Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A Rebuttal to ND Nation

Instead of enjoying a nice victory from Saturday I've been forced to wade through a quagmire of negativity on the message boards all week. All of it stems from the neutral site game that just took place and the current 7-4-1 scheduling format. After reading this article written by Mike Coffey, the webmaster at ND Nation, that blasted the University of Notre Dame's administration I finally felt it was necessary to offer a response. The following is my rebuttal to his article "Cowardice and Greed."

Mike, I’m new to posting on the board so let me introduce myself real quick. My name is Matt Mattare. I’ve been a die-hard Notre Dame fan my entire life, first visited the campus when I was 10, and haven’t missed watching a game since I was 12. I absolutely love everything about the University and was lucky enough to graduate from it with a degree in 2008. I’ve been a long-time reader of ND Nation and I appreciate all the effort you’ve put into building one of the largest online communities of Notre Dame football fans.

Now, on to the matter at hand. Yesterday at work I was perusing ND websites looking to see if anyone knew whether Dayne Crist’s ACL was intact when I came across your piece “Cowardice and Greed” where you ripped apart the administration. I feel the need to dissect it and provide a counterpoint because I think in this situation you are totally off-base.

“The people who run our football program don't want to make difficult choices, like bringing in a high-profile coach who might make them nervous sometimes (see: Holtz, Lou) or blue-chip players who won't always act like choirboys.”

You start by making the very noble claim of wanting to “make sure Notre Dame stays true to the kind of things it used to stand for”…but then suggest the ways in which to make this happen must include a rule-bending head coach and players that aren’t necessarily high character. Right off the bat this is incredibly hypocritical. The arena where coaches bend the rules is recruiting and I think Coach Weis—if nothing else—has proven he’s more than capable of bringing in top notch talent without skirting NCAA regulations. If you want a coach who is going to make them nervous by bending other rules I’m not quite sure what you’d be referring to. Steroids? Academic Fraud? Lots and lots of extra practice time?

Weis has also brought in players of high character. I believe that part of (to paraphrase you) “staying true to what the University stands for” should without a doubt require recruiting good, upstanding people. I don’t want to win games with thugs and we shouldn’t have to. The second part of the choir boy inference is the fact that our admission standards are too high. Frankly that’s probably the biggest myth surrounding Notre Dame’s football program.

There are so many cries for the administration to allow “exceptions” for each recruiting class so that we can sneak in a player or two that wouldn’t otherwise qualify. People act like we’re turning away guys with 1200’s; take a peek at the SAT scores of players over the past fifteen years. Blue and Gold Illustrated used to publish every recruit’s SAT after they committed in the spring and I vividly remember Davie’s classes rarely having anyone that broke 1000. Jim Molinaro was a two-star recruit back in the late 90’s and his SAT score was 860. The average SAT score of the 1993 team was 899.

How low do we need to go? We expect our kids to graduate from a top 20 University with a real major, at the very least they should be able to read and write. Stanford football has legitimate beef with academic restrictions—we don’t. I would hope upon further reflection you’d admit that sentence was at the very least misguided because the hypocrisy of it undermines your credibility for the rest of your argument.

“(The Administration) want(s) the path of least resistance to winning just enough games to keep the alumni wolves from their door.”

You can’t honestly believe this can you? To say that the administration’s goal is to “win just enough to keep the alumni wolves from their door” is just as ignorant as saying “all the posters on ND Nation root for Notre Dame to lose.” This comment pushes the article into the category of cathartic rant.

“So they spend a quarter of the schedule on "buy" games against programs without the self-respect to demand a more equitable setup. They believe alumni and fans will be so happy to have tickets they'll pay top dollar for crappy matchups against Low Self Esteem State.”

You accuse the administration of not doing the things necessary to let us compete on the highest level (like hiring a shady coach or admitting students of questionable character) but this is a perfect example of them doing exactly that. Maximizing the number of home games we play undoubtedly gives us an advantage. The neutral site game is there way of creatively trying to find a way of giving us yet another advantage with other added benefits (recruiting, national schedule, etc.).

The reality of the college football world today is that almost every single major college football power plays AT LEAST seven home games every year. Included in those home games are some pretty lousy opponents, whether they be from I-AA (Florida), the Sun Belt Conference (LSU), or the WAC (USC). Next year we’ve chosen to fill three games next year with: Utah (2x BCS winner since ‘04), Western Michigan (averaging 7+ wins last four years), and Tulsa (averaging 9+ wins last four years). Don’t get me wrong—I’m in the majority that’s not excited to see the latter two, but people need to keep things in perspective and stop acting like we just sold our soul.

