One of my favorite scenes from Bull Durham is when Crash Davis instructs Ebby LaLoosh on what to say during interviews. Not having anything other than generic sound-bytes to deliver to readers and viewers is one of the most frustrating aspects about being a fan, or a pseudo reporter, much like myself. That’s why people like Brady Hoke, and, dare I say, Mark Dantonio, are two of the most entertaining interviews in the business.
Coach Hoke (yes, I know, he’s overweight) made headlines by saying that Notre Dame “chickened out” of one of the best rivalries in all of sports. He is right, and Notre Dame fans, alumni, and even some in the media are upset about it.
The Golden Domers’ contract to play the less-than schools in the ACC, coupled with its decision to keep Purdue and Michigan State on the schedule, make Brady Hoke’s comments accurate. Whether you choose to believe Michigan State is a weaker opponent than Michigan is irrelevant, but what even the biggest fanboys of Notre Dame cannot ignore is that their schedule just got less difficult by one game. Swapping a date with Michigan for a date with either Wake Forrest or Virginia is the equivalent to walking Miguel Cabrera with the bases empty. Notre Dame can posture all they want and say that they still play teams like Stanford and USC, but keeping Purdue to trounce every year, while handpicking the academic and basketball schools in the A.C.C. to play in football looks like chickening out to anyone who doesn’t have Rudy on top of his Netflix cue.
Notre Dame has a history of inventing myths about its football program in order to line its own coffers. When will those who openly weep at NBC’s wide-angle shot of Touchdown Jesus realize that the Fighting Irish do not belong in the same group of elite football programs in the United States? Having a wonderful past that is filled with tradition is wonderful (ahem, Michigan), but Knute Rockne’s speeches aren’t winning any championships. It’s not 1927 anymore. Either force Notre Dame to join a conference or take away the BCS “Notre Dame Exception,” and force them to play teams other than Pittsburgh, Purdue, Virginia, and Duke, for a shot at a BCS Championship. It may have been unkind and an unpopular thing to say, but Coach Hoke was right.