Notre Dame Recruiting 2011: The Strange Siren Call of Notre Dame Football

Paul CatalanoContributor IIFebruary 1, 2011


Can someone please explain the siren call Notre Dame football has over recruits?

Sure, way back when, The Fighting Irish ruled the college football world. They won championships, had Heisman winners and possessed a mystique that few colleges could possess. But, heck. That time was long, long ago.

Frankly, when it comes to challenging for a BCS title, the Fighting Irish are irrelevant. Annually overrated and irrelevant.

Oh sure, they always seem to be part of the conversation. They have the TV rights; they seem to always have some buzz about them. Commentators always seem to feel that this year, “they are back.” But the truth reveals itself on the field. On the field, they don’t matter.

They haven’t won a title since 1988. Their last Heisman winner was in 1987. Since 1995, they have a grand total of four first-round draft picks (the same amount Florida has done in the past two years and only one more than Marshall). The last few quarterbacks they put into the NFL have been Jimmy Clausen, Brady Quinn, Jarious Jackson and Rick Mirer.

So what can they possibly offer a kid when recruiting him? Their history? Why would a kid care that they won four championships in the 1940s? And would he even know who Knute Rockne is?

If Ohio State and Notre Dame are recruiting a kid, how can Notre Dame promise him anything that those other schools couldn’t? In fact, what could they promise a 5-star recruit? Their recent record of mediocrity? Their recent Bowl record of two and seven, including revealing blowout loses to LSU and Oregon State? That they have had one first-round draft pick since 2004 and it was Brady Quinn? And only two first-round picks in the last decade?

Yet the Fighting Irish keep recruiting. According to Rivals and Scout, Notre Dame has the seventh and ninth best recruiting classes respectively. According to Scout, Notre Dame has four of the Top 100 recruits, ahead of National Champions Auburn, and four 5-star recruits, twice what Ohio State and Auburn have. National runner-up Oregon has none.

On Rivals, Notre Dame has a better class than Ohio State, Oklahoma, Florida and Nebraska and a much better class than Virginia Tech (who last had a losing season in 1992—the last year they missed a bowl game).

Amazingly, Notre Dame recruits year in and year out exceedingly well. Jimmy Clausen was the No. 1 prospect in the nation. How did that turn out? Meanwhile Sam Bradford was a middling recruit that Oklahoma’s staff turned into a No. 1 pick. Brady Quinn was a high recruit—well ahead of Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco. How did that turn out?

And heck, if a recruit wants an education as well as the ability to play football, go to Boston College (nine first-rounders since 1995). Go to Northwestern (two first-rounders since 2003), Vanderbilt (two first-rounders since 2002), Cal (11 first rounders since 1995) or Stanford (Andrew Luck guaranteed first-rounder if he had left this year).

Some recruit specialists say that scouting sites over-rank Notre Dame recruits. Maybe. But what can they say about Ishaq Williams, a 2011 5-star DE recruit, who chose Notre Dame over Florida, Ohio State, Oregon and Penn State? Same goes for Stephon Tuitt, another 5-star recruit. Schools like Georgia, Auburn, Florida, Georgia Tech and LSU all offered Tuitt. Yet he went to Notre Dame. Why?
I have no answer. If anyone out there can explain to me why a recruit would choose Notre Dame over LSU—a two-time BCS champion coached by Les Miles or Florida or Auburn or Alabama or Ohio State—please let me know. I am honestly fascinated.