When you're trying to compete for a national championship, for national respect, it's a killer to be void in those two areas.
As you know, that's not Cutcliffe's concern anymore. Heart problems led him to resign from the Irish staff in early June. But he spent enough time in South Bend to have a unique perspective on football program whose tradition is second to none.
``There's a lot of pride and tradition there,'' Cutcliffe said.
Cutcliffe is convinced that Charlie Weis, a Notre Dame graduate who didn't play college football, will succeed.
``Charlie Weis is terrific,'' Cutcliffe said. ``He has an unbelievable mind, a great work ethic and he's a tireless recruiter. He's going to get it done at Notre Dame.
``I'm sure he's going to be like any of us. When you first become a head coach, there's a lot to learn. And until you put those shoes on, you don't know exactly what it's going to be like. But he's prepared for that role. And he realizes he has a very tough job in Notre Dame.
``It's going to take some recruiting. To be quite honest, there's not enough depth there. There's not enough speed there. They can win and they can be competitive. But you watch him in two or three years when he gets his people in there. You're going to see a significantly different Notre Dame team.''
But can Weis get enough good players into Notre Dame? Can he hurdle the academic wall used as an excuse by several of his predecessors?
``There are (academic) exceptions that can get in,'' Cutcliffe said. ``They (recruits) go through an interview process and it's pretty grueling.''
Cutcliffe said that if Weis develops a good tracking record of recommending border line students who succeed, then he'll land even more exceptions.
``They have the (academic) resources for people to be successful,'' Cutcliffe said. ``And that's why, really, once they're in there, you hear about very few people not doing well.''
Notre Dame is off to a great start in recruiting with 12 commitments, four from top 100 players. Two of the top 100 are quarterbacks.
This season, Cutcliffe will skip coaching to try his hand as an analysis and radio talk-show guest. He will make weekly appearances on the Sports Animal morning show with Jeff Jacoby and Dave Hooker. He will be on the popular Football Finals show on Tennessee game days -- on the Sports Animal and WIVK. He's also doing a Sunday night show that emanates from Nashville.
Will he coach again?
He plans to. That depends on the offer and his health.
``I'm going to be in great shape and plenty energetic,'' said Cutcliffe, who turns 51 Sept. 16. ``But I'm going to be very selective. I wouldn't work at just any place for any body. I would certainly be interested in what head coaching opportunities present themselves. I've been around good people my entire career. I believe so strongly in that, I want to be in a program where I can 100 percent believe in what we're doing.''
Cutcliffe would prefer coaching in college, but he wouldn't rule out high school.
``My first six years of coaching were in high school,'' Cutcliffe said. ``And that was as rewarding as anything I've ever done. I think the high school coach is one of the most important people in the whole athletic process. So I wouldn't turn down my nose at that. I wouldn't turn down a good job.''
Cutcliffe and UT offensive coordinator Randy Sanders are close friends. Sanders has indicated he would solicit Cutcliffe's help on occasion. Cutcliffe expressed a slight reluctance, though perhaps tongue-in-cheek.
``They've done really well without me,'' he said. ``I don't want something (bad) to happen and people blame me.''