has 7 Heisman trophies! Yes, yes they do...and six of 7 of them occurred on or before 1964. In the 45 years since John Huarte, long-considered one of the worst winners, took home the Stiff Armed guy, ND has produced but one trophy winner...33 years later when Tim Brown would claim the prize in 1987.
And, that leads to the Irish apple-polishing that the media has perpetually engaged in. It's no secret that for the first 40 years of CFBs existence, it was a Rust Belt/Midwest thing..at least as far as the Media was concerned. Southern teams had absolutely no clout, received no love, and damned near got no recognition, either as teams, or individuals. (arguably, it still is). That's why you see the Army and Minnesotas and Michigan States and, yes, Notre Dames of the world dominating the lists of All-Americans, Heismans and NCs until the modern era.
For instance, in addition to Huarte, amazingly, two other Irish "winners" are on the perennial Top 10 shitty Heismans: Johnny Lattner in 1953 and Paul Hornung, and are pure media creations. Lattner won in 1953, in a field with 5 other candidates from the Midwest, and would take the trophy over Alan Ameche. Hornung won in 1956, in a field with 6 other Midwesterners and would beat out Johnny Majors to become the 5th ND winner and the only winner on a losing team. So, media love in the early era for ND? You could say that...at least to the extent of the Heisman.
But, what about ND's All-Americans? Notre Dame claims 99 concensus AAs, which is an impressive number (Alabama, of course, has 92). However, of ND's 99 AAs, a grand total of 18 are from the modern era (e.g., from 1950 to the present). That's it. 18. Once the modern era began, and the media became national, and the sport became interconnected, it was discovered -- to the media's surprise, I'm sure -- that teams and players existed outside of South Bend.
Let's get back to those Championships: I will start with a dirty secret the Notre Dame fan doesn't want to hear. These championships (like the AAs and Heismans) were -- in most years -- the product of an East Coast hype machine for the Midwest teams. And, like those accolades, died off as the world grew smaller and the glasses were no longer gold-colored. The last sad fact, is that in just about every year ND won a title, there were teams with an equal, if not greater, claim to the championship.
1924. Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside. There were other realistic contenders, of course, and some of them with an arguable claim. Stanford was 7-0-1 beating then-undefeated USC; Alabama at one point was 7-0 (finished 8-1) outscoring its opponents 215-0; and Mizzou finished 8-1, losing the head-to-head to the Irish. But, the Irish got the nod after finishing 9-0
1929. This could have been a very crowded field: Notre Dame, Pitt, Purdue and Tulane _all_ finished undefeated (Purdue, until the Rose Bowl at least), and untied. Additionally, Nebraska had 1 loss, and SMU and TCU finished undefeated, but each had multiple ties. Who got the nod? Notre Dame. Some polls had a two-loss USC team as their NC. No southern team finished higher than the 10th, the undefeated Green Wave.
1930. By 1930, things had started to change in a big way, as the establishment media on the coasts laughably convinced the Tourney of Roses to invite some rednecks into the fray in 1927 (after the '26 season). We know how that turned out. In 1931's Rose Bowl, Alabama would blitz Wazzou, and that 10-0 Alabama team would split the NC with a 10-0 Notre Dame.
1943. The war is on, and the Southern boys are fightin' Nazis (Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi and Mississippi State, Tennessee and Vanderbilt did not have teams that year). That does not mean that football didn't happen. It certainly did, and there were some fine teams. There was one major undefeated that year: the Big 9 (Ten) staple Purdue. But, the one-loss field was very good and crowded: Iowa, Navy, Texas, Duke, Notre Dame and Michigan all finishing with one loss. In a WTF moment, ND is the unanimous champion (really?) Interestingly, Iowa split with ND, as the two teams played twice that year, each finishing 1-1. But, ND got the nod...even over an undefeated Big 10 school. The love continues.
1946. The Northeast media loves them some service academies, and loves them some Notre Dame apparently. That year, Army and Notre Dame would each finish with a tie...to one another. However, about 700 miles down the road, the Georgia Bulldogs finished undefeated (all of these are pre-bowl, remember), at 11-0, while undefeated UCLA was 10-1. What happened? Most of the wire services split their MNCs amongst Army and ND...undefeated UCLA was left out of the picture. And, undefeated Georgia only picked up one service who felt they were champs, the lowly Williamson system.
