Tuesday, December 1, 2009

To Bowl, Or Not to Bowl?

We’re going to go ahead and just ignore all of the speculation about the Notre Dame coaching situation. We’re going to let Rob Ianello enjoy being the head of football operations for this piece of writing.

To bowl, or not to bowl? That is the question.

We’re going to say that Notre Dame fans need a bowl game. And we’re going to go ahead and say that the Notre Dame players do not need a bowl game.

Wait, what? No bowl game?

You heard right. If it were up to the fans of Notre Dame, the team would be playing in a bowl game, no doubt. Hell, if it were up to the fans, the Irish would play in more than one bowl game. Every fan wants to see one more game.

Every fan wants to see Jimmy Clausen and Golden Tate wearing gold helmets… for one last time.

What am I insinuating? I am insinuating that Clausen and Tate are gone now. With Weis gone, the only coach they have known in their college days, these players will choose to move on as well. It is probably more certain with Clausen, but after the phenomenal year Tate had, it’s probably a done deal with him, too.

The team has experienced such a vast range of emotions this year that it would drain on even the greatest of players. I would be worn down, ready for the next step if I had the skill and opportunity. Clausen and Tate have both, and it would not surprise me if they choose to end the disappointment they have found in South Bend and move on to bigger things. And this brings me back to the original point.

I’m sure every player would love to suit up for a final game, a shot at one final victory. But then they must consider what is best for themselves and their teammates. Why take a few more weeks preparing for a game that essentially does not matter when that time could be used to prepare for more important things? Like next season?

And why waste three or four weeks to play in a pointless bowl when juniors and seniors with NFL aspirations could use the early jump on preparing for the combine and pro days?

The season is basically lost. A 9-3 record would have been a minor disappointment, with any more than 4 losses being a total disappointment. Well here we are, the Irish are 6-6. This season was “BCS or Bust” and it was just that, a Bust. Why risk injury to potential starters of the future in a game that will not change the way the season is viewed? Why risk injury to those select few players who are NFL-ready in a game that will not impress anyone?

The bowl game would basically be the “Nobody Bowl”… as in no team of significance is playing this game. Notre Dame can no longer be considered significant because it has no true head coach, it has stars that are seemingly ready to depart, and it will suffer rebuilding under the new head coach whether Domers like to think about it or not. The opponent would be similar: a middle-of-the-pack team that wasn’t significant enough to make noise at the top of its conference

Notre Dame still does have bright spots in its future: Michael Floyd, Kyle Rudolph, and Manti Te’o, just to rattle off the big ones. But these bright spots should look to next season and recognize the task of rebuilding. They must prepare to lead a team that will struggle if Clausen and/or Tate leave. A bowl game does not speed up the process of “moving on,” which will be difficult enough as it is.

I would consider myself a relentless follower of the Irish, the most loyal of Golden Domers, defending my team against any individual who speaks ill of it. But I am also a realist. There is much more for Notre Dame and its athletes to lose from playing in a bowl game than there is to gain. A loss would add further insult, while a win would do nothing to save the image of the team. Injuries could happen, and time is wasted that could be spent preparing for the future.

It hurts to say, because I would feel lost without ND in a bowl game, but I believe “Not to Bowl” is the answer. Putting myself in the shoes of a player ready to move on, I would look towards the fresh start that will come with whoever the new head coach turns out to be.

I would rather be in the weight room preparing to shock the nation in the new coach’s first year than to be in the Insignificant Bowl.

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