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Is Notre Dame Still a Big Dog?

<P>I had a conversation the other day with a friend and we were discussing Notre Dame and recruiting in general. I was commenting that Notre Dame is going to have a hard time trying to get these players from Florida, California and Texas to come to Notre Dame. I said Notre Dame was going to have to go into Florida and compete with the "Big Dogs." My friend quickly stated, "But Mike, Notre Dame is a 'Big Dog." </P>

After thinking for a bit, I realized he was right. Notre Dame is a "Big Dog" and always has been. Things started to click for me shortly there after as far as the approach with Notre Dame recruiting under coach Willingham. They have to sell the future of Notre Dame football and not worry about the past 5 years. You can't change the past. I do think they are going to have to change some opinions about Notre Dame football.

The real problem is and has been, do these prospects see Notre Dame as an elite program? Notre Dame fans consider ND a "Big Dog." The Irish coaching staff considers ND a "Big Dog." Do these potential players see them as a "Big Dog?" This is where some opinions might need to be changed.

Yes, Notre Dame is a "Big Dog" and I am going to tell you why. No other team has their own Network contract. No other team will have all of their games televised. Very few teams can offer the same quality of both academics and football. The national media can't stop talking about Notre Dame. Not many teams have the tradition that Notre Dame has. Most important, I think is you either love or you hate Notre Dame. There isn't any middle ground. Just like the New York Yankees and the Dallas Cowboys, you either love Notre Dame or you hate them.

The challenge is going to be to make these players understand that the program might be a little down as far as wins lately but Notre Dame is still and always will remain a "Big Dog." They have been down before and always bounce back after some down seasons. A new general is in charge and things are going to be very different.

One thing I am quite sure of and why I know Notre Dame hired the right guy is that coach Willingham is going out there with the "Big Dog" mentality. They are recruiting every top player in the country that can get in and he doesn't seem intimidated that many Florida kids stay home. He doesn't seem bothered that California kids don't like South Bend weather.

During the best of times, Notre Dame has been able to recruit players from any state they wanted. When Notre Dame is winning a lot of football games, the door seems to be open in a lot of homes in Florida, California, Texas and any state. Some might feel this staff is wasting their time by going into Florida and California. If Notre Dame can steal 3 top players from each state, it is worth the effort.

The motto seems to be, "We aren't afraid of anyone, we are Notre Dame." That is what I really like about Willingham. He isn't afraid of anyone or anything. That attitude is going to be contagious. He won't make excuses and he is going to keep on pushing until he get this done right. That is a guy and a motto I can get behind. I think many of the top players are going to want to get in line as well.

The signs are actually very clear. A lot of fans were worried that Notre Dame is taking a big chance by not offering a lot of players early. It appears Notre Dame isn't going to offer many players unless they take the time to talk to Coach. It appears Ty is going to lead this charge. He appears to want young men who are interested in advancing himself as an athlete, as a student and as a man.

I am just guessing here but I think the attitude is this. If a player is more concerned about if he has a scholarhip offer without knowing the guy who is offering it, Ty doesn't want that guy in his army. I could be wrong but it does make sense. I do know that I really like what is going on with Notre Dame recruiting right now.

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