Blue and Gold Illustrated

January 2015

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

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Page 7 of 115

FAN FORUM NUMBERS CRUNCH The criticism of Coach Kelly and the bemoaning of the "demise" of Notre Dame's football program, which seems to occur annually, may be lacking some historical perspective. Prior to 1973, there was not a limit on the number of players who could be on scholarship. Some schools rou‑ tinely had as many as 150 players on scholarship to prevent some of these players from playing for opponents. In 1973, the NCAA imposed a limit of 105 scholarships. Thus, for nine of his 11 years at Notre Dame, Ara had no limit on scholarships and the full effect of the limit did not occur until after he retired. Yet, as great a coach as Ara was, only once did he go undefeated and untied. In 1978, the limit was reduced to 95. Thus, for his entire six years at Notre Dame, Dan Devine had a limit of be‑ tween 95 and 105 players. Yet, Devine never went undefeated, and in four of his six seasons he lost three or more games. In 1992, the scholarship limit was re‑ duced to the current level of 85. Thus, for six of his 11 seasons, Lou Holtz had a scholarship limit of 95. His record of 23‑11‑1 in 1994‑96 was not at the level in his previous years. Consider, too, that when Ara and Devine coached, players did not typi‑ cally leave early to go into the NFL. Think of where Notre Dame would be this year if Louis Nix, Stephon Tuitt and Troy Niklas had not left. None of the foregoing is intended to detract from the great accomplish‑ ments of Ara, Devine and Holtz and the fact that particularly during Ara's and Holtz's reigns, there were mul‑ tiple years when Notre Dame was dominant or "in the hunt." Nor is it intended to dismiss justifiable criti‑ cism of Coach Kelly. But today, the situation in college football is different and some allow‑ ance must be made for this. When did Ara, Devine or Holtz ever have to play eight or nine freshmen on de‑ fense? Never, because they had 10 to 30‑plus more players on scholarship than Kelly. Finally, to add further perspective, consider this question: In the last 60 years, how many teams from the Big Ten have won the national champion‑ ship outright? Only one — Ohio State in 2002. John Lushis Jr. '77 Bethlehem, Pa. Mr. Lushis, your research is very good, but it's not quite accurate to say Ara Parseghian had "no limits" on scholar- ships. Generally, the targeted number was around 30 to 35, not including walk-ons or non grant-in-aid athletes. Also, fresh- man eligibility did not occur until 1972, so you had three full classes instead of four. Back then, the school did not redshirt either, although medical fifth years or re- BE HEARD! Send your letters to: Letters @ Blue & Gold Illustrated P. O. Box 1007 Notre Dame, IN 46556 or e-mail to:

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