Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 2, 2019

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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62 NOV. 2, 2019 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED T hroughout this 150th season in college football that has been commemorated this year, lists have been released on all-time greatest teams, programs, players, coaches, fight songs, etc., by numer- ous media outlets. They provide entertainment value and definitely heated debates among the fan bases, which is part of the ap- peal. Anything that evokes passion- ate arguments is viewed as a plus in these types of surveys. An unfortunate result from them, though, is recency bias. We live in an age where technology is advancing so rapidly that the newest state-of- the-art invention can be obsolete or archaic within months. So it is with our past heroes. Plus, coverage and hype is so much broader today, that "the next big thing" easily overshad- ows what was. The acronym GOAT — Greatest Of All Time — in this era is tossed about with remarkable frequency in just about everything while lacking context. Earlier this season we featured 1940s Notre Dame quarterback John Lujack, who attended the home opener versus New Mexico Sept. 14. When college football compiled its "All-20th Century" team in 1999, the 1947 Heisman Trophy recipient Lujack was still among a handful of quarterbacks considered the greatest to have played the game while help- ing direct three national titles and building just as renowned a reputa- tion, if not more, on defense. However, just 20 short years later, he is nowhere to be found on the lists I've perused. For example, in Sport- ing News, four of the top six quar- terbacks mentioned came from the 21st century: Florida's Tim Tebow at No. 1, along with USC's Matt Leinart, Texas' Vince Young and Clemson's Deshaun Watson. The other two were from the 1990s, Tennessee's Peyton Manning (1994-97) and Nebraska's Tommie Frazier (1992-95). I wonder how much Manning's brilliant pro career played a role in that, given that he was 0-4 versus Florida — plus the Volunteers won the national title the next season without him. As for the magnificent Frazier, I viewed him more as the Cornhusk- ers' version of 1987-89 Notre Dame quarterback Tony Rice, which can be attributable to my own bias. I remember growing up in the 1970s as a teenager and hearing men in their 50s and 60s proclaiming that then-Notre Dame quarterback Joe Montana was not even close to Lu- jack in terms of talent and all-around ability. In those days, I immediately coun- tered with stats, pointing out that whereas Montana threw for 3,892 yards and 23 touchdowns his last two seasons, Lujack had merely 1,555 yards and 15 scoring passes. Mon- tana even ran for more scores (14) than Lujack (two). Naturally, I was ridiculed for not understanding the context in which the game was played 30 years earlier. So now here I am 40 years later lis- tening to the young 'uns explain how Brady Quinn, Jimmy Clausen … and now Ian Book, have such better num- bers than the Joe Theismanns, Tom Clements and Montanas I followed. Entire eras are virtually erased with such 150-year lists. They maybe go as far back as Dick Butkus' play- ing days in the 1960s as a token hom- age to the past. Two Notre Dame names I always look for on these lists, and seldom see, are Leon Hart (1946-49) and Ross Browner (1973, 1975-77). No one in college football annals had a more "perfect" college career than Hart, who never lost a game in his four seasons (36-0-2), was a three- time first-team All-American, won the Heisman Trophy and was the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft — while majoring in engineering. Can anyone top that? Unlike Hart, Browner was a linch- pin of "only" two national titles at Notre Dame, but his impact and dominance was immense while win- ning Outland, Lombardi and Max- well Awards. Yet he didn't even make one of the "honorable men- tion" lists I viewed, never mind the first two teams, while someone more recent, such as North Carolina's Ju- lius Peppers (1998-2001), did. Is that predicated more on Pep- pers becoming a nine-time Pro Bowl pick, or just solely on collegiate achievements? Tim Brown caught only 39 passes and three touchdowns as a senior while winning the 1987 Heisman Trophy, while Michael Floyd snared 100 receptions and nine scores his senior year in 2011. Does such data automatically make Floyd the much better player? Every era has its own greatness within the framework of how the game was played in that specific time period. All-time lists rekindle memories, promote lively chatter, and entertain and inform the masses while feting supreme accomplishments by leg- endary figures. It's just regrettable how in such an impossible task, generations of men who did make the game what it is today get more and more overshad- owed with the passage of time. ✦ Recency Bias Is Part Of 150-Year Celebration THE FIFTH QUARTER LOU SOMOGYI Senior Editor Lou Somogyi has been at Blue & Gold Illustrated since July 1985. He can be reached at It is regrettable that the accomplishments of great players such as Notre Dame's Leon Hart (1946-49) — who never lost a game in his four seasons (36-0-2), was a three-time first-team All-American, won the Heisman Trophy and was the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft — get overshadowed with the passage of time. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME MEDIA RELATIONS

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