Blue and Gold Illustrated

August 2021

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

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 53 of 55

54 AUGUST 2021 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED JULY 2016 Editor's Note: The late, great Lou Somogyi possessed an unmatched knowledge of Notre Dame football and it was his mission in life to share it. Those of us at Blue & Gold Il- lustrated would like to continue to share his wisdom and unique perspective. This space will feature the best of Lou's Fifth Quarter columns from his more than 37 years cover‑ ing the Fighting Irish for this publication. And because Lou was such a stickler for de‑ tail, we have made some edits and included any necessary factual updates. For this issue, we chose to revisit his col‑ umn that appeared in the 2016 Blue & Gold Illustrated Football Preview. F rom the time Notre Dame cap- tured its first consensus national title in 1924 (with a 10-0 record) through 1968, the barometers of what constituted a successful season for mostly 10-game schedules were cut and dry: Finishing 10-0 was good — and a No. 1 ranking at 9-0-1 in 1966 also fell under that umbrella. A 9-1 campaign and/or top-five ranking were OK — even good if it included a national title like in 1943 while playing the country's toughest schedule. Finally, 8-2 was barely passing. Then, beginning in 1968 and going roughly into the mid-1990s, the stan- dards began to get tweaked because of three factors. One, the Associated Press made bowl games relevant in 1968 and per- manently included their results in the national title voting. This helped re- sult in Notre Dame lifting its 45-year ban from bowl competition in 1969. This came with the stipulation that Notre Dame would attend only one of the "majors" it was eligible for: Cotton, Orange and Sugar, and later the Fiesta. Consequently, success in the "big" bowls became a demarca- tion of excellence. In the 25 years from 1969-93, Notre Dame won 10 majors, the most in the country. Seven of those conquests were against No. 1 and/or unbeaten foes. Capping a season with a win Dec. 31-Jan. 2 embodied prosperity. Second, by 1974, the regular-season schedule expanded to 11 games, a 12th was added here and there, and 12 games became the norm by 2006. A 10-win season didn't hold the same prominence now because it usually also included three losses. Finally, football grant-in-aids began to be gradually cut by the NCAA, first to 105 by 1974, 95 by 1978 and 85 in 1992. The "haves" al- most always will have, but it helped the "have-nots" close the gap. At the start of the 1990s, following 12-0 and 12-1 finishes at Notre Dame in 1988-89, a 9-3 season was viewed as the worst-case situation. Times have changed the last 20 years. When Brian Kelly arrived as the head coach in 2010, a 9-3 regular season became more embraced. Even in Hall-of-Fame head coach Lou Holtz's final three seasons from 1994-96, Notre Dame was a mod- est 23-11-1, which averages out to roughly a yearly 8-4 mark. Under Bob Davie (35-25 from 1997-2001), Tyrone Willingham (21-15 from 2002-04) and Charlie Weis (35-27 from 2005-09), the Irish averaged ex- actly seven wins per season. (Now in 11 years with Kelly (2010‑20), his 102‑39 record amounts to roughly a 9‑4 average.) Nevertheless … after 11 consensus national titles in the 65 years from 1924-88, there have been none over the past 27. (That streak has now been stretched to 32 years.) After 10 major bowl wins in the 25 years from 1969-93, there hasn't been one in the last 22, and only two top-10 finishes. (Still no major bowl wins in 27 years, but now four top‑10 finishes — No. 9 in 2005, No. 4 in 2012, No. 5 in 2018 and No. 5 in 2020.) The start of the College Football Playoff era in 2015 changed the com- plexion, too. Can Notre Dame reach the CFP at least once per five years? Two in five would put it into the top tier. (The Irish actually have two CFP berths in the past three years now.) For now, there are some other benchmarks to help define a success- ful season: • Win At Least 10 Games — It hadn't been achieved back-to-back since 1991-93. (The Irish now have won at least 10 games every year from 2017‑20, going 43‑8 during that four‑year stretch.) • Win The Games You Are "Sup- posed To" — Major upsets happen all the time, but they can't be annual or multiple like Tulsa and Navy in 2010, USF in 2011, at Pitt in 2013, or Northwestern and Louisville at home in 2014. (The Irish currently boast a 32‑game win streak against unranked foes — the second longest in the nation behind Alabama's 98.) • Hold Serve At Home — In the 22 years from 1990-2011, Notre Dame finished unscathed at home only once (1998). Under Kelly, this has happened in two of the last four seasons (2012 and 2015). Three times over a five-year period would be out- standing. (Notre Dame has gone un‑ beaten at home the last three years and has a 24‑game win streak in South Bend — the second longest in program history behind the 28 from 1942‑50.) • Produce A Major Upset Once Per Two Or Three Years — Other than at Oklahoma in 2012, this has rarely occurred against the blue bloods of the sport ranked in the top 10 (specifically on the road). (The Irish finally broke through last year, knocking off Clemson 47‑40 in double overtime — the program's first win over a No. 1‑ranked team in 27 years.) Standards have been altered over the decades, but the hope for pros- perity remains the same. ✦ The start of the College Football Playoff era in 2015 has changed the complexion of the sport. The Irish have earned two CFP appearances in the past three seasons. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME ATHLETICS BEST OF THE FIFTH QUARTER ✦  LOU SOMOGYI Defining Success Becoming More Complex Lou Somogyi was Senior Editor at Blue & Gold Illustrated from July 1985 to April 2021. Contributions to The Lou Somogyi Memorial Scholarship can be made at

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Blue and Gold Illustrated - August 2021