My grandparents gave me a Joe Montana replica jersey when he played for the University of Notre Dame one Christmas. It’s one of those holiday gifts that you never forget because you waited for what seemed like an eternity to get something so frivolous. Then again, I was 10. So this was a big deal.
No team in any sport besides Notre Dame can remain relevant and popular without garnering a tremendous amount of success. The benchmark for success in college football resides in the murky bowl system. Since 1995, the Fighting Irish have compiled a 2-9 record in postseason games, winning just the Hawaii and Sun Bowls. Notre Dame has never won a BCS game, sporting a 0-2 record in the most prestigious bowl games of the postseason.
The Irish are also 0-2 in the regular season in 2011. Falling apart in Ann Arbor in the final 30 seconds on Saturday night, Notre Dame lost a head-scratcher to Michigan after fumbling away a victory to South Florida in the opening weekend. The Irish return home in week three against No. 15 Michigan State as a five point favorite. Someone in Las Vegas still believes in the Irish.
Notre Dame is the only college football team to have a network television deal. Since 1991, NBC Sports proudly airs every home game Notre Dame plays. It’s not even close to a fair production as the broadcasters clearly root for the Irish during (as NBC promotes it) “Notre Dame Football.” NBC pays more than $9 million per season for the rights to air the seven or so home games the Irish play at Notre Dame stadium.
The unranked Irish face a fairly easy schedule the rest of the way, as they almost always do. Notre Dame plays two ranked teams all season (Michigan State and Stanford). They face the absolute bottom of the barrel in the ACC (Wake Forest, Boston College) mixed in with service academies (Navy, Air Force) and teams trying to rekindle any sense of legitimacy (Purdue, Pittsburgh).
Since Lou Holtz left the program in 1996, the Irish have seen six head coaches wear the famous ND hat. One of them didn’t make it to opening day (George O’Leary), one of them coached for just one game (Kent Baer) and three of them are widely viewed as failures (Charlie Weis, Ty Willingham and Bob Davie). Brian Kelly, in his second season with the Irish, enters the third week of the season with an 8-7 record.
His seat is as hot as his face during the games.
As for that Joe Montana jersey, it’s gathering dust.
Kind of like the football program in South Bend.
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