Is Notre Dame a death trap for coaches?

Stewart Mandel of SI.com thinks it is:

Once you look past the storied tradition, the majestic campus, the NBC contract and seemingly endless pocketbook, you’re left with a school chasing ghosts. You’re left with a fan base whose expectations (top-10 rankings, national titles) were forged during another era when the school’s independent status still carried cachet and its stringent academic standards were a selling point, not a hindrance. With a few notable exceptions, today’s national-title-caliber talent grows up watching specific conferences (the SEC, then Big Ten, etc.), not the NBC game of the week, and they don’t necessarily boast high SAT scores, either. Some — like Clausen, Floyd and Tate — are bona fide blue-chippers. Others become Tom Lemming All-Americans simply because the Irish recruit them.

Mandel makes several interesting points. If you’re a recruit these days, you don’t want to go to Notre Dame – you want to compete for conference championships at Florida, Ohio State or USC. And if you’re not good enough to go to those schools, then you want to go to Arkansas, Michigan State or UCLA in order to have a chance to beat those top programs.

Mandel is right to a certain extent: Notre Dame is a death trap. Coaches can’t get top recruits to come to South Bend, yet the expectations to win have never been higher. I’m not saying Weis should have held onto his job, but head coaches seem to start behind the 8-ball as soon as they’re hired.

That said, teams like Cincinnati, TCU and Boise State have found enough recruits to be in national title contention every year. I realize that these teams are playing top competition every week, but neither is Notre Dame. The Irish might not be able to contend for a national title year in and year out, but they could at the very least make a bowl game every season.


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