The Rambling Irish?

Thursday, May 04, 2006

From 1913 on, Jesse Harper and then Knute Rockne tried to build the football program at Notre Dame into an asset of the university. Making frequent travels to play teams -- almost any non-Catholic school -- like at Texas in 1913 and 1915; at Yale in 1914; at Nebraska for several years beginning in 1915; at Rice in 1915; at Rutgers in 1921; at Georgia Tech in 1922; and, most famously, at Army beginning in 1913. The team traveled far and wide, and journalists took to calling the team the "Ramblers," "Rockne's Rovers," "the Rambling Irish," and the "Wandering Irish" (this was a significant part of the reason school administrators embraced "Fighting Irish" avoid the "football factory" pejorative nature of those "traveling" names). By the mid-1920s, thanks to Rockne, Notre Dame was inundated with requests to play football games in all parts of the country.

Just this past year, Notre Dame went to Pittsburgh, Ann Arbor, West Lafayette, Seattle, Palo Alto and Tempe. In 2006, the Irish travel to Atlanta, East Lansing, Baltimore, Colorado Springs, Los Angeles and, if all goes well, Glendale, Arizona. That will equal lots of frequent-flyer miles.

Opening up the home schedule against non-BCS conference schools in 2008 and 2009 feels like it runs counter to the tradition Harper and Rockne fostered. San Diego State and Nevada will be making trips to South Bend. The games are the result of promises made to the two schools during the negotiations to re-schedule the Notre Dame at BYU "game" (and, in a chain reaction, many other games) in 2004. Clearly, Nevada and San Diego State are pleased...“To have a chance to play against that program is just a great opportunity,” Nevada coach Chris Ault said.

Jay, over at The Blue-Gray Sky, has his take on the Nevada game.

Now, I am glad we are keeping our promises to SDSU and Nevada. And we are allowing two non-BCS schools a "Rockne-like" ramble cross country, a nationally televised game and a big payout. But this, combined with adding Duke as the seventh home game in the 2007 schedule, feels lame.

I am of the opinion that, like the "academics are too hard" argument, the "schedule is too tough" whine is bunk. A great coach finds a way to win the games that are on the schedule...and it just goes against what Notre Dame football was built upon to intentionally weaken the slate...especially for home games.

Apparently, if you believe the Miami Herald, Notre Dame (along with "many others") spurned Miami's request for a home-and-home, and the 'Canes are settling for Kansas State.

With all that said, Notre Dame fans are still eagerly awaiting the details on the "neutral site" games to be played in future years at places like New Orleans and the Meadowlands. Perhaps that will re-inforce the Irish as "Rockne's Ramblers" again.


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