An opportunity has been lost. ND Nation’s biggest enemy is riding off on a north western vector, having compiled a point differential over Notre Dame of 185 points in 8 contests – or about 3 TDs a game – so he can (probably) avoid any meaningful repercussions from NCAA violations and enjoy a pre-retirement pay package of about 6.5 million bucks a year for the next 5 years until he’s inevitably fired by an NFL franchise. And the best thrust ND can claim against Pete Carroll after all that time and all those missed opportunities is a 27-16 victory in 2001 before Pete had recovered the SC roster from the gutter. Immediately after hearing the rumors of Pete’s impeding departure from LA for the land of Coffee and Plaid, the mental image of Darth Vader’s TIE Fighter spinning wildly out of control but safely away from an exploding Death Star came to mind – naturally – but it’s an ill-fitting analogy. For Notre Dame there is no set of sequels where the good guys get a few more chances. In ND’s plotline, Vader gets to fly away to an easier way of life before retiring to Malibu so he can concentrate on his selection of “Song of the Day” and board shorts. The bad guy won in Notre Dame’s story, and as one final, gigantic middle finger to the Irish and their hopes of ever again winning a national championship, Carroll leaves behind what may more closely resemble a scorched and salted earth than a historically strong rival. For the past 8 seasons, beating SC was a benchmark for measuring ND’s success, but thanks to Pete Carroll, beating SC may soon provide no indication of ND’s place in college football for the foreseeable future.
Sure, SC could manage to hire a big-time coach or at least an up and comer. Lots of things are possible, but with what is apparently a major NCAA investigation into the entire athletic department looming, how likely is it? Not impossible, certainly, but improbable. How transparent could the SC athletic department be with any potential coach? Are they even capable of tranparency? With the Pete Carroll regime leaving LA with much of their sock drawer unpacked, will there be anyone left at Southern Cal who knows the full story? Is there anyone left who can prep the next HC with what sort of terrain may lay ahead?
No matter what, the SC era of dominance in the realm of talent collection is effectively over. SC is already losing commitments from the current recruiting class. It seems extremely unlikely that whatever voodoo enabled Carroll to collect 5 Star running backs like Urban Meyer collects phone charges from county lockup will be passed on to the next head coach at SC. But that dominance is really just a reason that quite a few college football fans began to scratch their heads and wonder why it was that we spent most bowl seasons saying things like, “Yeah, but if either team in the National Championship game had to play SC right now, SC would win.” All that ability on the field, all the renown on the sidelines, and SC still “only” managed to win 1 BCS title. Much of Carroll’s time was spent teasing the SC fanbase like a Canadian stripper on a lonely Detroit auto worker. But oh what a tease; the sort most ND fans can only imagine these days. Still, to get that rush at what cost? We’re not entirely convinced it will have been worth it.
What an absurd post-season. Gone are the days of Oakley marketing execs wincing every time a geriatric poster child is shown sporting their shades. So long to the notion of Charlie Weis dropping dead on a sideline before Urban Meyer. Farewell to the use of suicide as a prank. While Pirate Captains, inflated oompa loompas, and coaches who seemed to have been crazy in a good way are fired for abuse of their players, the really marquee names in the bad guy game are forced out by much more socially mundane things like arbitrary rules violations, aging, and angina. Meanwhile our nemesis to the North is mired in mediocrity at best. One not only wonders where to direct one’s hate, but also where to schedule some “marquee” games so as not to suffer the fate of Boise State.
Southern Cal probably cheated, they’re probably going to get called for it, and Pete Carroll is probably leaving town ahead of the lynch mob. That’s unfortunate. Notre Dame, for all their struggles in the time Pete Carroll was finding new and creative ways to beat the Irish by 31 points, needed SC to be as good as they were, whether it was fair or not. Southern Cal represented a giant guaridian of the gate into the highest tier of collegiate football, bizarre losses to Stanford aside, and all the Irish needed to do was knock them down. But now the guard is gone, that highest tier is much more nebulous than ever before, and the Irish are left guessing at which goals to target.
Go Irish, Beat Navy?