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Faith restored

May 6, 2013, 8:00 AM EST

Kelly Swarbrick Jenkins

Putting the 2012 season into context will be easier the farther away it gets. Notre Dame’s unlikely run to the BCS Championship game is incredible for so many different reasons. Even if the end result was a one-sided Alabama victory, the fact that the Irish found themselves at the apex of the mountain is one of the most fascinating stories in sports.

It’s hard to look at a flagship program like Notre Dame and see an underdog story. Yet the fact that the Irish found themselves playing against Nick Saban’s Alabama program in college football’s final game, is wonderful validation for not just the head coach, but the university’s athletic mission.

At the Notre Dame club of Dallas luncheon last week, Brian Kelly spoke about last season and what it did for both the university and his football team. Our friends at Her Loyal Sons, and their editor-in-chief NDTex, did a tremendous job sharing Kelly’s thoughts.

Do yourself a favor and head over to HLS and read the whole thing, but this portion really struck me:

“2012 for Notre Dame Football was a great year. I like to call it ‘Faith Restored.’ There’s faith restored back into the principles that you can graduate all of your players and you can play the game of football the right way and you can do it to being number one in football on the field and number one in football off the field.

“That’s why I took the job at Notre Dame. I believe that you can do it. We saw that you can do it.

“Because all the things that you know about Notre Dame, they’re still occurring on a day to day basis. We haven’t changed our academic standards. We haven’t changed who we are and what our distinctions are…We can recruit young men, not having to apologize for who we are and what we stand for.

“As it relates to faith — everybody first thinks about religion,  but I will tell you that there is more going on at Notre Dame than just going to church. There’s more going on because, when we talk about faith, and you can feel it when you are on campus, it’s about restoring faith in the human spirit. That faith that you can trust somebody and not be cynical or think that there’s an agenda. And that is an environment that’s energizing.

“So, just so you know, winning twelve games on the football field is still in lock-step with who we are in our identity at the University of Notre Dame and that’ll never change. I don’t want to be the football coach at Notre Dame that begins selling out on academics, taking kids that don’t want and understand the value of a Notre Dame degree. So when we’re in a home and we’re recruiting a young man, they’ve got to recognize those things.

“At Notre Dame, those principles will not change.”

For those that worry that Brian Kelly might not know what Notre Dame is about, this should answer any of those questions. Just as important, Kelly’s understanding that the marriage of winning and winning the right way is critical in this evolution.

Nobody wants to hear about Notre Dame being different and special if they lose five games a season. Teams like that belong in the Ivy or Patriot League. But the fact that Notre Dame was the first team in the modern era of college football to be both the No. 1 team on the field and the No. 1 team in Graduation Success Rate is a story that can’t be written about enough.  And while it’s a lost cause to hope that this story gets even a fraction of the attention of a cat-fishing scam or a NFL job interview, that’s the world that we live in.

But whether it’s on the field, the recruiting trail, or in the NFL Draft, we’re seeing the process Kelly and athletic director Jack Swarbrick laid out take shape. And while the football team has put 2012 in the rear-view mirror, it’s the kind of bedrock that restores a program.

  1. steeldominance - May 6, 2013 at 9:03 AM

    Come Espy Awards time, this should be the sports story of the year. #1 in the Nation and Graduation Rate is nothing to scoff at and, with the exception of maybe Stanford, will never be done by a University other than Notre Dame. Go Irish!

  2. irishdodger - May 6, 2013 at 10:34 AM

    It’s all for naught if they slip back to a 4-5 loss team. That being said, BK seems to finally be the right man for this job post-Holtz. While Alabama was clearly the more talented team in the BCS NC game, it was obvious that ND is still living w/ the damage done by Willingham/Weis when they each turned in at least one recruiting class each w/ low numbers and 3-star talent at best. That’s what happens in transition years, but it reared it’s ugly head in the NC game b/c ND had zero depth that they could count on. When I read that BK prevented full contact drills in the practices leading up to the biggest game of their lives, it told me that they still have a ways to go. BK was even quoted as saying that he couldn’t afford to lose a starter on either line. It was all too obvious when we saw the poor tackling by the ND defense. Again….not saying they would have won the game (no team could have beaten Bama that night)…but it would have at least been competitive.

    • ER Jedi - May 6, 2013 at 12:23 PM

      Actually, it WAS the depth of the team that allowed them to be in the NC in the first place, so to say they had none is way off. For example the secondary, and all the guys stepping up all season long to fill in for injuries. Sure the third and fourth guys in may not be elite players, yet, but few teams outside of Alabama can make that claim

    • 1historian - May 7, 2013 at 12:22 PM

      BK was hired in the winter of 2010. I would call his first recruiting class half Kelly half Weis, so the 2010 team was 1/8 Kelly 7/8 Weis. The 2012 team was 5/8 Kelly, this season’s team is 7/8 Kelly.

