Then what? What happens in a world where the words Notre Dame football flirt with irrelevancy? Are we living in that unfortunate reality now?
How long does a National Championship coach retain his job? Five years...10 years...lifetime membership in the "Jolly of the Month" club? Ask Lloyd Carr, or Phillip Fulmer rather. The pattern shows that Bob Stoops is next!
What about for a program? How long without a championship can a college football program consider itself among the elite? Assuming of course championships are not only desired, but expected.
The real question is, when a coach has no recently minted ring and a case displaying trophies etched with dates older than the recruit, what then does he sell to the kid? What can the coach hang his hat on? The Ty Willingham school of "Notre Dame five stars will come to me" was a proven failure and certainly would not work now.
That idea may very well have worked in the days of Devine and Parseghian. They had the checks that Knute Rockne and Frank Leahy wrote in the decades before. The parents of those recruits lived the glory years, so yeah, Notre Dame football sold itself.
What does Charlie Weis have to sell? What makes a Manti Te’o, or Jelani Jenkins, or Byron Moore choose Notre Dame over Southern California, Texas, Oklahoma, or Florida?
While I love the snow and sub-freezing temperatures, I can understand it’s not much of a selling point compared to the hotspots of the South. While I like an attractive, smart, and maybe little nerdy type of a woman, I can appreciate the differences between the women of South Bend, Indiana and coastal California.
And while given the choice now between being pushed past my comfort level to achieve my maximum potential, and maybe getting to half that point with little or no effort, at 18, I certainly would have chosen the path of least resistance. (Not to mention maybe my pops gets a new house close to my school...unofficially of course.)
So is the promise of a supreme education, strict enforcement of rules, and crummy weather enough to sway the decision of young Te’o? Time has yet to tell.
Or is the lure of Rockne’s ghost yet significant enough to still sign top recruits year after year with a championship-less coach and no NC in the past 20 years?
Feb. 4 could not come fast enough...