Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

01 Dec 2009

ESPN: Rebuilding the Golden Dome

Our man from South Bend, Brian Fremeau, takes a look at the now-open Notre Dame job, and what it will take to rebuild the Irish program. The article compares Notre Dame to Oklahoma when it hired Bob Stoops; the graphic below didn't make the article, but helps to illustrate the comparison.

Posted by: Brian Fremeau on 01 Dec 2009

15 comments, Last at 02 Dec 2009, 8:26pm by MatMan


by zlionsfan :: Tue, 12/01/2009 - 3:11pm

One of the challenges facing the next Notre Dame coach will be expectations, but I wonder if maybe being an independent makes those expectations harder to fulfill. Without the possibility of a conference championship, there are fewer end-of-season goals to accomplish and thus less to point toward in seasons with less success.

At a BCS school, a 9-4 or 10-4 season might not look so bad if it includes a conference title. In South Bend, 9-4 doesn't seem so good, and if USC is their only rival they consider as an equal, then even those games haven't provided much solace the last ten years or so.

Obviously, the truckload of money from NBC makes the current situation highly profitable, but you wonder how much longer NBC can continue to tout an average program as the most watchable team in football ... then again their ratings are probably significantly higher than those of other teams with similar success over the past 10 years or so. I tried to hit sites to find them and was unable to get any data on that.

by mm (not verified) :: Tue, 12/01/2009 - 10:47pm

I've always wondered, could Notre Dame keep its separate TV contract and join a conference? If it joined (for example) the Big 10, would the other 11 schools agree to let Notre Dame sell its home games apart, while giving Notre Dame 1/12 of the championship game revenues?

by sundown (not verified) :: Tue, 12/01/2009 - 4:00pm

I'm not an ESPN Insider, so I could only read the article's lead, but it talks about other programs that have fallen as far as Notre Dame needing 5 years to rebuild. I question both that statement as well as how far Notre Dame has really fallen. USC was arguably in worse shape when Pete Carroll took over and he went 11-2 in his second year. Notre Dame has had consistently good recruiting classes and with the schedule they had this year they seemed a shoo-in for a good bowl if not a BCS appearance.

by Brian Fremeau :: Tue, 12/01/2009 - 6:31pm

According to APP ratings, USC pre-Carroll was more on par with ND circa 1985 (the program Holtz inherited) than ND circa 2009.

by Mike W :: Tue, 12/01/2009 - 5:12pm

I think the extent to which Notre Dame is a program or potential program like few or no other has faded with time. ND was the default favorite school for people out east who had no team to root for, and for Catholics. Those days ended a long time ago. Now everyone is on TV, there are plenty of schools out east that play at a high level, there are many relevant conferences and conference races (and title games), and noone gives a damn that ND is a Catholic school or that Knute Rockne coached there. The kids they want to recruit now come from Florida, Georgia, California and Texas, not just Ohio and Pennsylvania. So why should kids want to go to South Bend - ecch - and buy into some lame tradition? Because it would be fun for the media if they did?

The only reason someone like Meyer or Stoops or any other big-name coach would go to ND is for the glory of doing it there, and the only reason that exists is media hype. If it's such an awesome program with amazing potential, why is it such a challenge? Why not build a program where there is none and the infrastructure isn't so great?


by Still Alive (not verified) :: Tue, 12/01/2009 - 5:50pm

Indeed my suspicion is that there simply is not the same interest among top prospects in attending a catholic school in the middle of nowhere as there was in say 1960. Contributing to that, but in part separate from it is the problem that there are simply many more programs which are top quality. I

t is harder and harder to distinguish yourself when there are new schools on the rise constantly, so unless you are one of the absolute top tier of foobtall factories it is impossible to get ahead, and even when the factories stumble they have a hard time getting up as Michigan has shown.

My guess would be that Norte Dame follows the path of other past football powerhouses like U of MN and fades into mediocrity permanently.

by Rover (not verified) :: Tue, 12/01/2009 - 9:45pm

I've seen this line of thinking from a variety of commentators, including Weintraub on this site (if I'm not mistaken), and I don't get it at all.