      In the recent NFL draft 6 ND players were drafted and I believe that another 5 or 6 got free agent contracts. That’s at least 11 players, and most (all?) were recruited by Weis.

      Weis was a good recruiter but he was completely unfit to coach big time college football.

      BK has a staff of top notch recruiters and he is probably as good a finish man as you could ask for. He is coming into the 4th year of the job I believe he is meant to have – Head Football Coach of the University of Notre Dame. IMO last year’s team didn’t really belong in the NC game but it was Notre Dame and Notre Dame was undefeated and everyone else had at least one loss so there they were. But they didn’t belong there. They DID, however – all the coaches and all the players – get a good look at what it takes to win it all.

      I keep recalling ND v. Texas A.&M. January 1988 when they cleaned our clock. Next year we won it all, because IMO there is nothing as dangerous as a talented Notre Dame team whose last game was a rub-your-nose-in-it defeat, especially when they’ve had 8 months to think about it.

      (Willingham is 8 years in the rear-view mirror. How you can fit him into your statement eludes me.)

  3. stedward - May 6, 2013 at 11:33 AM

    He also said at this luncheon there would be no “Wild Chocolate” this year.

  4. jerseyshorendfan1 - May 6, 2013 at 12:24 PM

    Keith, your comment about the world we live in is right on point. If you are doing things the way they should be done, like making the commitment to see that your student athletes actually graduate (operative word: student), then nobody seems to care or even take notice. You have to have a real “Man bites Dog” kind of headline before anyone pays any attention. Of course, the more salacious the material, the more legs a story will have (read: Manti). It is reassuring that there are some constants in this world and I like hearing Kelly say that he’s not about to change anything as far the academic qualifiers. So keep on doing what you’re doing ND, some of us do pay attention. Apparently, the smart recruits do also.

  5. mediocrebob - May 6, 2013 at 1:12 PM

    They had little depth up front which forced them to not be able to run live in the prep for NC game.

    Weis didn’t exactly leave Kelly with nothing. The guy gets a bad wrap BC he didn’t come through like he had said. Wasn’t for a lack of trying. I think it was more lack of experience. Had Willinghamon’s recruiting effort been as strong as his love for the game of golf, could’ve been different however he set the program back at least 4 years.

    • nudeman - May 6, 2013 at 1:48 PM

      I have seen a thousand references here with no specifics re: Wilingham’s golf distraction.
      What is the story there?

      I wasn’t on the blogs (if they even existed) back then
      Was it honestly to the extent that it was detrimental to his management of the program?

      • heisenbyrg - May 6, 2013 at 3:03 PM

        I second nude’s question. I’ve always heard rumors about Ty’s uninspired approach to recruiting, but have never been presented with specifics.

        I’ve also heard that Weis’ enthusiasm and rigor on the recruiting trail engendered rule changes designed to limit the amount of time coaches can spend on the road. Any truth there?

      • bernhtp - May 6, 2013 at 3:31 PM

        I’ve never heard any specifics, but I did hear about the decreasing lack of energy during his tenure from people that would know, and it really showed up in recruiting (or lack thereof). On the other hand, I sat next to Allen Pinkett on a flight at the beginning of TW’s last season, and he was a big believer in TW. I don’t know what to make of that conversation in retrospect other than he was not as connected as he needed to be as a broadcaster.

        The bottom line is that Notre Dame wasn’t naive about the criticism they would receive about firing their first black coach so quickly, but they did it because they felt they had to. Subsequent history with TW proved the decision to be both bold and correct.

      • don74 - May 6, 2013 at 4:51 PM

        I don’t have any specifics of his time at ND but he has a love for the game. I read that he is either coach or assistant for a women’s golf team at a college in the west.

      • joeymagarac - May 7, 2013 at 9:07 AM

        Bluegraysky, which was the premier ND blog during the end of the Willingham era and throughout most of the Weis era, contains repeated references to Willingham’s love affair with golf. It cited “sources” at the campus golf course who said that Willingham was there all the time. It also noted his obvious lack of interest in recruiting (the classes speak for themselves, but you can read stories about it, too – Willingham showed no interest in Brady Quinn and only took him because his high-school classmate Chinedum Ndukwe begged him to do so). If you know that a man loves golf, and you know that he doesn’t recruit much and doesn’t get good recruits, the conclusion is obvious: he is golfing when he should be recruiting.

        The fact that Willingham was an unpaid assistant golf coach at Stanford after UW fired him doesn’t help his case or hurt the case against him.

