By Dave Wischnowsky–
The team is mediocre, the coach is already under fire just 11 games into his tenure, and the school’s administration is taking more hits than its quarterback these days.
Quite simply, Notre Dame is a mess.
And college football’s most famous program could use a lifeline.
I’m guessing that the Big Ten probably still has one waiting. And, if it does, the Irish should wise up and grab the dang thing.
Last winter, Notre Dame hired Brian Kelly to wake up the echoes, not stir up controversy. But ever since the former Cincinnati coach took over in South Bend, the program has done little but produce bad news.
First, the Irish got off to a 1-3 start. Then, last month, student videographer Declan Sullivan fell to a senseless death while recording a football practice from a scissors lift during a windstorm. And, now, news broke this past weekend that, in September, St. Mary’s College student Lizzy Seeberg apparently took her own life just days after alleging a sexually assault by an Irish football player. That player has continued to play football without interruption since the accusation.
With Sullivan’s death, Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick was dodgy at best in having the university take responsibility. With the Seeberg situation, the Irish have been even less forthcoming, leading to a firestorm of criticism by media.
In fact, lately, the only time that Notre Dame hasn’t been making negative headlines has been when the school’s been making no headlines at all.
This summer, the Irish again declined an opportunity to join the Big Ten Conference – and then proceeded to open the season with three games against Big Ten teams (Purdue, Michigan, at Michigan State).
Then came late October when Notre Dame willingly dropped itself off college football’s radar by facing, in consecutive weeks, such heavyweight schools as Western Michigan, Navy and Tulsa.
Again, in October.
Oh, and the Irish lost two of those games, to boot.
Scheduling boring games like that during the heat of the college football season, when you could be playing OhioState, Penn State and the like in the Big Ten is not the way to maintain a national powerhouse. Just like managing the fallout from the Declan Sullivan and Lizzie Seeberg situations the way Notre Dame has is not the way to maintain a school’s integrity.
Last December, when discussing with the New York Times the possibility of joining a conference, Swarbrick insisted that it remains a “priority” in South Bend to retain the university’s long-held independence.
“It’s not about wanting to stand alone,” he said. “It’s about who we are and the history of the place. So maintaining that is very important.”
Right now, the Irish need to figure out not only who they are, but also who they really want to be. And the school also needs to think not just about the history of the place, but its future, as well.
Notre Dame is still a great school and a legendary football program. But it needs to get its house in order. And then it needs to wise up and join the Big Ten.
It’s best way to change all those negative headlines. And it’s the best thing for the school.
Do you agree with Dave? Leave your comments below?
If nothing else, Dave Wischnowsky is an Illinois boy. Raised in Bourbonnais, educated at the University of Illinois and bred on sports in the Land of Lincoln, he now resides on Chicago’s North Side, just blocks from Wrigley Field. Formerly a reporter and blogger for the Chicago Tribune, Dave currently writes a syndicated column, The Wisch List, which you can check out via his blog at http://www.wischlist.com.