Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Expectations Not Irish's problem

Ok, I'll admit, the expectations of the Notre Dame football program are probably as high as any program out there. And there might be certain issues, lack of conference affiliation, academic standards, etc. that make it more difficult for Notre Dame to compete than some of the other big-time college football programs. But it isn't those expectations that are bringing the Irish down.

Instead, it was the hiring of a lifelong assistant coach who brought an arrogant attitude to Notre Dame that has caused them to sputter the last few seasons. Weis was granted this ten year contract after he had essentially accomplished nothing at the school and Notre Dame will be paying for that mistake for a long time.

Ultimately, there are some problems for the Irish that extend beyond the coaching staff. After all the past three head coaches have failed, so it can't all be blamed on Weis. But the former NFL Offensive Coordinator was given five years, time that allowed for all the players to be his, and couldn't manage to win more than half his games under those circumstances. He actually fared much better when he played with Willingham's talent, that was so beaten down by the Irish establishment.

There may come a time when ND gets back to double digit wins and at that point the large fanbase may make a claim for the head of the head coach. And that will be tragic and unfair. But the Irish are far from that level right now. Instead they are a team that went 6-6 without playing a league champion (unless Pitt wins on Saturday) and lost to such national powerhouses as Navy, UCONN and Stanford in the final weeks of the season. Last year, they were beaten by Syracuse on Senior Day. They finally snapped their bowl losing streak last season with a win over the mighty Rainbow Warriors of Hawaii.

That led to high expectations this season, and Notre Dame started well winning six of its first eight as it played the Big Ten portion of its schedule. Included within that were several close wins. Those close games went the way of the opposition as the season wore on, and Weis' rope got tighter and tighter.

The Irish will find someone to take the job with the high expectations. But they might have to look harder than most would expect. The new coach will have numerous problems that he will have to fix, but expectations aren't one of them. At least not yet.

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