For all the talk about how Notre Dame’s academic standards and location have stacked the deck against an Irish return to glory, Holtz believes Notre Dame is in better position to compete for championships now than during his years.
Back then, Notre Dame’s facilities were woeful compared to other top programs. Now they are on par.
Notre Dame is also playing a schedule more in line with what national powers do. The 2010 slate is indicative of what a typical Notre Dame schedule will look like from now on: seven home games, one neutral site game and some, let’s say manageable, nontraditional opponents (Tulsa and Western Michigan).
“It’s very doable,” said Holtz, whose 1988 team won Notre Dame’s last national championship. “The changes that Notre Dame made were made so that they could be very competitive.”
Kelly could also benefit from his rivals problems.
Michigan has spent two years foundering under Rich Rodriguez and NCAA sanctions could be coming the Wolverines way, too. Who knows when Michigan will be Michigan again?
Then there is Southern California, Notre Dame’s No. 1 rival. The Trojans have dominated the Irish in recent years, winning eight straight meetings and providing an annual reminder of just how far away Notre Dame is from being an elite team.
Well, the dynasty days are over at USC. Pete Carroll is gone, Lane Kiffin is in and the NCAA hammer has dealt a potentially devastating blow to the Trojans. Suddenly, those USC games don’t look quite so daunting for the Irish.
The ramifications of Notre Dame renaissance reach beyond South Bend.
If Notre Dame is routinely winning 10 games, the Irish can bank on a BCS bid (worth $4.5 million). Their current NBC deal runs through 2015 and makes Notre Dame an estimated $15 million per year. More Notre Dame wins generally equals higher ratings for NBC, which leads to more money in the Irish coffers.
All that talk about Notre Dame giving up its football independence and joining a conference could go away if the Irish are playing as they did in the good ol’ days.
Kelly has been lauded by Taylor and other former Fighting Irish coaches and players for trying to reconnect the current Notre Dame players with the school’s glorious past.
Kelly showed his players a highlight reel filled with former Notre Dame greats and flipped out when he found out one of his guys could not identify Jerome Bettis.
“We did some history lessons,” Kelly said. “Nobody knew some of the real traditions of Notre Dame football.
“When there’s respect, there’s not entitlement,” he said. “In this locker room, many have come before you. There needs to be that respect for it.”