Notre Dame football: Worst bowl, ever


South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND - Redeeming factors are few, and even those are cleverly concealed.

Notre Dame's participation in the Pinstripe Bowl Dec. 28 against 6-6 Rutgers could be the worst postseason scenario since the Irish football team got in the bowl business after the 1969 season.

That's not an exaggeration.

Combine the weather in New York, which will likely be cold, with the opponent, which will likely be awful, and the ingredients are there for a real stinker.

Whatever happened to the philosophy: We want to play the highest ranked team available?

Notre Dame's athletic leadership of several years ago sent the football team down this path of bowl oblivion. When next year's agreement with the Atlantic Coast Conference kicks in, the Pinstripe Bowl will be a last resort, not the best option available for an 8-4 team.

Not that these Irish deserve a great reward or anything.

Some might say this Notre Dame team overachieved and dodged a couple bullets to avoid 7-5 or worse. Others, who have their glass half full, see the Irish just a couple tough losses away from a BCS berth.

Whatever the case, there's no silk-pursing the Pinstripe Bowl matchup with Rutgers. When senior co-captain and receiver TJ Jones talks about a Christmas performance at Radio City Music Hall as being one of the selling points of the experience, it speaks volumes about the opportunity to play a team destined to share the Big Ten doormat with Indiana and Purdue next year.

There are only two previous bowl experiences that fall under the "nothing to be gained" heading like this one — and even those two had a "hook" that this matchup lacks.

After the 1983 season, Notre Dame took its 6-5 record to Memphis to play Boston College in the Liberty Bowl. The hook there was the fact that the 9-2 Eagles, who had Doug Flutie under center, came in ranked 13th in the country. The Irish pulled out a 19-18 victory on a frozen field.

Then there was 1997. That was the infamous season when the Irish struggled under first-year coach Bob Davie. They took a 7-5 record to Shreveport for a rematch with LSU. Notre Dame had stunned LSU on its home turf 24-6 in mid-November. The do-over was different with LSU winning, 27-9.

Even with Shreveport being living proof that Gary, Ind., could host a bowl game, the intrigue of a quality opponent like LSU and the "hook" of a rematch made it bearable.

This one ... not so much.

A couple trips to Hawaii in which the games didn't mean much but, hey, it's Hawaii. Competition doesn’t matter.

The Sun Bowl in El Paso a few years ago was frigid, but at least the opponent was legit: Miami.

When Irish head coach Brian Kelly talked about the haul the players would make in terms of freebies from the bowl as being the part of the announcement that got their attention, that's a distinct — and at the same time, subtle — message.

Bribe them with some electronic gadgets and gear to make them care.

Gary Nova started Rutgers' first 10 games at quarterback and threw 14 interceptions. Chas Dodd (he can't be 6-foot-1 like the roster says; looks more like 5-9), who started the Scarlet Knights' last two games, has thrown two picks. It will be one of the few times Irish QB Tommy Rees (13 interceptions) will be the more accurate thrower in the matchup.

Couple those numbers with Rutgers' pass defense ranking of No. 120 (out of 123, 311 yards yielded a game) and this has "big day for the Irish" written all over it.

Notre Dame will get a feel of how Alabama felt against the Irish last year.

Name the score.

Pinstripe Bowl officials have their fingers crossed that the fans who make Notre Dame football the special entity that it is will cast a blind eye toward the matchup and the weather and plunk down anywhere between $100 (cheapest) to $300 (special club seating) a ticket to watch this showdown.

Wonder if the bowl's ticket website got hit with the same crush of folks that shut down the Obamacare site?

All that for a stinker.

Yankee Stadium's jumbotron welcomes the Notre Dame football team in its 2010 game against Army. SBT Photo/SANTIAGO FLORES