Blue and Gold Illustrated

May 2017 Issue

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

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62 MAY 2017 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED B asic arithmetic tells you that 4 is twice as less than 8. Yet for Notre Dame's 2016 football team, 4 might become greater than 8. In other words, maybe — just maybe — going 4‑8 last season could prove to be more beneficial for the overall operation in the long run than something like 8‑4 might have. An 8‑4 record (or even 9‑3) has be‑ come a football purgatory or limbo at Notre Dame. In 2016, it would have had too much of a status quo feel and revitalized the annual and inane "we were two plays away from 10‑2," arguments — while always conveniently ignoring that perhaps they were two plays from 6‑6 as well. Don't believe the 8‑4 status quo? Since the last three seasons under Lou Holtz (1994‑96) and prior to 2016, Notre Dame's football record was 170‑102‑1, which averages out to 7.7 wins and 4.6 losses per contest (8‑5 when rounded off). Another 8‑4 type of record might have provided a complacency of "we're not that far away — we just need a break or two." What 4‑8 instead provided was a jolting shock to the system that mandated a massive overhaul. Six new on‑field assistants of a possible 10 were hired by eighth‑year head coach Brian Kelly, not including the duo of Matt Balis and Dave Ballou to revise the strength and condition‑ ing program that had come under much criticism from the players. Not even many head coaching changes elicit such voluminous refurbishing and internal self‑scouting than what Notre Dame had at the end of 2016. A couple of captain elects this sea‑ son — offensive tackle Mike Mc‑ Glinchey and rover Drue Tranquill — understand how epic storms can yield a rainbow afterwards. A favorite quote of former Fighting Irish head coach Ara Parseghian (1964‑74) al‑ ways has been "adversity elicits talent which under prosperous conditions would have remained dormant." "It's hard to say that losing eight games was in any way beneficial, but all the ancient philosophers in football — Vince Lombardi and all that — have quotes saying, 'The first opportunity of failure is to learn.' We've certainly done that, and it's made us look in the mirror for that," McGlinchey said. "I think change could have definitely gone masked if you have an average season like 8‑4, and some things might carry over into the next season," Tran‑ quill said. "Whereas if you go 4‑8 it's, 'Okay, something has got to change.'" Getting back to 8‑4 status quo in 2017 would not necessarily be a sign of revitalization or contentment. "8‑5 or 9‑4, or whatever, isn't ac‑ ceptable at Notre Dame either," Mc‑ Glinchey said. "It's just a matter of responding to everything that hap‑ pens to you, and it just so happens that the eight games we lost served to be pretty good lessons for us. "The way that things have gone this spring has made it pretty clear that change needed to be made." However, Tranquill believes that significant alterations were going to be imminent anyway, regardless of the 4‑8 implosion. "At Notre Dame 8‑4 is not really acceptable or tolerated," Tranquill said. "Those things that were taking place just within our culture would have been noticed whether we were 10‑3 or 4‑8. The media and criticism gave it a lot more hype and juice. "We felt as guys in the program throughout the past three years that certain things needed to change. I think those things were finally brought to light, and it happened to be during a 4‑8 season. I don't neces‑ sarily know if 4‑8 was the reason that all this change happened." Improvement in 2017 should be in‑ evitable because there is no place to go but up after the 2016 fiasco. As Notre Dame followers, you know the drill from the past 20‑plus years: Hit a new rock bottom, revitalize and then bounce back. (Lather. Rinse. Repeat.) • Go from the stunning 6‑5‑1 sea‑ son in 1994 to 9‑2 and an Orange Bowl berth the next year. • Go from the first seven‑loss cam‑ paign in 36 years in 1999 (5‑7) to 9‑2 in 2000, a Fiesta Bowl bid and a five‑year contract extension for head coach Bob Davie. • Go from 5‑6 in 2001 and turn it into a 10‑1 start in 2002 to earn first‑ year coach Ty Willingham Sportsman of the Year from Sporting News in Notre Dame football's "Return to Glory." • Go from 11‑13 in 2003‑04 to then first‑year head coach Charlie Weis in 2005 directing the school's initial AP top‑10 finish in 12 years, earning him a 10‑year contract extension seven games into his tenure. • Go from a 2‑5 finish in 2014 to a 10‑1 start and Playoff conversation in 2015 — meriting Kelly a contract extension through 2021. Improvement in 2017 will come from some change, which creates a honeymoon phase and likely a galva‑ nizing effect. But it especially comes from internal pride of the players who have been champions in their daily work throughout their short lives and their drive to bounce back from an embarrassing result. "We needed a spark in this build‑ ing, and I think those guys have cer‑ tainly provided that," McGlinchey said of the new staff. "We can feel that it's concrete, that it's real … guys are trusting and believing that." How much of a payoff ensues cannot be answered until this autumn — and then the ones still to come. How "suc‑ cess" will be defined could vary. ✦ Misery Of 2016 Elicits More Self Examination THE FIFTH QUARTER LOU SOMOGYI Senior Editor Lou Somogyi has been at Blue & Gold Illustrated since July 1985. He can be reached at Fifth-year senior offensive lineman Mike McGlinchey channels his inner Vince Lombardi when thinking about last season, quoting the legendary NFL coach as saying "The first oppor- tunity of failure is to learn." PHOTO BY COREY BODDEN

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