Thursday, October 9, 2008

Notre Dame Needs to Switch Its Nickname to the Pink-Domers

If you haven't guessed by now, I really despise fans who refuse to make objective assessments. This is especially true when the fan in question roots for a perennial contender and/or a squad/player that has every advantage over its contemporaries. Hey, they are already good and/or beginning every year with an edge over the competition. That should be enough.

Which brings me to an article I ran across accusing Tyrone Willingham of being racist.

I've mentioned before that I graduated from Stanford and was there during the glory days of Willingham's tenure. I've also mentioned that, as a fraternity president, I had to deal with Stanford's Athletic Department because we had issues with the football team. What I'm trying to convey is that, although I graduated from Stanford, I have no occasion to unreasonably love or defend Willingham (or the football team).

In fact, I found Willingham to be condescending and myopic as well as hypocritically self-righteous. Enough of the football players were brutish meatheads, looking to get drunk and kick some ass (a genuinely unfair proposition considering the physical stature of most Stanford students).

And to be honest, the article's author makes a fantastic observation about Willingham's paucity of African-American coordinators. He points out that coordinator is to head coach as a senator or governor is to the President of the United States - not required but a damn good place to start. Consequently, to lob accusations of racism based on the lack of African-American head coaches while doing NOTHING at the most effective point to help solve the problem is both condescending and myopic (not to mention stupid and obviously hypocritical).

But then the author puts on his pink Notre Dame hat and ruins everything.

While rightfully blasting Willingham for crying racism while refusing to hire black coordinators, the author points out that Notre Dame deserves praise because it has hired numerous coordinators of color. Anyone see a problem with that?

Why does Willingham get blamed for not hiring while Notre Dame gets credit for hiring?

It's a subtle but significant change. The author blames the coach in one case because it matches his personal bias (which is either love of Notre Dame, hatred towards Tyrone Willingham, and/or hatred towards African-Americans in general - that last being the least likely). Then, he switches the underlying assumption: that coaches control the hiring/firing of coordinators because it allows him to laud the school and stay consistent to his personal bias .

But for some of the years, the coach worked for the school. I understand that the African-American coordinators were hired after Willingham left. However, if Notre Dame gets credit for the hires after Ty left, don't they get blamed for the non-hires while he was there?

If the coach controls the hiring, then the school can receive no blame. If the school controls the hiring, then the coach can receive no blame (the reality is more complicated since both sides always have some influence regardless of who makes the final decision, but you get the point). It can't be both ways unless Notre Dame changed its hiring policies after Willingham left, which is possible.

Of course, that would mean it allowed him to hire coordinators and then stripped that power from its golden boy, Charlie Weis. Does anyone believe that's how it went down?

Remember, this is the same school that fired Willingham after he went 21-15 but gave Weis a TEN YEAR CONTRACT EXTENSION after compiling a record of 14-5. Not only that, there was barely a whisper for Weis' job during the debacle of a season last year (really, a couple 30 point losses cost you your job but losing to Navy for the first time in a half-century doesn't even raise a concern?).

Before I get drawn into all this racism nonsense, let me explain. I'm not saying the above comparison proves Notre Dame is racist. Obviously, there were many reasons for the disparate treatment of Willingham and Weis (NFL pedigree, Weis is an alumnus, recruiting, scoring-margin, etc.). Race may have been one factor, but clearly not the only one. Or even the most significant.

What the above comparison does prove is that Notre Dame has given Charlie Weis a much longer leash and bigger margin for error than Tyrone Willingham. For whatever reason. To argue that Willingham had powers that Weis does not is illogical and counterintuitive.

It also shows that claims of racism were not unfounded, as the author of the instigative piece claimed. Again, I'm not saying the allegations were true or even reasonable. But unfounded is a far more absolute accusation.

There are other examples demonstrating the taint of the Pink Hat on the author's judgment.

He calls Notre Dame the biggest stage in college football. That's a bold claim about a team that hasn't been competitive in a bowl game since 1996, let alone relevant to the national title picture. I'm sure it's the biggest stage to him, but the rest of us acknowledge that the football world actually encompasses teams other than Notre Dame.

He calls the University of Washington one of the biggest stages in the Pac-10. Umm, Willingham was hired in 2004. Not 1994. Such a statement is stale to the tune of fifteen years.

What I fail to understand is that the author is clearly intelligent and thoughtful. He makes a number of astute observations such as Willingham's hiring practices and the problem of "fireability," which is a very real and complicated problem.

Consider this. My father runs his own business. He is one of the most equitable, honest, and reasonable men I know. I am not exaggerating when I say his integrity has never been questioned by anyone who has had a substantive conversation with him.

And even he refuses to hire African-Americans because of their low fireability. As a small business owner, he just can't afford to have an employee who performs inadequately but cannot be fired because doing so would be even more costly. Neither he nor I nor any fair-minded person likes this reality, but it is the reality.

And it's a reality that wasn't necessarily created by African-Americans. A good share of the blame has to go to blindly-progressive whites who have exacerbated the problem by giving credence to the idea that African-Americans are, by definition, fired primarily because of their race. That idea was absolutely true once upon a time, possibly more recently than you or I know. And now it needs to be revisited.

But back to the author. In true Pink Hat fashion, he can't be content with an objective assessment; he's got to blatantly manipulate the situation to make Notre Dame look even better.

And that's fortunate us because it destroys his credibility. Otherwise, more fans might be tricked into listening to these donkeys.

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