With offers on the table from schools nationwide, what makes the University of Notre Dame an attractive option to the heralded football prospects who have earned "elite" status from the many recruiting services?
After all, Notre Dame is simply, well, different from the majority of institutions of higher learning in the United States.
Some schools may offer an easy academic path, while others may offer such amenities as secluded, athlete-only living accommodations. Regardless of what tempting rewards a prospect may be offered to choose a particular school, there is a unique amalgam of reasons why a prospect may be inclined to choose Notre Dame.
History and Tradition of the Program
Concisely, Notre Dame is synonymous with success.
The Irish rank fourth all-time on the NCAA's list for number of victories, with 865, behind only Texas, Yale and Michigan; they're tied with Ohio State for the most Heisman Trophy winners with seven; and they're tied for second in claimed national championships with 11.
The numbers speak for themselves. There's no debate there.
Head coach Brian Kelly has the luxury of taking prospects past the trophy cases in the Guglielmino Athletics Complex, where the Irish's Heisman Trophies and national championship trophies are stored.
Once their eyes have been set upon the gleaming display, the image becomes everlasting.
There's more than just that display, though.
Taking a stroll around Notre Dame Stadium, prospects will take in statues of Knute Rockne, Edward "Moose" Krause, Dan Devine and Lou Holtz, each of whom guided the Irish to national championships during their tenures.
Those iconic figures are a direct testament to the gleaming and proud history of college football's most renowned program.
In the arms race of constructing state-of-the-art facilities, Notre Dame is on the cutting edge.
University administration began groundbreaking of the aforementioned Guglielmino Athletics Complex—commonly referred to as "The Gug"—on March 5, 2004.
The facility houses team meeting rooms, coaches' offices, a team lounge, a computer lab, locker rooms and an enormous weight room, among a vast array of amenities. The Gug is a central location for players, as it is located across the street from the Cartier practice fields and Notre Dame Stadium.
The Gug also offers training tables—often a controversial topic at Notre Dame—to players on a daily basis.
Essentially, the facility is a haven for the Irish, as it offers them a place to train, eat, relax and study. What more could a prospect ask for?
The Power of a Notre Dame Degree
Unlike many of college football's premier programs, Notre Dame also offers one of the world's most well-respected undergraduate degrees.
Student-athletes—including football players—are treated no differently academically than the rest of the student body. There are no special athlete-only classes, and the freshmen players are lumped into the first year of studies program with their peers.
While taking on such a rigorous course load is a tall task, the reward of a Notre Dame degree is a gift that keeps on giving.
According to Businessweek, the 30-year net return for Notre Dame graduates is $1,442,000.
While the aspiration of many young men playing football at Notre Dame is to continue their careers in the NFL, the thought of life after football with a degree from such a prestigious institution can't be overlooked.
Current State of the Program
Following former head coach Lou Holtz's departure in 1996, the Irish entered a prolonged period of mediocrity.
Bob Davie, Tyrone Willingham and Charlie Weis guided the program to a combined record of 91-67 from 1997 to 2009. Questions began to arise about the perceived "relevancy" of the program, and whether it would ever return to its once-dominant ways.
Enter current head coach Brian Kelly, and those worries seem like a thing of the distant past.
Kelly, entering his fourth season on the job, has guided the Irish to a record of 28-11 during his tenure, including the school's first national championship appearance in 24 years last season. Kelly's ability to return Notre Dame to the status of a bona fide top-10 team has also spurred recruiting, which may lead to sustained success.
While the Irish are unlikely to be a national championship contender on an annual basis, Kelly will have them in the BCS—soon to be College Football Playoff—conversation year in and year out.
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