AVON, Connecticut, U.S.A. — Being the football coach at Notre Dame used to be a privilege.
Coaches used to dream of having the chance to coach the Fighting Irish, but the prestige of the job has weakened lately.
After Lou Holtz left Notre Dame, Bob Davie took over the helm. Davie ‘s many unsuccessful seasons in South Bend led to his dismissal.
Then Notre Dame hired the former Georgia Tech coach, George O’Leary. When Notre Dame gave O’Leary the big bucks to coach their football team it thought it was not only getting a great football coach but a class act that would represent the university well.
They were dead wrong.
Within a few days of signing O’Leary, he resigned when a New Hampshire newspaper found he lied on a resume that he had submitted to Syracuse University in 1980.
O’Leary falsely claimed he had earned a master’s of science degree in education at New York University . In fact, O’Leary only completed two courses at NYU. He also said that he earned multiple varsity letters in football at the University of New Hampshire — but never even played in a game.
Notre Dame was shocked and embarrassed when it learned about O’Leary’s lies.
In resigning as Notre Dame’s coach in the wake of the revelations, O’Leary said, “During my coaching career, I believe I have been hired because of the success of my players on the field and the evaluation of my peers. However, these misstatements have resurfaced and become a distraction and embarrassment to the University of Notre Dame, an institution I dearly love. I regret that I did not call these facts to the attention of the University during their search. It now seems, therefore, that in keeping with my philosophy of personal accountability for these errors, I resign my position and deeply apologize for any disappointment I have caused the University, my family and many friends.”
After the O’Leary situation was taken care of, Notre Dame went out in search of another football coach. This time they were determined to find the right person for the job.
However, coaches were not begging for the job like they did in the mid 1900s. The football coaching job at Notre Dame was no longer a dream job for every coach.
Asked a number of times, the University of Oregon ’s coach, Mike Bellotti, each time turned down the offer. The University of Washington ’s head football coach, Rick Neuheisel, was asked to take the job but decided to stay put in Seattle .
Finally Notre Dame found a coach when it hired Tyrone Willingham, the former Stanford coach.
Willingham is the first-ever African American head coach in any sport at Notre Dame. Many people believe that race was a factor in the signing of Willingham.
Notre Dame does not have many African Americans on its football team and perhaps that is part of the reason why the team hasn’t had much success in the past years.
College football has changed since the days when Notre Dame was a powerhouse. You need talent, strength, speed, and athleticism to win — and in the 80s and 90s many African American players have been providing those characteristics for winning teams.
However, Willingham certainly wasn’t only brought to Notre Dame because of the color of his skin.
Willingham is the class act that Notre Dame was searching for.
Notre Dame is in serious jeopardy of losing its status as a great football team.
Will Ty Willingham be able to bring back the Notre Dame football traditions of the mid 1900s? Will he be able to restore the football program and rescue the University from more embarrassment?
We will find out next fall when the Fighting Irish take the field and face a gruesome schedule under their new head coach.
Will the great dynasty of Notre Dame Football appear again? It’s all up to Tyrone Willingham.
Willingham has taken a job where fans, alumni, and boosters of Notre Dame exert intense pressure on winning.
But, Ty, don’t get too nervous. There’s not that much pressure being put on you.
T.J. O’Connor is a Reporter for Youth Journalism International.