Notre Dame football has not won a national championship in 10,000 days.
Let that little factoid wash over you.
Steph Curry, Rihanna, Adele, Haley Joel Osment, Emma Stone, and Michael Cera were all born the year the Irish last hoisted the crystal football, or whatever they hoisted back then. It was probably a rough-hewn marble tablet or something. Something sepia toned, and in the newsreels everyone moved too fast, and all the men wore hats.
Vietnam is known as “The 10,000 Day War.” Only in retrospect, through the lens of history, can we now plot way-points, such that Dien Bien Phu is the sort of beginning and the Fall of Saigon the sort of end. With Notre Dame, we’re not able to do that, yet. We don’t even know if we have another 10,000 days ahead of us.
HOLY ISH BALLS WE MIGHT GO ANOTHER 10,000 DAYS?!?!??!??!?
In that same amount of time, other Irish sports have amassed 16 national championships. And we call ourselves a football school.
The 1988 Fighting Irish ran the table to win the national championship in the Fiesta Bowl, defeating West Virginia 34-21. In victory, Coach Holtz channeled his inner-Morrissey and remarked that, “[t]his team will go down as a great football team because nobody proved otherwise.”
In 2013, Alabama proved the Irish to be other-than-great, despite going undefeated in the regular season. Had the Irish won, I’m sure that some of you would still be debating Brian Kelly’s membership in the pantheon of Notre Dame head football coaches, but no one would be debating that squad’s “greatness.” But this post isn’t about “greatness,” it’s about championships.
It’s also about the uncertainties of the pre-playoff era, a time when chain-smoking sports-reporters and coaches gathered together in a transparent elections-system to which today’s presidential campaign can only pretend. The Irish had a case to argue in 1989, when they went 12-1. Their only loss came against The U, the season’s eventual champions.
Same again in 1993, but this time it’s personal. I was there, a senior, to watch the implausible Kevin McDougal vanquish Charlie Ward’s Seminoles. It was a battle of #1 versus #2, and the first foray of College GameDay outside the friendly confines of Bristol, Conn. It was the first “Game of the Century.” Since then, we’ve had – what? – 50 of them? The Irish won, 31-24, and then lost the next weekend to Boston College, 41-39.
HOLY ISH BALLS WE LOST TO A TEAM WE BEAT BY 47 POINTS THE SEASON BEFORE?!??!?!???!??!??!
Since then, since that precise moment, Notre Dame didn’t so much as sniff the beer- and sweat-scented air of the Natty until 2012. The closest Dame-fan could get was a deep-inhale in the Dirty Thirty until that got shut down when the U.S. signed off on the Fourteenth Hague Convention.
And let’s face it, the air itself came out of the program when Holtz left. The Davie years, 1997-2001, were essentially the Reader’s Digest version of the Book of Exodus. Tyrone Willingham, 2002-2004, was so ineffective that then-Athletic Director Kevin White terminated his five-year contract after just three years. But hey, at least he got to improve his short-game.
Speaking of air, Charlie Weis blew into the Gug in 2005, bringing with him some Super Bowl rings, a decided schematic advantage, and dozens of pairs of Sansabelt pants. His high-water mark, which ironically saw its denouement play out in post-Katrina New Orleans, came in 2006. That 10-3 season was the “best,” and now even language seems awful to me, until 2012.
Call me a “Kelly apologist,” but I think we’re closer to being out of the desert than at any time since 1993. I don’t think it will be another 10,000 days. The program, in the last six seasons, has been punched in the nose by awful luck and circumstance and still, a championship was played for and double-digit seasons were achieved. We were in the playoff-mix last year, too, if you can remember back that far.
Maybe in 365 days, we’ll be talking about the chances of a repeat.