Notre Dame vs. Florida, Oregon, and USC: A Morality Tale

Marc HalstedCorrespondent IFebruary 22, 2010

22 Sep 2001: An American flag adorns the helmuts of Notre Dame players when Notre Dame takes on Michigan State at South Bend, Indiana. DIGITAL IMAGE  Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Daniel/ALLSPORT
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

I’m a Notre Dame fan but I’m not an elitist.

I love college football Saturday afternoons at Notre Dame Stadium but I’ve never been able to put the scratch together to get to South Bend.

I’m morally and ethically opposed to illegal activities but I’m not sure if St. Peter has accepted my reservation yet.

In short, I live a slightly-below-middle-class average American lifestyle, I love my Notre Dame Fighting Irish football, and I thoroughly enjoy fall Saturday afternoons.

Oh, and I abhor immoral behavior.

That’s why I’m disgusted by Urban Meyer’s Florida Gators, Chip Kelly’s Oregon Ducks, and "Petane Kifrol’s" USC Trojans.

And that’s why Notre Dame is a large part of the true foundation of college football.

I respect win-loss records and I’m fully aware of the fact that ND hasn’t played for a national championship in years. But they still represent much of what is right with college football.

We’ll start with the facts.

Notre Dame graduates over 95 percent of its football players on a yearly basis. The University and its coaches have managed a program devoid of major NCAA violations over the past decade. There have been relatively few arrests and no major police blotter appearances by Notre Dame players in the past few years.

In short, a kid that goes to Notre Dame is guaranteed a great education, a chance to compete at the highest level of college athletics, and appears on national television on a weekly basis.

In addition, he has a comparatively good chance of playing in the NFL and mathematically small chance of ending up in the back of a police car, in front of a judge, or behind bars of their local penitentiary.

A kid that goes to Florida, Oregon, or USC? 


Now, I’m not saying that Sports Illustrated and ESPN should start covering the Fighting Irish like a Tiger Woods press conference. And I’m not saying the Irish deserve some new national championship for being "all-‘round good guys" and making their players go to class every morning.

But I am saying that I’m sick of the self-aggrandizement of Urban Meyer and his vainglorious return to his beloved Gators when we all know he stayed to preserve the recruiting class before setting sail for his Club Med vacation.

I’m sick of the over-indulgence of the Phil Knight Duck facilities that obviously place more emphasis on gear, uniform changes, and the coolest locker room amenities and far too little emphasis on going to class, staying out of jail, and not assaulting people.

And I’m sick of USC. I’m sick of the violations. I’m sick of the arrest record. I’m sick of the valuation of a university based on its recruiting class profile and its yearly performance in the NFL draft.
Now, before you write your angry posts, threaten to burn my house down, or call me the typical ND elitist, let’s look at the facts.

27 Florida Gators have been arrested during the reign of Pope Urban.

Last week redshirt Gator freshman Gary Brown, who was one of the top recruits in the Class of 2009, was arrested for slapping and scratching two separate women at an off-campus party.

Four Ducks have been arrested in the last month.

Last week star Oregon running back LaMichael James was arrested on five counts of assault for a domestic abuse incident involving his girlfriend.

Making things worse for Florida and Oregon is the embarrassing fact that neither Brown nor James were the first players arrested during the current school year. They are also not the first Gator/Duck arrested for the battery of women over the past two months.

As for USC, they will find out on Thursday the results of an NCAA probe that will determine the future of both the football and basketball programs.

After months and years of accusations, exposes, and investigations the nation will find out what NCAA rules were violated during the nine-year Pete Carroll era.

When will these programs figure it out? When will they begin to run programs with stricter off-field standards? When will they begin to obsess as much over their graduation rates and Saturday night behavior as they do over their win-loss records and Saturday afternoon performance?

When will Florida, Oregon, and USC start acting more like Notre Dame, Stanford, and Northwestern?

The bigger question may be about what it takes to win national championships. Do you have to have players who live on the edge to perform at a high level? Must your defense be stacked with high-intensity athletic freaks who push the limits of every line, on and off the field in order to finish in the AP Top 10? 

Until those questions are answered, or until Florida, Oregon, and USC decide to clean it up, I’ll keep turning the channel to NBC every Saturday afternoon around 3:30 Eastern Standard Time. 

Until Urban, Chip, and Lane start to put character, integrity, and academic achievement ahead of national prominence, I’ll continue to look to South Bend, Indiana for my college football fill.

Believe me, I’m sick of 6-6 and "Continued Mediocrity" and I dream 13-0 and a "Return to Glory." But I’ll sacrifice the latter for the previous as long as the great traditions of Notre Dame continue to pass from one generation to the next.

Who knows, maybe the fates have one more great season for a team that does it right. Maybe 2010 will be the year of UND and much of what is right about CFB and not the year of UF, UO, or USC and much of what is wrong with CFB.

Maybe 2010 will the Year of Reckoning.

Just maybe...