Monday, December 1, 2014
Should This Team Go To a Bowl Game?
This is the question that has been argued all over social media the past two days after the USC debacle. Now initially you think, "Of course we want to go to a bowl game." As a fan, of course I want to see another game. Heck, I hope they come back out here to the Hawaii Bowl. I loved it when they came here before. I think every Notre Dame fan wants to be in a bowl game.
But the question is not whether Notre Dame wants to play in a bowl. It is whether or not they should. I am personally amazed at how personally insulting fans have gotten toward each other on this topic. We may agree or disagree as fans as to what is the right thing to do is, but we all want what is best for the Irish.
The arguments I hear are, "We owe it to the seniors," "We need those 15 practices," "It helps recruiting," and "We will give up a lot of money if we don't go."
Let me start with the first one and say no we don't. These guys will leave with a degree from Notre Dame and some of them will make lots of money in the NFL. They will be just fine. I do appreciate all they did for the program but the fact remains that the team did not live up to expectations their senior year.
Second, I coached at both the high school and Pop Warner level. So of course I know the value of practice. However, it is not about the number of practices it is about the quality of practice. With all these players injured, I am not sure how quality these practices will be. If you remember correctly Auburn was not in a bowl game two years ago and last year they made it all the way to the BCS Title Game. So it is not like the kids will completely forget how to play football without those two weeks of practice.
Third, the recruiting aspect is a legit point but understand that it can also have a reverse effect. What if the Irish lose to a team like Northern Illinois or Gunner Kiel makes them look foolish if they get matched up with Cincinnati. What will that do for recruiting?
Finally, I definitely understand how much revenue comes into the school from a bowl game. But seriously c'mon. This isn't Texas-El Paso. This is Notre Dame which is one of the biggest brands in all of sports. So I seriously don't see the school filing Chapter 11 if they don't get that money from a bowl game.
Beyond all that, I have two major concerns about sending this team to a bowl game. First, will the team even be healthy enough to play? There were hardly any players left on defense for the USC game. Who will be available for the bowl game? Some of the injured players might try and come back for it even though it is not advisable putting them at increased risk to get hurt even worse. That is definitely something for the coaches and athletic department to consider.
Second, 7-5 is not good enough for Notre Dame. Many on social media claim that you are not a true fan if you feel they shouldn't go to a bowl game. I say that you are not a true fan if you believe 7-5 is good enough. It was fine in Kelly's first season when the team started 1-3 and finished 7-5. That is clearly much different from a 7-5 team that started 6-0. It is not like this would be something unprecedented. Lou Holtz refused to go after a team lost 3 games. He said that was below Notre Dame standards. Then just a few years ago a 6-6 team which also dropped 4 in a row refused.
Call me old school, but I look at a bowl game as a REWARD for a GREAT season. This is not a season that needs to be rewarded. My high school coach would take teams out for steak dinner if they won league. Both of my years we won and got to go. But other teams that didn't win league had to miss it. He said that it would send the wrong message to let them go anyway.
Now each coach and team have their own expectations and the beginning of the season. While I am not sure what Kelly's expectations were, I am sure they were better than 7-5. I am afraid that if we let this team go to a bowl game, that this becomes the new standard and I don't like that at all.
Now I am not saying that Notre Dame should just say no to the bowl game. There are a couple of very good reasons to go to a Bowl game. First, after what happened between Everett Golson and Malik Zaire in the USC game it would be beneficial to open up a competition and see who wins. How Golson responds or how Zaire does in a potential starting role will be a good sign of who the team should proceed with.
Second, although this team doesn't need to be rewarded, it would still be a big momentum boost going into next season if the Irish can go out there and get an impressive victory. Next season the schedule gets no easier. The opener with an upstart Texas team will not be easy. They also have six ACC opponents featuring heavyweights Clemson and Georgia Tech. Of course traditional rivals in USC, Stanford, and Navy will all be tough as well. So this program definitely could use momentum going into the offseason.
The thing with momentum though is that is a another aspect that can backfire if the Irish lose the bowl. So considering all those factors, Notre Dame needs to first determine if this team will realistically even be able to field a legit team. Then they need to find a match up that gives them a strong chance of winning. If both of those factors hold up, I say go. If not, then maybe it might be best to just shut it down for this season.