Friday, May 26, 2006

Heavyweights, etc. | by Jay

One of the quotes that caught my eye from the Kevin White presser last week was this doozy that didn't get much play on the message boards:

"I can't tell you how my accessibility is viewed or how it's evolved," White said. "I can tell you life at Notre Dame is different. Being in a unilateral position with the rest of the intercollegiate landscape at times puts me in a position where I cannot talk as openly about issues as I thought I could in previous assignments. And that's just reality.

"There are a lot of issues that require measured responses at this place. Some of the reasons are cultural and philosophical and relate to Notre Dame and some of them relate to our position relative to the rest of the landscape, and that's just the reality over time.

"I don't know that the (football) coaching changes made me feel that way. I think it's more a matter of my realization of our very unique place within intercollegiate athletics."
He's right in that life at Notre Dame is "different", and I'm not saying that to be arrogant. Of course ND is unique relative to other AD jobs. You've got some practical hurdles and expectations with Notre Dame that you won't find anywhere else in college football: scheduling as an independent, negotiating unilaterally with the BCS, managing a television contract, and dealing with a media glare that shines a little more brightly in South Bend than in say, Tempe.

I find it a little troubling that our Athletic Director is just now -- after six years on the job -- coming to the "realization of [ND's] very unique place within intercollegiate athletics." But it does explain a few things: the BCS payout reduction, the scheduling gaffes, dalliances with conference membership, the hiring misfires, the incessant foot-in-mouth disease.

During Willingham's first year, White had a quote that stuck in my craw, and I was reminded of it reading his comments above. In talking about the post-Davie coaching search, White said this:
"It's very important here to love [Notre Dame]. This place has an insatiable desire to be loved."
What he describes is undoubtedly true. But in his phrasing, he sets himself apart from the institution he purports to represent.

Maybe it's too much to ask for a administrator who was reared on play-nice conference cooperation to chuck all that, and suddenly act like a maverick. However, that just underscores the importance of getting an AD for Notre Dame who already buys into ND's "unqiue place within college athletics", as White elegantly stated.