This from the Tuesday Morning Quarterback column on ESPN.com’s Page 2. I am in complete agreement. Winning college football games isn’t everything. Conducting yourself with class and pride counts for much more over the long run–something that Nick Saban either never learned or forgot. When these Notre Dame players tell their grandkids about their playing days, they won’t talk about their won-loss record, but the kids will know from watching grandpa what kind of a man ND helped make him.
Sportstalk radio continues to call for the head of Charlie Weis of Notre Dame, whose team is “only” 6-4 after close losses to power schools. Must be that when Weis got to South Bend, immediately he forgot how to coach. Bob Davie and Tyrone Willingham, his predecessors, saw their coaching careers hit the rocks, too, upon arrival at South Bend, followed by boosters’ demands that it become 1966 again and Notre Dame roll over opponents. TMQ thinks Notre Dame alums should be proud of the football program’s recent struggles — because the reason for the struggles is that Notre Dame still requires football players to attend class. Over the past couple of decades, increasingly most top 20 football schools have discarded any pretense of education. With a 94 percent football graduation rate, Notre Dame is competing against programs with a 68 percent football graduation rate (Florida), a 55 percent graduation rate (Alabama) and a 50 percent graduation rate (Texas); other football power schools have similarly miserable grad rates. Low graduation rates at big football schools mean players cut class to concentrate on sports, being pros in all but pay. “Don’t go to Notre Dame, they make you study there, come to our college and party, party, party” has become a recruiting pitch that undercuts the Fighting Irish. It is extremely cynical of other football powers not to educate their players; Notre Dame is among the few football powers (others are Boston College, Nebraska and Stanford) to refuse to give in to such cynicism. Want the Irish to win more games? If the school stopped making football players do term papers, results would improve. That would hardly be in the best interest of the players — or of Notre Dame.
Two weeks ago, when Navy defeated Norte Dame in the closing seconds at South Bend, both teams and 80,795 people stood quietly and respectfully in the twilight as “Blue and Gold,” the Navy alma mater song, was played — only a genuine institution of learning like Notre Dame could produce such a moment. Wasn’t it worth more than a victory? Wasn’t it far more impressive than the mindless fist-shaking exhibited by some big-deal football programs after 40-point wins against cupcakes?