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Voice of the 'Fan

When reality hands you a pink slip.....

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Earlier today, Notre Dame, as expected, dismissed Charlie Weis as head coach after 5 seasons. The Fighting Irish are not likely to accept any kind of a bowl bid after a 6-6 regular season that ended with 4 straight losses.

Many in the media were expecting Weis to have already been gone after last season, so the vultures were circling South Bend all season, waiting for something to happen. Going 0-for-November was that something, a collapse on a par with the Mets of 2007-8 if you believe in the hand-wringing of the loyalists of Notre Dame.

But the truth of the matter is, regardless of who Notre Dame selects as their next head coach, he's not going to be good enough to get them to the promised land in the eyes of the school's alumni. Notre Dame is not affiliated with the Big East in football, in contrast to their accepting membership in the league for basketball a few years ago. As one of the last independents in college football, Notre Dame's administration believes it is still an elite program. Problem is, they haven't won a national title since the late 80's, when Lou Holtz, now with ESPN, was the coach. The state of college football has changed in the last 20-odd years, and Notre Dame has been too slow to accept that glaring reality.

So what does Notre Dame need to do? Before hiring their next coach, the administration needs to accept the fact that in 2009, their school isn't the center of the football universe anymore. Their standing as an independent actually hurts them in terms of recruiting. In order to become relevant again, Notre Dame must give up its independent status in football. They've been players in the Big East in basketball the last couple of years, so why not raise the league's profile in football? The Irish's last two losses were to Big East schools, Pittsburgh & Connecticut, so being part of the league on a more full-time basis makes a great deal of sense.

And, then, there's the television deal Notre Dame has with NBC. The Big East can stand to benefit from that deal. NBC only carries Notre Dame games, plus the Southern Classic, which usually involves Grambling, and maybe a bowl game on January 1. The Big East has a network deal, of sorts, with ESPN, but if that were to expire in the next year or two, that opens the door for NBC and Notre Dame.

As for a coach, there are the usual suspects. Oklahoma's Bob Stoops has already taken his name out of consideration. Florida's Urban Meyer chose the Gators over the Irish a few years ago, and this was after he'd double crossed Utah, in a sense. Even though he'd publicly stated he'd stay at Florida, it wouldn't surprise anyone if he changed his mind sometime around mid-January, but for now, take Meyer at his word.

So who steps up to the plate? Whomever it is, he has to realize that he has to sell the recruits on what his system is, not on the fading mystique of Notre Dame. He has to tell them they're on a mission to make Notre Dame relevant again. It's going to be a long one, one that requires patience from all involved, including fans, boosters, and most importantly, the administration, which needs to embrace the 21st century and move forward.
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