Notre Dame and the Curse of the Peacock

In the hunt for the BCS playoffs seedings are the usual suspects with Ohio State, Clemson and two  members of the Southeast Conference (neither one named Alabama) vying for one or both of the other spots in the four school playoffs.

Pac 12 Utah and Big 12 schools Baylor and Oklahoma also maintain outside chances if everything falls into place and goes their way. It is a low percentage shot, one even on which the bookies aren’t willing to provide odds,  but it is better than a number of schools that are ranked in the 25  but will only be watching the ESPN drama wondering in what part of the sunbelt region they’ll be spending time on the beach and catching some rays while the rest of America figures out how to stay warm as winter snows blanket the rest of the nation.

Notice one school missing from the playoffs discussion.

Notre Dame.

They have recorded double digit wins again. Something they have done four times since 2012.

And they were in the talk last year finishing the “regular season“ unbeaten with a dozen wins.

Then Clemson squashed them in the semifinals, a game that wasn’t even as close as the final score 30-3 indicated.

In 2012 Notre Dame did make an appearance in the Championship Game as they again finished 12-0, but alas The Crimson Tide devastated the Irish and their vaunted defense, Notre Dame losing again in a game that wasn’t as close as the score of 42-14 indicated.

But in actuality if it weren’t for a coupla quirks in the schedule and a couple of controversial calls in both seasons, ND would never have sniffed the title or playoff games.

This is nothing new. Afterall , the Irish were a mediocre team in the late fifties and early sixties, going 19-30 from 1958-63 until Ara Parseghian arrived and promptly won a national championship in three seasons, albeit a controversial one (a 10-10 tie with Michigan State the only blemish), then seven years later winning another with an unbeaten Irish team in 1973 capping the title season with a dramatic game of the ages, beating Alabama 24-23 in a game that saw numerous lead changes.

Notre Dame after winning another national title with Joe Montana at the helm, and Dan Devine guiding the team in 1977 with a Cotton Bowl win over Earl Campbell-led Texas Longhorns, giving the Irish three national titles in 11 seasons. Devine retired after taking his fifth-ranked Irish to the Sugar Bowl and almost winning another title, but falling short to Herschel Walker and the Georgia Bulldogs.

Notre Dame again experienced dark days in the autumn as Gerry Faust could not make a winning  transition from powerhouse Moeller High School of Cincinnati to  South Bend.

Lou Holtz was named coach, and like his two national championship predecessors led Notre Dame to a national championship with a perfect record and a win in the Fiesta Bowl over West Virginia in his third season.

In 1989 the team lost once, to eventual champion Miami, but were still in it to win it as New Year’s night 1990 crept near 12:00 Jan. 2.

Then nada, nunca, nyet, nothing. GOOSE EGGS. Not a sniff of championship winds blew in the direction of Touchdown Jesus.  The school is now in the longest championship drought in its illustrious history: 31 seasons and counting.

Media, fans, boosters, coaches, administrators, alumni and sports “experts” attribute  this to the normal cycle of college football.

The real experts know it is something different: Karma.

In September 1991, Notre Dame officially began its marriage to NBC of all its home games. A megabucks deal for the Irish and their visiting opponents has given them their own television platform to recruit, advertise and promote all things Notre Dame.

It happened twice before in ND’s history, with the Dumont Network and ABC. But TV was in its infancy and unlike today, teams needed more exposure.

And, they were only one-year contracts. ND’s deal with NBC is more like a partnership.

The result of the corporate college collaboration: Notre Dame, aside from 2012 and 2018, hasn’t even been close to a national championship let alone winning it all.

They haven’t been relevant in the college football landscape.

Cartoon by author

Call it the “Curse of the Peacock.”  ND critics call it a sellout, a selfish deal on the university’s part. Not that ND shouldn’t make a deal to improve the revenue flow brought by the exclusive  broadcasting of their home games but, ND has always set itself apart and above other college institutions.

Yes, if other schools like Alabama, Ohio State, Michigan or USC had the unique national appeal that the South Bend university does, you can bet they too would have cut a deal with the network that would be separate from the ones they have as members of their conferences.

But, as naïve as this may be, Notre Dame to its fans both Catholic and “Subway Alumni” was different. Maybe it is tied to the perceived values, morals and philosophies of the little Catholic school secluded in the northwest corner of Indiana.

For years they stoutly remained loyal to being independent of a Big Ten, Big Twelve or any other conference.

That ended when their other sports didn’t have the pull, power or tradition that the football team cultivated over years of legendary success on and off the gridiron, where crafting stories of the players, coaches and events surrounding the big game were as important and integral to the followers of Irish football as the games themselves. Think Rockne, Gip, Hart, Horning, or Montana.

Nope, ND sold out. They became as corporate as their rival Big Ten schools. They became corrupted by the green of dollars, corporate dollars, big business bucks, media moolah.

They are just another football factory.

No different from any school in the SEC, ACC, or Big Ten. Yup, they earned another ten-win season, albeit their two losses came against the big boys in the big conferences (Georgia and Michigan). Yup, they’ll most likely end up playing in a prominent bowl on New Year’s Day, earning another big paycheck because they still are a big draw, a ratings bonanza. Too bad their fans are being exploited and sucked dry of all things green.  

The school is proud of the bowl assignment because it means more millions flowing into its sports coffers. But it is meaningless to its loyal fans because ND, like the Yankees, used to be about championships . But more importantly winning the right way.

They’re just another football factory.

Too bad they can’t assemble a winner.

If you experience technical problems, please write to