      • irishdog80 - May 7, 2013 at 9:12 AM

        My understanding, from sources on campus, is that as Ty lost interest in being the coach at ND, he played golf more and more. The story is that he would enter the golf course on the 2nd hole and leave on the 17th hole so people would not see him as much. All you have to do is look at his last two classes… which includes the class that Weis was able to somewhat rescue in the last month. Ty signed a total of four 4 star players over two years and had more 2 star players than 4 stars. He also neglected recruiting offensive and defensive linemen.

        It’s what you get when you hire a Michigan State grad to be your coach at ND. Once Ty had trouble, he bailed on his job. I am still waiting for the national media to apologize for all the bad press that was heaped on ND for firing Ty. Nobody apologized after Ty led UW to an 0-12 season in his 4th year. If Ty had stayed at ND for a 4th year it would have been a de facto “death penalty” for ND.

        Weis did right by ND, but did not fully understand how to be a college football head coach. He is a great coach and recruiter and only deserves the negative comments because of his bravado and lack of backing it up.

        Go Irish! Beat Temple!

      • nudeman - May 7, 2013 at 11:04 AM

        irishdog
        After Ty was fired, he was asked by all the national media if racism played a part. Smug smile and “no comment” was his way of letting the world know he was a victim of racism. Weak.

        You can’t call Weis a “great” coach. Maybe he’s a great offensive mind. Maybe he’s a great guy. But he had 5 years at ND and the record speaks for itself. Among the things that sunk him was conditioning and poor OL/DL recruiting.

      • irishdog80 - May 7, 2013 at 12:41 PM

        Fair enough. I overstated. Weis is a great OC but not a great “head coach” of a college football team. We will see how he does at Kansas. He might vindicate himself and become a truly “great coach”.

    • idratherbeinsouthbend - May 6, 2013 at 3:16 PM

      Speaking of rumors…

      My best friend’s sister’s boyfriend’s brother’s girlfriend heard from this guy, who knows this kid, who’s goin with a girl who saw Ferris pass out at 31 flavors last night.

      • kgirish - May 6, 2013 at 5:35 PM

        I was there…its true

  6. mediocrebob - May 6, 2013 at 3:19 PM

    Google Tyrone Willingham. Second option is “Tyrone Willingham Golf”. It was no secret that he spent more time on the course than he should’ve. First I heard of it was while he was at ND (When they didn’t have blogs I guess). Maybe that’s why you didn’t hear of it?

  7. mediocrebob - May 6, 2013 at 5:03 PM

    He proved himself at U Dub.

  8. fnc111 - May 6, 2013 at 5:05 PM

    Sorry coach, but if ND ever wants to sniff a national title you will need JUCOs and academic waivers. Last season was a nice story in which you tried to parlay into bolting from a school after only three years, again. Just because the refs helped against Pitt, Barkley was injured, Hogan wasn’t the QB early in the year, and the refs didn’t call delay of game on Rees versus Purdue doesn’t mean ND is some powerhouse program again. It’s all fantasy right now until ND truly proves it without a bunch of fluke things happening. I can’t believe people buy the fools gold so easily. Rip on me all day but when ND goes 8-4 this coming season you will see what I was talking about.

    • bernhtp - May 6, 2013 at 5:13 PM

      Good going. You’re getting more optimistic with 8-4 since you had us down for 6-6 fairly recently.

      Every great season can point to a few big breaks at critical times, e.g., Alabama-LSU last year. By that standard, Alabama was very lucky to be in the title game.

      • nudeman - May 6, 2013 at 5:23 PM

        Guy is an idiot; worse than the Bama trolls who come here
        Now ND is going to go 8-4. What happened? Kiel coming back?

      • bernhtp - May 7, 2013 at 12:49 PM

        Nude: I really don’t think that fnc is a troll. Rather, he is just pathologically negative about nearly everything. He isn’t a glass half-empty guy; he believes that the condensation on the full glass of ice water is clear evidence that it is leaking from every pore and will soon be completely empty.

        He reminds me of the situation of a good friend. He was very successful and a lot of fun. Everyone continually told him how great he was, except his wife, who decided that she needed to be the counterbalance. One day he woke up and decided he didn’t need that counterbalance and got a divorce.

      • nudeman - May 7, 2013 at 6:19 PM

        bern
        I think I married her.
        Situation fluid. Stay tuned.

      • bernhtp - May 7, 2013 at 7:32 PM

        Too bad. Good luck. I hope your online moniker doesn’t become a description of your state.

    • irishdog80 - May 7, 2013 at 9:22 AM

      All last year, I saw nothing but people that ND would lose to Navy, Purdue, Michigan State, everybody. Last I looked, we went 12-0 and the naysayers went 0-12. I get it, we got beat down in the NCG. We needed the lesson and the young players are hungry.