The last 3 recruiting classes under Weis have been ranked #6, #6, and #21 nationally. That is national-title-contender talent, and that under a head coach that a) had no prior college recruiting experience and b) put up a series of losing records such that he's been a candidate for dismissal for at least the last two recruiting seasons. The ND letterhead seems like the best explanation for that recruiting success -- God knows it wasn't the on-field performance. What basis is there to think that a great midmajor coach, with some recruiting experience and a winning track record, couldn't continue recruiting at that same level or better? What basis is there to think that a school that consistently recruits top 10 classes can't be coached (by someone other than Weis, of course) to regular national title contention?

by Mike W :: Wed, 12/02/2009 - 12:45am


I imagine you are not familiar with the work that's been done showing that the recruiting class rankings are about as post-hoc rigged as the CRU data. Johnny Cornfed is a three star recruit, but when he signs with ND (or Alabama, or Ohio St) he becomes a four or five star recruit. Let's see how many of Weis's guys get drafted and play in the NFL.

Anyway, ND may very well get top 25 recruiting classes some or most years. They're not going to get legit top 10 classes every year.

by roguerouge :: Wed, 12/02/2009 - 12:25pm

Trust me: Catholics give a damn that it's a Catholic school and pay greater attention to it. As a BC Eagles fan, it was a HUGE deal every time they play ND. People anticipated it; the news led with it; and it felt like a bowl game around here.

by Mike W :: Wed, 12/02/2009 - 5:22pm

Sure, but BC now has a good football team. That's only good for ND the week they play each other. It's just one school (eastern AND Catholic) that draws potential fans away from ND.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 12/01/2009 - 7:22pm

Hell, we University of MN people are somewhat relieved by the attainment of mediocrity! Lemme tell ya' though; they don't make'em like Bronko Nagurski and Bobby Bell anymore!!

Seriously, though, the University of Minnesota had it's last shot at glory when Jim Crow still made southern schools either unavailable or very unpleasant for the descendents of slaves (it's really weird to read that in 2009). Now, probably the best that can be hoped for is to reach the level of Wisconsin, which has a far less rich football history than Minnesota, but found the right guy when Alvarez was hired away from Notre Dame, where he was working for Holtz. The defense under Holtz was never the same after Alvarez left.

by MatMan :: Wed, 12/02/2009 - 8:08am

Speaking of ESPN Insider, I bought that ESPN The Magazine/ESPN Insider combo for $5 at Amazon.co a few days ago, and I haven't yet heard back on how to activate my Insider membership. Anybody know how this works? They gonna send me a letter in the mail or something? I received confirmation of my purchase via e-mail from Amazon, but nothing else. I really wanted to read this article, too.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Wed, 12/02/2009 - 6:39pm

Just go to ESPN and click on "sign up for Insider," then give your name/address that it was shipped to. It'll pick up your subscription and offer it to you for free for the remainder of the subscription.

by MatMan :: Wed, 12/02/2009 - 8:26pm

Ah, fantastic! Thanks.

by Jeff Fogle :: Wed, 12/02/2009 - 8:01pm

Agree with Sundown, particularly after seeing quick results with Mack Brown at Texas, Meyer at Florida, etc. Combination of good coach and resources cane make those turnarounds quicker. Would be interested in the profiles Brian built of potential matches before settling on Oklahoma.

Recruiting thing is tough. Kind of agree with both sides of that (lol). If ND's rankings were correct, the cupboards aren't bare. I am very skeptical about those ranking systems though. Borderline scams much of the time. If it is Kelly of Cincy, interested to see what he can do. So far so good for him. But, Cincy's defense didn't look all that different from ND's defense in recent weeks. That can't be a good sign. How would Weis's ND have fared had they played in the Big East this year? And they treated conference games with a priority they didn't really give UCONN this year and Syracuse last year?