Notre Dame football: Handling adversity common for Irish

AL LESAR South Bend Tribune
ND Insider

BRIDGMAN -- Losing quarterback Everett Golson for the 2013 seasonbecause of an academic issue is significant for the Notre Damefootball program.

But this is hardly uncharted territory.

Consider what coach Ara Parseghian faced in 1974. After springpractice, he learned that six players -- including four starters, acouple of whom were All-Americans -- were dismissed from school afterbeing linked to a sexual assault.

Despite the adversity, the Irish won nine of their first 10 games andfinished 10-2 after an Orange Bowl victory over Alabama inParseghian's final season. The Irish finished sixth in the AssociatedPress poll that year, a spot below the Crimson Tide.

While the Irish Legends golf outing at Lost Dunes Country Club inBridgman was just starting Wednesday, Parseghian was looking back onthose tough times.

"Things happen in football," Parseghian said. "It's amazing how thisgame can change complexion."

Even back then, "next man in" was a fashionable philosophy.

"What (the adversity) does is open up opportunities for thesecond-team guy to move into a starting role," Parseghian said. "It'sa challenge. I don't think you have to worry about the team. What theyhope for is that the replacement will be able to perform somewhere toa reasonable degree.

"It's kind of a juggling act."

Maintaining excellence

Getting to the BCS National Championship Game is an accomplishment fora program.

Maintaining that sort of excellence is an even greater achievement.

That's the mandate facing Irish head coach Brian Kelly this season.

"It's much more difficult to stay on top than it is to climb themountain," Parseghian said. "Getting there is a challenge. It doesn'tcome easy. Once you've been there, everyone is shooting at you evenharder than they did (before).

"Of course, you may find some complacency. It's one of those thingscoaches have to be aware of. Other factors involved: Just think about,you finish your spring practice and you find out your quarterbackGolson isn't going to be with you. All the work that you had with him;all the experience he had last year; all the talent -- he was reallycoming along -- all of a sudden, you're not going to have him play onedown.

"But the good thing about that, (Tommy) Rees, has been involved in 18starting roles and has won 14 of them -- 14-4, I guess, is a prettydog-gone good record.

"He can throw the ball. He knows the system. And he came in last yearunder pressure and bailed games out when we were in trouble on keyplays. It won't be as bad as people might think."

During his Irish coaching tenure, Lou Holtz learned how lonely the topof the heap could be.

"There's a rule of life: You're either growing or you're dying," saidHoltz, another Irish legend attending Wednesday. "Are you trying toget better? Everybody's criticizing. Then you think, 'Let's not riskit, let's maintain it.' That's what happened to me (at Notre Dame).You never had a reason to celebrate or get excited.

"Each year, as long as Brian Kelly keeps raising the standards;raising the goals; he'll be fine. Every year is a different year. Youstart all over."

Best line

Kelly, Parseghian and Holtz looked like cardboard cutouts withpasted-on smiles as they sat on the stage in a makeshift tent as morethan 40 foursomes in the outing took turns standing behind themgetting photos taken.

After the photo, golfers would file in front of the coaches and shakehands. In one group was former Heisman Trophy winner John Huarte. Ashe came to Kelly, he stated his name.

"He doesn't have to introduce himself to me," Kelly said,flabbergasted by Huarte's humility. "He won the Heisman Trophy!"


-- Plans are being made to honor the 25th anniversary of Notre Dame's1988 national championship team this season. However, nobody has saidanything to Holtz, the coach of that team, yet.

"I'm glad they're going to honor 25 years of the championship, but itwould be nice if they invited me," Holtz said. "I have not beeninvited and I don't even know when it is."

-- Holtz's ESPN sidekick Mark May ventured to Michiana, a place wherehe is despised by many Irish fans for his anti-Notre Dame standpoint,to play in the charity tournament.

"Mark May is really a great guy, and he's a smart guy," Holtz said."We have no teleprompter, no script, no rehearsal (at ESPN), and he'sa professional. We just have a difference of opinion (about NotreDame). I love him like a brother.

"We're different. I was a coach, he was a player. He made suggestions,I made decisions. He showered after work, I showered before work. Hesigned a paycheck on the back, I signed it on the front."

-- Each of the 40-plus foursomes at the event paid $5,000 toparticipate. There were also other auction items. Proceeds go to thecharities of: Kelly (Kelly Cares), Holtz (Lou Holtz CharitableFoundation) and Parseghian (Niemann Pick Disease Foundation).

Staff writer Al Lesar:


From left, Ara Parseghian, Brian Kelly and Lou Holtz pose for photos Wednesday with golf foursomes during the Irish Legends golf outing at Lost Dunes Country Club in Bridgman.