After a tough season, long winter, and perhaps endless summer, it is game week at Notre Dame. Saturday the Irish will usher in a new era in the history of Notre Dame Stadium and take on Temple as they attempt to right the wrongs of the previous season. Injury wise, bad news wise (arrests, grades, etc.) it was a relatively quiet summer in South Bend. Hopes are high for the Irish depending on whom you talk to, mums have been planted in the stadium, and helmets are being restored to their golden luster.
A great deal of discussion has taken place about the changes in coaching and the many talents of Brandon Wimbush. Wimbush appears to have it all–rocket right arm, high work ethic, and a high level of character. When you add an experienced offensive line, retooled defense, and solid skill position players prognosticators have the Irish anywhere in the neighborhood of 8-4 to 10-2.
It has been almost thirty years since Notre Dame has won a National Championship. To me, that stat is “irrelevant”.
When was the last big bowl victory? Can we count LSU? Again irrelevant.
When the Irish last tasted a National Championship, I was in ninth grade and thought, “Wow this is going to happen all the time.” Unfortunately, those championships did not come. Irrelevant.
Now, I do not want to be confused with those who claim that Notre Dame is “irrelevant”, as Notre Dame being irrelevant couldn’t be further from my mind. Those media types and fans who claim Notre Dame is irrelevant will quite honestly never understand what being relevant to the fabric of college football means. Those that define “relevance” simply by a number will never understand what Notre Dame is.
In a year that saw the passing of arguably the greatest modern football coach in Notre Dame history, Ara Parseghian, how do we define his legacy? Is it the winning percentage or the millions of dollars he raised for Niemann-Pick Type C disease (NPC) which afflicted not only his own family but also countless others? Is your relevance defined by a .333 winning percentage in 2017 or a 93% graduation rate among football players? It seems to me the countless players who went to lead successful lives and positively affect others also defines your relevance maybe more so than New Year’s Six Bowl Appearances.
In our passion as fans, these things are sometimes lost upon us. For me, no venue will ever beat the campus of Notre Dame on a fall Saturday. The crisp fall air, traditions surrounding game day, and watching the Irish charge onto the field will always be relevant regardless of how many wins are recorded in the ledger. When the Irish take the field Saturday versus Temple I will be as excited and optimistic as I have been every year, but will take some comfort in knowing regardless of outcome Notre Dame Football’s relevance will always be bigger than numbers on a scoreboard.