More than a year ago I wrote a column denigrating the relevance of Notre Dame football in America. I referenced fledgling television ratings, poor behavior by current players, a heinous accident, and bad football as reasons national interest was waning. Foot, meet mouth. At the time many of those things rang true, but even in the midst of it all, the health of Notre Dame’s football brand warranted a clean bill. It’s the same today, and this year they’re good.
Don’t believe me? Earlier this year, Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick agreed to terms with the ACC to become a full time member in everything EXCEPT football. Essentially flashing their big, golden middle finger and telling the ACC, and everyone else in college football, to bend over. They’ll get partial affiliation in football meaning they’ll add, at most, 2 extra games a year to their current ACC schedule. Furthermore, they’ll maintain television rights, and major national rivals, and they’ll increase their presence on the east coast. Win, win, win, win. Notre Dame doesn’t need anyone. Everyone needs Notre Dame.
To open the season Notre Dame traveled to Dublin, Ireland to play Navy. Over 3,500 miles to play a “home” game, and 35,000 Americans traveled to watch it. Wembly stadium holds 90,000. The game was sold out.
Still don’t believe me? Recently, the Irish decided to suspend their longstanding rivalry with Big Ten juggernaut Michigan after the 2014 season. The rivalry, which Michigan owns by the way, has existed for over a hundred years. It’s one of the marquis rivalries in all of college sports. It features two of the winningest programs in the land. Poor, lowly Michigan. “Thank you sir may I have another,” is the only response even they can muster.
This year the Irish are 5-0 and ranked 7th in the country. So far they’ve beaten two nationally ranked teams in the country and they’re staring #17 Stanford right in the face. They boast one of the fiercest defenses in the nation and head coach Brian Kelly finally has his own groomed recruits, including one time UNC verbal commit, Everett Golson at quarterback. Being an Irish fan feels good this year.
It seems like it’s been a tough 15-18 years, on and off the field, for the most recognizable college football team in the world. But while many have grown tired of Notre Dame, Irish faithful have comfortably laughed at everyone. They know, that you know, that you need them.