1947. More ND love. About 2/3rds of the services would give the nod to Michigan, but a third (including the big ones, the AP) would give the title to Notre Dame. These were, by no stretch, the only deserving teams. An undefeated Penn State team, and undefeated (but tied) Kansas and SMU teams got not one vote. Not one.
1949. A new dynasty is about to be born about 800 miles southwest, in a town called Norman, led by a guy named Bud Wilkinson. The Oklahoma Sooners would go undefeated that year. As would Notre Dame. There were two other unbeatens heading into the final poll: Cal and Pacific. Who would win the belt? In every single poll, except for one, Notre Dame would be the choice of the pollsters. Yet more love for the largest beneficiary of media gratis ever. It would get much, much worse. Then, we take a long vacation from relevance.
1966. We all know good and damned well what would happen in 1966. Notre Dame, which had a habit of chickenshitting out for ties, would do it again, and again be rewarded. This time, the infamous tie with Michigan State was the issue. If you read above, Notre Dame also pussed out in the 1946 tie with Army. At that point, twenty years earlier, an undefeated SEC team would get largely screwed then. This time was worse, as ND intentionally chewed up the clock and played for the tie. They played for the tie, and were still rewarded. An undefeated, untied Alabama team would not even have the benefit of one pollster voting them the MNC. Two thirds gave their vote to Notre Dame, the other third to Michigan State. The 1966 Alabama team was screwed, and it was yet another media-driven sham NC for Notre Dame.
1973. Of all seasons, this is the strangest and most crowded one. And, maybe the first truly undisputed time the Irish should have won since 1924. That year, a 10-1 Alabama team would take the UPI crown (which voted before bowl games), while Notre Dame (undefeated after a 1-point win over us) would get most of the votes. Undefeated (but tied) Oklahoma would take the title from three smaller pollsters. But, there were other teams with just as good a claim as OU; namely, undefeated Michigan and Penn State (both with a tie), received not one vote.
1977. Another year, another ND fuck job. Coming out of the bowls, there were four one-loss teams, all with a good stake to the NC. And, there was one team (ranked third) wearing crimson that had a great claim. #1 Texas lost to #5 ND 38-10. #2 Oklahoma got beat by #6 Arkansas, while #3 Alabama destroyed #8 Ohio State 36-6. But, ND (on the alleged strength of their win) vaulted Alabama (equally impressive), Texas and Arkansas (equally impressive). From 5th to 1st in the AP polls. Another split, as Alabama took one poll, and Notre Dame took every other single one. But what about Arkansas? The 'Hogs 25 point blasting of the #2 team in the country was apparently not good enough. And, even though they had a claim (with ND and Alabama), Arkansas received nothing. As usual, ND was the major recipient. Again. Then, we take another decade from relevance.
1988. After a decade of national irrelevance, ND rears its head again. This time in 1988 against the overmatched #2 West Virginia Mountaineers. ND had eked out a 1 point home win over #1 Miami that year and another home win against #9 Michigan. But what about the #2 team? As most folks in Tallahassee would be delighted to explain, the Irish were given a gift (well, chose a gift) by taking on WVU. The #2 team (at 11-1) was smacking its lips and waiting for the Irish in the Orange Bowl. And, the invite had been issued. However, that game would not be played, as ND declined the Orange Bowl bid, and did not play Florida State. So, as the last undefeated ND won the title; its second truly undisputed one (the first and only being in 1924).
So for Joe Montana, and the Clausen wad, for media love, for being the beneficiary of each and every single pollster judgment call; for "independence" (that let's you play service academies and Syracuse), for Mike Golic, for "decided schematic advantages", for the abomination known as Rudy; for your continued insistence on your relevance (despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary); for your insistence on your "historic domination" that was built on regionalism and favoritism; for your leprechaun; for your creepy totemic idolatry; for 1966; for your Kentucky-like bowl record; for your moping about academic standard hampering you (despite the fact that Wake, Stanford, Cal schools, some Big 10 schools, BC, and BYU all manage it); and for taking a Hall of Fame you don't deserve, and havent' deserved since 1949 (if then); I would like to extend a hearty *fuck you* to the University of Notre Dame.
Ed: fixed a shitload of typographical and grammatical errors. Added some stuff from the comments below.
Hate on, brothers and sisters.