Steve Orsini, Notre Dame Football and Tough Choices

The Rock NDNation.comSenior Analyst IJuly 12, 2008

The Rock -

So, what happened recently that caused SMU's AD Steve Orsini to pull out of consideration to become the next Athletic Director at Notre Dame?

Orsini wanted the job. He campaigned for it publicly and those who knew him campaigned on his behalf privately.

We know Orsini was a finalist for the position, but there appears to be a complicating factor in the new hire proceedings, a separation of church and state so to speak. Likely in response to criticism of Kevin White and his role at Notre Dame, whoever the new Athletic Director is will likely have diminished power over football. In other words, we're seeing a separation of control of the football program from the rest of Notre Dame athletics.

And whether Orsini turned down Notre Dame or Notre Dame moved onto another candidate altogether, it's likely this emerging structure was a factor.

In concept, this isn't necessarily a bad thing for Notre Dame. It doesn't take much inside knowledge to understand that Notre Dame Football needs to be managed carefully and often separately from the rest of Notre Dame athletics.

Notre Dame is a Big East member for all non-football sports, but remains an independent in football. Additionally, football generated revenues are used to fund scholarships and initiatives outside the football program. Finally, football will always be a large part of the Notre Dame identity. These factors highlight the need for separate treatment and one can understand why Notre Dame is considering moving down this path.

The hard part of a split power structure is to get the execution right. If not the AD, who does have the proper relationships, the negotiating skill, the experience and the charisma/courage to lead Notre Dame through the next BCS negotiations? Regardless of who the next Athletic Director is (Notre Dame sports are, on the whole, healthy,) whomever this decision maker is will to a great extent determine the direction of Notre Dame football and by proxy, the public face of Notre Dame.

But there's a cautionary tale in here as well. If there's an Athletic Director out there with the requisite gravitas and experience who can handle all aspects of Notre Dame athletics (including football,) Notre Dame shouldn't let the experiences of the last ten years preclude hiring someone who can run the whole enchilada. That reminds me of the girl who always picks a guy who's not like her last boyfriend. A simple rule of business and life is that you don't make choices to get away from something or not be something (that's being a reactionary,) you make them to move toward a goal or a vision for what you want to be. Often these are mistaken for the same thing. And one could argue that the recent demise of Notre Dame football came about when Fathers Malloy and Beauchamp exerted control over the football program and effectively ushered Lou out the door leaving us with a ten year mess. Malloy also nixed moves to hire bigger name coaches and essentially made the call to hire Willingham.

There are going to be some tough, but meaningful choices and things could move very soon, especially since inside news is going public. It will be interesting and telling to see how this drama plays out.

BTW, the journalist "hack award" of the day has to go to ESPN's Graham Watson, who, without citing a source or even mentioning any type of deal specifics has proclaimed that "Orsini turns down AD offer, stays at SMU." What offer? - the world wide leader in sensationalist journalism at its worst.