The Notre Dame football program will never be as relevant as it was 50 or 60 years ago. It is no longer the only program whose games are televised nationally every week (lowly MAC teams like Ohio and Buffalo can be seen regularly on ESPN mid-week). Today's top prospects weren't even born when Notre Dame was a football power. Notre Dame has been surpassed by Florida, Oklahoma, Texas, Ohio State, and USC as the bell-weather programs of college football.
All is not lost, however, for the Irish. The path back to the top (or at least just below the Top 5), is an easy one. And they have Boise State to thank.
The Broncos have written the recipe for how to build a winning college football program: One part recruiting, one part great coaching, two parts manageable schedule. The last ingredient is the key.
Boise State plays in a weak conference, and usually schedules a decent BCS conference team to pin its season on. Notre Dame has no conference affiliation and plays USC every season. This season the Irish played Nevada, Michigan, Washington, Washington St, Navy and Connecticut. Future schedules include Army, Tulsa, Western Michigan, and Baylor.
The Irish would be wise to weaken their schedule further with mediocre big conference schools and decent small conference schools, with the USC game being the one exception. They will need one big test to show the pollsters they belong.
This scheduling strategy will work better for Notre Dame than for Boise State for one big reason. The Broncos must be the highest ranked champion from a non-automatic qualifying conference to get an automatic BCS bowl bid. Notre Dame gets an automatic bid if it is in the top 8. This means that a one loss Notre Dame is virtually a lock to get a BCS bid. If the Irish make it to a BCS bowl game on a regular basis, they will build up their "prestige," leading to better recruits and higher preseason rankings.
Unlike Boise State, Notre Dame does not have to share its BCS payday with a conference. So the reward for Notre Dame getting into the BCS is a lot higher, and therefore the Irish, with their deep pockets, can afford to shell out the money to get the right coach and right facilities. The bigger question then becomes is Charlie Weis the right coach?
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