Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Up Cycle | by Jay

Saturday's entire practice at ND stadium was open to reporters, and as a result we've had a raft of articles from all corners of the media apparatus over the last few days. Lots of good stuff to feed your offseason football jones.

Perhaps the most comprehensive rundown came yesterday in a Philadelphia Inquirer article by Marc Narducci. Mostly it's a recap of a lot of stuff any self-respecting ND fan would be aware of already, but a few new tidbits stand out, including a little musing about academic standards:

Can a school with such stringent academic standards recapture faded glory? And can Weis, who has exactly one year's experience as a head coach - at Central Jersey's Franklin High in 1989 - succeed in one of the most high-profile, pressure-packed jobs in all of sport?

Weis said he would not use academic standards as a crutch.

"No," he said, sitting in his office the day before spring practice opened. If the standards had been a problem, "I wouldn't have taken the job."

Those standards helped Weis land his first recruit, Mike Turkovich, a 6-foot-7, 290-pound offensive tackle from the Valley Forge Military Academy. Turkovich, who had been considering Boston College and Wisconsin, has a 3.7 grade point average and has scored 1,200 on the Scholastic Assessment Test.

"Both the academic and athletic side is why I chose Notre Dame," Turkovich said. "Some schools are strong academically and some are strong in football. Notre Dame has the best of both worlds."

Parseghian, now 82 and retired, agreed. Parseghian finished with a 95-17-4 record and won two national championships in 11 seasons, from 1964 to 1974.

"If you read the papers before I took over, they were writing back then that the academic standards were too high, and no way could Notre Dame win again," Parseghian said by telephone from his winter home in Florida.

"People not familiar say it's the reason," he said. "But the fact is that it isn't. The academic standards haven't changed, but you can't win all the time. We were able to turn it around. It seems like these things go in cycles. Looking at it now, the program seems ready for an up cycle.

Remember oh, about four months ago? You know, when it was too hard to recruit at ND, because the admissions office wouldn't let anybody through the door? It wasn't that far back that academic standards were being touted as the reason that we'd never witness a return to glory, but Narducci's piece is at least the fifth national media piece (by national, I'm talking about outside of the South Bend-Chicago orbit) by my count that discounts stringent academics as a reason for ND's recent floundering. Now, I think the whole "standards" excuse was mostly invented in the first place, with the Dodds and the ESPN Gameday personnel of the world latching onto a convenient meme (originally invoked by the Bullet, perhaps?) to explain the futility of big time football-cum-acamdemia. So it's nice to see the conventional wisdom begin to shift; and you just know, that underneathe it all, this is a concentrated PR campaign on the part of Weis, the AD, and the admissions department to dismantle the popular assumption that ND is slowly slipping into athletic obscurity. Nothing could be further from the truth.