Copyright by Global Electronic Telecommunications, publishers of IrishEyes.Com®
September 30, 2001
It's The Economy, Stupid
By F. Richard Ciccone
For The IrishEyes.Com NewsService
It's the economy, stupid.
Despite what you saw or heard on Saturday afternoon, it's not Bob Davie's fault.
One may have been raised to believe that athletic success depends on skill, brains and hard work but there always have been external forces that play a role.
For instance, Democrats usually win the presidency when National League teams win the World Series. And the American Football Conference usually wins the Super Bowl when the Dow is down. And Notre Dame fares as poorly as the country when there is a recession.
Think back to the boom time 1920s when Rockne, Gipp and the Four Horsemen elevated Notre Dame to a height not attained since in South Bend or anywhere else, picking up four or six championships depending on who was giving them away. Then came the Great Depression of the 1930s and Notre Dame went through the same drought that created the Dust Bowl.
The harsh recession of the early 1980s coincided with the arrival of Gerry Faust. The country recovered much sooner than Faust.
And even Lou Holtz, after the glorious 1988 season and the near glorious following year, went into the tank with the recession of 1991 and 1992. So don't blame Bob Davie. Blame the Dow.
There may be some hope for the future which probably doesn't include Tennessee, Stanford, Purdue and any games not played at home.
President Bush has vowed to wage a long term war to root out terrorism. While most Americans hope it will be quick and bloodless on the American side, a long term conflict, preferably using spies and other tawdry types to do the dirty work, might play in Notre Dame's favor. Notre Dame does well during wars.
It was during World War I that Rockne first spotted George Gipp shooting pool or whatever he did when not drop kicking 60-yard field goals. World War II and Frank Leahy arrived about the same time and Notre Dame picked up a handful of championships during and immediately after.
The Era or Ara began with the Gulf of Tonkin and ended with the fall of Saigon. In between there were two national titles and a couple of heartbreaking near misses.
The last Irish team to approach greatness was the 1993 squad that toppled Florida State and then gave away the title the next week in a loss to Boston College. That was a post-Gulf War team.
Besides, September 2001 will not be remembered by anyone in the world as the year the Irish lost, for the first time ever, their first three games, or four or six or seven. The events of Sept. 11 have at least briefly put the business of large men playing with various shaped balls into the less than heroic or Olympian pedestal where they have perched for a few decades.
If Bob Davie is blessed by the fact that most of America is neither watching nor caring about his dismal performance, it doesn't mean he shouldn't be embarrassed. But it could be worse.
Barry Bonds may put up the greatest statistical season in baseball history. Nobody is watching or caring. Bonds' highlights sometime come on after the loud buzzing of the latest NASCAR pole winner.
There are other analogies that can be drawn between the latest edition of the Irish and latest fluctuations of the Dow. On some days there are bright spots despite another loss. On other days, the economists wring their hands and find gloom everywhere: in the blue chips, the tech sector, the transportation sector, commodities, treasuries and energy. They even fret over the export rate and the dollar decline and European interest rates and the Asian economy.
That was Saturday in College Station. There simply wasn't a bright spot anywhere.
Texas A&M which wasn't supposed to be a good team this season did an imitation of Oregon State on the Irish offense. I
f the strength of Notre Dame is its offensive line the only hope is that the Navy game isn't cancelled. Carlyle Holiday may be the future but Saturday was a remembrance of Ron Powlus's past when the once heralded quarterback spent most of his time on his back or racing for the X-ray machine.
It would help if Kevin Rogers could explain to Holiday that he needs to throw the ball in about three or four seconds. Matt LoVecchio has learned this. But he doesn't throw it where it's supposed to go.
Despite what is the most inept offense in Division 1 football, even Davie admitted at halftime he was worried about his defense which, unlike Texas A&M, was supposed to be good.
The only thing good that happened to Notre Dame on Saturday was the coin toss and that turned out to be bad when the Irish deferred so their vaunted defense could stuff the Aggies early and give the woeful offense field position. But for the third straight game the defense let the opposition march the entire length of the field to score on its first possession and immediately put the offense in a hole from which it never recovers.
One of the bright spots was a game plan that could have been scripted by Mike Shanahan. Sadly, it was the Aggies' game plan. Flanker screens, tight end screens, shovel passes, a pitch that turned into a touchdown pass to the guy who pitched, misdirection, draw plays, all those things Lou Holtz used to call.
All recessions eventually end but some analysts say this one could last a long time.
Kevin White may want to call his broker. Or Barry Alvarez.
(F. Richard Ciccone, Notre Dame '61, is former managing editor of the Chicago Tribune and an author whose most recent book is "Royko: A Life in Print." He is a contributor to IrishEyes.)