BYU Cougars

Notre Dame’s Fresh Start and BYU’s Declaration of Independence?

I had the opportunity to pose a couple questions to ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit today regarding the developing BYU situation and Notre Dame’s third head coach in 8 years. So much for sticking to our August 28 launch date …

Several sources have reported in the past 36 hours that ESPN was working with BYU to help them go independent in football. With that in mind, consider what Herbstreit had to say when I asked if he might comment on the possibility of the Cougars leaving the Mountain West Conference …

Kirk Herbstreit, ESPN College Game Day Analyst

“I love the Mountain West Conference and I don’t think they get the recognition they deserve. The top 3-4 teams in that conference can play with almost any BCS program on any given Saturday. But it’s really hard to find their games on TV. I understand why BYU would want to consider independence. It’s easy to find them on TV when they are playing top teams outside of their conference, like Oklahoma last year, but when they go into conference play, you can’t find them.”

Herbstreit went on to say that BYU has a recognizable brand with a strong fan base around the country, and that he thinks they would do well playing on a bigger stage.

I was rather surprised that Herbstreit didn’t dismiss BYU’s potential declaration of independence. He actually sounded bullish about BYU football doing well as an independent and said not many programs could pull it off, citing the University’s new HD broadcasting capabilities as a critical factor.

# # #

Notre Dame’s previous two head coaches, Tyrone Willingham and Charlie Weis, went 10-3 and 9-3, respectively, in their freshman seasons at the helm of the Irish program. Both coaches took their inaugural squads to January bowl games and lost. Willingham went 11-12 the next two seasons and was fired. Weis had a very solid sophomore campaign (10-2) but got thrashed in the Sugar Bowl by LSU, 41-14. It was all downhill for Weis after that, as he struggled to compile a 16-21 record his final three seasons in South Bend.

So, what does Herbstreit foresee for the Fighting Irish in their first season under Brian Kelly, who pitched a 53-22 (.707) mark at Central Michigan and Cincinnati during the past seven years?

“I think the Notre Dame offense will be explosive this year. Dayne Crist should be very comfortable in Coach Kelly’s spread offense,” said Herbstreit. “They are returning 26 players with starting experience, so they are a veteran squad.”

Brian Kelly, Notre Dame Fighting Irish head coach

Herbstreit pointed out how porous the Irish defense has been the past few years. “They weren’t the typical Notre Dame defense that could get the stop when they needed to. While the offense was putting up the points, the defense just couldn’t get the job done.”

Notre Dame is converting from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 under new defensive coordinator Bob Diaco, who was with Kelly at Cincinnati the past year. Herbstreit said he’s not concerned about Kelly’s squad being able to score points. Rather, defense is the key to the Irish fortunes.

“If the Irish defense gets stingy all of a sudden, look out. Watch the first six games. They play Purdue, Michigan, Stanford and Pitt at home, and Michigan State and Boston College on the road. If they are 5-1 after those first six games, watch out. The last half of their schedule is manageable. If they start the season out fast, they could really go a long way this year.”

Look for the Irish to have a nice rebound this season under Kelly. Enthusiasm is running high in their summer camp, thanks to the fresh slate and change in perspective that a new coach brings. Kelly seems to be a perfect fit for the program. Don’t be surprised to see Notre Dame playing in at least a tier 2 bowl game in January.

# # #

This month on College Gridiron 365

The 2010 college football season kicks off on College Gridiron 365 with two weekly columns and a series of new feature articles and interviews.

Season 5 of Fourth and inches ...

Preseason Super 16 Power Rankings –

How to Kill A Rivalry –

Top Ten Pac-10 Games of 2010 –

Top 10 Big Ten Games of 2010 –
More >

4th and inches … Week of Aug 30 – Sept 6

BYU declares independence. There was simply no valid argument for the Cougars to remain in the MWC. Archrival Utah was exiting the conference after this season and the ill-advised TV deal with Comcast/CBS was an absolute insult, paying only $1.3 million per school each year through (gasp) 2016.

BYU will reportedly receive nearly five times that amount for 4 games on ESPN next year.

The MWC’s onerous TV deal even restricted BYU from airing reruns of their own games on the university’s BYU-TV while burying live contests – including the rivalry game vs. Utah – on the conference sports channel called “the mtn.” Never heard of “the mtn.” or seen it? You’re not alone. Neither has 94% of the rest of the country.
More >