Blue and Gold Illustrated

June-July 2020

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

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 45 of 47

46 JUNE/JULY 2020 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED O ver the next month, the annual pre- s e a s o n c o l l e g e football periodicals — Athlon, Lindy's, Street & Smith, Phil Steele, etc. — will be showcased at various outlets through- out the country. Through the decades, they have whetted the appetite for a new season still a few months away. At Blue & Gold Illus- trated, work has com- menced on our annual 160-page, full-glossy football preview that is slated to go to the printer June 11 and get mailed near the end of June. Right now, it feels somewhat like meander- ing through a maze, and maybe even with a blindfold. While we all are familiar with the roster, coaching staff and opposition for 2020, the mystery and dynamics of this season likely will be the most unique in the sport's 151-year history. Part of the intrigue of any new sea- son is the unknown, whether it is the emergence of new faces coming out of nowhere to shine, or fresh strate- gies/coaches employed to perhaps aid an upgrade. Unfortunately, the unknown takes on a dramatically different meaning this year, most notably whether there will be football at all. From a personal standpoint, this will be my Golden Anniversary of following the Notre Dame football program, starting in the latter part of 1970. I have found through those decades that triumph against the un- known and what is most feared is ultimately the sweetest victory. In almost each decade, there has been at least one such year. • In the 1970s, it was 1973. Entering his 10th year, Ara Par- seghian's program was beginning to slip with back-to-back finishes out- side the top 10 (the horror!) and get- ting crushed in his final two games in 1972 by USC (45-23) and Nebraska (40-6). The unknown was whether he could bounce back. The response was an 11-0 finish and national title 12 months later. • In the 1980s, it was 1988. The Irish were a pedestrian 43-36-1 from 1980-87, including 13-10 with "Messiah Coach" Lou Holtz, who was outscored 80-30 in three straight losses to conclude 1987. And now in 1988 he had lost his Heisman win- ner (Tim Brown) and had to replace the entire offensive and defensive lines. Furthermore, his archaic option attack with a non-NFL quarterback was not going to take him anywhere. Voila! 12-0 and the most recent na- tional title for the program. • In the 1990s, it was 1993. That summer the infamous Under The Tarnished Dome book was pub- lished, with a theme of how Notre Dame had sold its soul for football glory in recent years. Many an opin- ion held that the operation would become fractured and shaken, espe- cially after the graduation of top-10 picks Rick Mirer and Jerome Bettis, plus fifth-place Heisman finisher Reggie Brooks, in the backfield. Instead, the negative slant galva- nized everyone, resulting in a No. 2 national finish despite defeating No. 1 Florida State in November. • The 2000s became "The Lost De- cade," but in 2012 the great unknown of whether Notre Dame could ever again vie for a national title returned a glimmer of hope. After a school record- tying five straight sea- sons with at least five losses (2007-11) … out of nowhere Notre Dame was 12-0 and No. 1 at the end of regular season. The story had an un- pleasant and relatively sobering ending with a 42-14 slaughter by Ala- bama in the BCS Na- tional Championship Game, but at least opti- mism about the future had returned. When he took the ath- letics director position at Notre Dame in the summer of 2008, Jack Swarbrick prophesied that, "I accept this job on the thresh- old of extraordinary change in in- tercollegiate athletics in America … there's much about this industry you won't recognize in 10 years. "We must be at the forefront of that. We must participate in lead- ing that change. Notre Dame cannot have that dictated to it." Indeed, changes such as the ones with odd conference realignments and the College Football Playoff, among others, have taken hold. As we embark on 2020, change this decade might become even more radical, from student-athletes now profiting from name, image and like- ness (NIL), to perhaps having a dif- ferent perspective on budgets after the coronavirus has brought athletics departments to their knees. The anxiety that comes with the unknown still ahead may have a rip- ple effect for years to come. Yet somewhere down the road in this decade as well, hope and revival will also come to pass. And we will all be more grateful for its arrival than we might have ever thought we could be. ✦ The Ultimate Season Of The Unknown THE FIFTH QUARTER LOU SOMOGYI Senior Editor Lou Somogyi has been at Blue & Gold Illustrated since July 1985. He can be reached at Everything about the 2020 football season is in jeopardy, but especially for Notre Dame football the unknown sometimes makes the end result even sweeter. PHOTO BY ANDRIS VISOCKIS

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Blue and Gold Illustrated - June-July 2020