      What was your record prediction last year for ND? Do you have the backbone to tell us what you predicted for ND? please be sure to preface your predictions with an honest statement about what you predicted for last year. After we are done laughing, we will view your current prediction in the proper light of day.

      If you knew anything about football, every team has those games. Ohio State should have lost 3 or 4 games last year, Bama should have lost to LSU and Georgia, I could go on, but the information would clearly be lost on you. All you know is that you hate ND. I will never change your mind. I can only laugh at you.

    • 1historian - May 7, 2013 at 12:28 PM

      we’ve beaten you more times than you’ve beaten us. You know that. This last January your boys gave our boys a good whuppin’ and rubbed our noses in it.

      What goes around comes around, cupcake – count on it.

    • idratherbeinsouthbend - May 7, 2013 at 1:11 PM

      FNC isn’t a troll in the traditional sense…he actually CLAIMS to be a Notre Dame fan on other NBC blogs. Here’s a quote of his from an article about the Jayhawks…

      “At least Weis could beat Michigan. Same cant be said for the current idiot head coach at ND. About to go 0-3 against those bums. I’m all Irish but I’m going to the first KU game to support Crist and Weis and Ragone. Talk about a raw deal those three got. Now, ND is stuck with a purple faced ego maniac that’s been on campus 30 months and still can’t find a QB at FREAKING ND. One position ND and UCLA should always be rich with is quarterback.”

      For SOME reason, he has a very deep hatred for Brian Kelly. If BK was the president, fnc111 would be on several government lists :)

  9. c4evr - May 6, 2013 at 10:10 PM

    Wanna know when this program is truly back? When every one’s over being giddy about making it to an NCS game and mad as hell about being humiliated in it. It’s truly been a long dry spell and the culture of losing has trickled all the way down to the fans.

    • 1historian - May 7, 2013 at 12:32 PM

      I passed that point at 11:45 p.m. on January 11, 2013. I’m sure there are lots like me.

      “The culture of losing has trickled all the way down to the fans.”

      1) I don’t know what you mean by that
      2) I totally disagree

      115 and a wakeup!!

  10. 9irish - May 7, 2013 at 6:51 AM

    I haven’t been following too much lately (no…I don’t golf…unless with beer and friends who suck at golf, too, and with a golf cart). However….I think this was very well said…the Irish went a long way, very fast. Got a wake up call. Lessons learned. They will be even better. Pulled quite a few games out from the brink, Alabama had no business in that. So they learned.

    Looking forward to this season.

    Go Irish

  11. yaketyyacc - May 7, 2013 at 7:44 AM

    faith restored? while being prepped for my heart catheterization, the nurse and I got into some chit chat. when she hound out i was an ND grad, she dove into ND Football. knew all the players, had watched every game, and referred to ND as “we”. “You know, I get down when I lose a patient. so Notre Dame is my get up and go, especially when we lose. watching the team and the student body singing your alma mater, and then the stadium, still full,, burst into the victory march, yes, Doris, look at that. get up and go girl!”
    our faith in Notre Dame doesn’t rest on just our winning, it is our strong and constant faith in Notre Dame, that causes our winning.

  12. ajw21 - May 7, 2013 at 12:46 PM

    I think the main weakness for Weis and many pro coaches going to college is development. I live in NE and was the same with Callahan, recruited 4-5 star skill position but they always underacheived and both coaches had trouble with getting talent on the line on both sides.

  13. mediocrebob - May 7, 2013 at 1:54 PM

    Nude-

    I’d argue tht Weis recruited well on OL and DL. Maybe not as much defensively. But the development wasn’t there. You can bring in all the 4 and 5 * guys you want but if you don’t develop them it doesn’t really matter.

    For the people ripping the nd fan base for being excited about this program? Are you serious? From where this team has come over the last 3 years? Give me a break. You people are either haters or just pessimistic. Nobody is happy about how the NCG went but tht in no way means that the program shouldn’t be proud or excited about the future. Stfu

    • nudeman - May 7, 2013 at 2:34 PM

      Maybe so on Weis.
      I believe he’s the one who got Sam Young who was incredibly highly rated, but he never was much more than serviceable with ND.
      That’s all about development.

  14. steeldominance - May 7, 2013 at 3:14 PM

    This may have already been posted in the comments for Hood/Nelson, but did you guys read this Yahoo article? http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/highschool-prep-rally/notre-dame-commit-elijah-hood-takes-twitter-aggressively-182334188.html I already love Hood! Keep bringing them in!

  15. 1historian - May 7, 2013 at 4:10 PM

    “Wanna know when this program is truly back?”

    Late Saturday afternoon August 31 in northern Indiana when the Temple football team has been obliterated by Notre Dame to make sure that EVERYONE – including Bill Cosby and Nick Saban – knows that WE ARE BACK.

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