Let the Speculating Begin

2008 might be a critical year for Notre Dame football. Irish head coach Charlie Weis has done an admirable job of restocking the Notre Dame program with talent to win most games, but the victories need to start coming again soon. But there's no need to panic.

A 3-9 season will certainly bring out the boo-birds. A 3-9 season at Notre Dame will always turn heads and cast some shadow of doubt. A 3-9 season is bad news for almost everyone involved, including Weis, but not everyone.

For most college coaches, when the word starts to circulate there's been a change at the Athletic Director position after a 3-9 season, some might get nervous. In Weis' case, there's no reason to panic or even be concerned.

Yes, plenty of opposing coaches will be telling Notre Dame recruiting prospects that Weis is on the hot seat—not true. Yes, networks like ESPN will constantly plaster their college football coverage with the woes of the Irish. Yes, our buddy, Mark May will soon be carrying his anti-ND torch, and a good number of Irish fans will be up in arms because of it.

But none of this matters. It's all hype. It's all a nice little plan to feed off the hysteria and euphoria of fans across the country.

Nothing sells like Notre Dame. When ESPN runs another "story" on Notre Dame it's meant to do two things. One: Enrage Irish fans so they'll read/watch/listen to what the latest "idiot talking head" is saying about the Irish. Two: Entice and tickle the fancy of opposing fans who love to hear "someone finally say the truth about Notre Dame."

It's a win-win situation for networks like ESPN, and Irish fans quickly eat it up and give them exactly what the want—as do the opposing fans.

If, for some reason, the Irish suddenly take off on a win streak this season, that's good for ESPN as well. ESPN quickly jumped on the Tyrone Willingham bandwagon when he started 8-0 in his first season coaching Notre Dame, just as they embraced Weis in his first season while at Notre Dame, and I'm sure the opposing fans were sick of hearing about it.

When ESPN is spinning positive vibes in regards to Notre Dame, Irish fans eat it up and ask for more. And, Notre Dame haters watch and scream at their television about "the preferential treatment Notre Dame always receives with the networks."

As much as Irish fans disgust Mark May, I've got to believe the ND haters have the same passionate detest for Lou Holtz, and Irish fans love to see Lou on screen standing up for their team. It's a match made in advertising executive's heaven….two opposing people stirring up enough emotion to gain mass viewers.

Regardless of the outcome networks like ESPN always win…..if you let them.

I'm not writing an "anti-ESPN" piece today. I'm writing a "don't buy into the hype" piece. There will be plenty of ups and downs to the 2008 season, and Notre Dame fans have to hope there are more ups than downs.

Hysteria and euphoria are even "good for business" for sites like mine, Irish Eyes, so I'm not being a hypocrite. It's no secret BCS bids and coaching searches are great signs for future customers when it comes to media sources like Irish Eyes.

Expect the hype. Understand it, but file it away as what it is…..a bunch of nonsense meant to stir up emotions and gain viewers.

The fact remains that Weis is building a solid program. Weis has signed the No. 2, No. 11 and No. 5-ranked recruiting class the past three years according to Scout.com. Only teams like USC, Florida, Texas, Georgia, LSU and Michigan have comparable recruiting rankings to Notre Dame. With one more solid recruiting class Weis and the Irish will have enough talent to play with anyone on the football field—and that's something that Weis hasn't been able to say as of yet.

Notre Dame hasn't won a bowl game since 1994. Notre Dame lost by a large margin in their last three BCS appearances, so I understand why people look at Notre Dame as overrated and not worthy of so much attention. But the fans are the reason the Irish get so much press—those for and those against Notre Dame. If we weren't tuning in in large numbers, they wouldn't be talking about Notre Dame.

Recruiting rankings alone are not enough for Weis to stay in the good graces of Irish fans, wins need to start mounting, but Weis has proven he can win when he has talent. It amazes me how quickly people forget the 2005 and 2006 season.

Weis took a talented 2004 team that was ranked No. 81 in the country in offense and quickly turned it into a top 10 team in both total offense and scoring offense in 2005. He posted similar numbers in 2006. He knows what to do when the Irish have enough talent to win games, and he's proven that the two previous years. They are very close to having the talent to play with anyone in the country.

So worry not Irish fans when the hype machine starts—which will be very soon. Don't worry about what's being said. Don't worry about predictions. Don't worry about articles, talk shows, Mark May, Lee Corso or even Lou Holtz. Let's wait until we see the results on the field because that will be the final grade for Weis and the Irish…..just as it should be. Unfortunately, that's too far away for most fans so let the speculating begin…….!

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