Truth be told I would much rather play a 6-5-1 or even a 6-6. I wish all teams had to operate that way, but that’s just not the reality of the college football landscape. If you have the ability to better position yourself to succeed you have to seize it. We have the luxury to schedule seven home games and essentially an eighth one at a neutral site that has a variety of benefits. Taking advantage of this isn’t an act of cowardice, it’s being shrewd. Does it somewhat contradict the scheduling philosophy we held in the past? Perhaps, but if you’re going to compromise in order to stay competitive I’d much rather it be a grueling schedule than things that truly WOULD go against what the University stands for.

“The people who run our football program don't want night games on campus, even though some fans and our broadcast contractor do, because managing a crowd like that responsibly takes hard work and quality decision-making.”

The key words in your sentence were “some fans.” Well a lot of fans don’t want the night game. Call them lame, call them old, call them whatever—the fact is there are a large number of the people that come to campus commute to and from Chicago for the game. The drunk driving certainly plays a part in their decision, but the driving force behind keeping the games in the afternoon has to do with the thousands of fans who have to drive two hours to get home when the game ends.

I’d expect this argument from a current student, not an older alum. I would LOVE for Notre Dame Stadium to host a night game. I would quit my job to be at it if that’s what it took to be there. But I also understand the logical reasoning behind their decision. The claim that they don’t do it “because it takes hard work and quality decision-making” is a stretch to say the least.

“So they put together these boondoggle games in which they greedily demand full control of television rights and gate receipts, limiting the quality of opponent that can be arranged. They put the responsibility for night game crowd control on someone else, meaning they don't have to come up with viable plans, without having to give up control of the greenbacks.”

The outrage over this neutral site game blows me away. I get it, the game wasn’t a marquee matchup, it was not even close to the region where our opponent hails, and it was not sold out. But I have yet to hear an account from someone who went to San Antonio that wasn’t a positive one. My buddy who was at the game said, “it wasn’t packed but the people that were there wanted to be there so it was a really enthusiastic crowd.”

A main topic of discussion on the ND Nation boards is how this was a complete failure and embarrassment because it didn’t sell out and the TV ratings were terrible. Was that going to be the gauge of success? Is it really an embarrassment that it wasn’t a packed house? Whether there were 40,000 people or 60,000 people it sounds as if it was a great experience.

Not many Washington State people traveled and down to the game and who can blame them? Their team has unfortunately morphed from a mid-level Pac-10 squad to one of the worst in D-I football over the past five years. If this was earlier in the decade there’s a good chance it sells out. In terms of ratings, what did people really expect? We were going up against the World Series and two marquee college football matchups. The ratings would’ve been identical if the game was in South Bend, New York, or Tokyo.

Only thing I’ll say about the shifting of crowd control comment is that you probably have a dislocated shoulder from reaching for that point. The decision to put a neutral site game at morning, noon, or night has absolutely nothing with the school’s desire to “shift responsibility for night game crowd control to someone else.” To infer otherwise is simply ignorant.

“I have a big problem, however, when the school is just trying to schedule wins by dumbing things down to the point that excellence is no longer required for a W. I have a big problem when the school that is supposed to stand for sportsmanship tries to use loopholes and its market demand to bully smaller programs into inequitable arrangements.”

Tulsa and Western Michigan do not hurt our strength of schedule. Their teams next year will not be in the bottom 10% of the quality of opponents we’ve played this decade. If we would plug in Northwestern, Illinois, Lousville, or Kentucky instead of those two our SOS would actually weaken. That whole argument is based on the inference that since schools aren’t from BCS conferences they’re automatically not good which is simply not true.

Now your final beef—the bullying smaller programs—is one that has a legitimate point. I have not been a fan of the inequitable arrangements we’ve tried to forge with UConn and Rutgers where we agreed to home and home on the condition that their home game was not a “true” home game. That has nothing to do with the neutral site concept, but I agree totally that the bullying in those instances is a product of greed and it’s something that the administration absolutely must reflect upon and change. If you would’ve just written your article based around this statement and expanded it upon it perhaps I and many others would’ve nodded in agreement. Instead though, you listed grievances that were unreasonable (night game), hypocritical (shady personnel), and full of barbs that have no truth or validity whatsoever (keeping the wolves at bay).

Come on, you’re better than that.

The weekend in San Antonio was not the travesty people (WHO WEREN’T AT THE GAME) are making it out to be and the schedule next year is not the equivalent of taking the crucifixes out of the classrooms. People need to be reasonable. By no means is this current arrangement perfect; things must change and attitudes toward certain things must be modified. But this was the first year of this format and we don’t know where exactly it will head down the road. Swarbrick inferred that there was the possibility for flexibility in coming years and that could lead a 6-5-1 instead. Let’s just be a bit patient before you start leading the mob to grab the knives and pitchforks.

1 comment:

  1. Great retort to an inane ND Nation piece. It's beyond sad to see what that site has morphed into ... an endless diatribe written by delusional, self-righteous narcissists.