Notre Dame, Wake up the echoes cheering her name, Send the volley cheer on high, Shake down the thunder from the sky, What though the odds be great or small, Old Notre Dame will win over all, While her loyal sons are marching onward to victory.
My world of college football is complete. The Fighting Irish are relevant again and it has certainly been a long time coming. As I have told you before in this column, I have followed the Golden Domers since the days of my youth and the Lindsey Nelson Sunday morning highlight shows. (Anyone out there old enough to remember that?) Love them or hate them, you can't deny that a good Notre Dame football team is good for college football as a whole. The mystique and aura surrounding Notre Dame can't be denied. Well, I guess we can blame that on "Rudy."
I will admit to not totally being a Brian Kelly fan but I think he is beginning to win me over. I know the way he left Cincinnati was handled very poorly, but come on now, Cincinnati or Notre Dame, not actually much of a choice with apologies to Bearcat fans, whose football program has become like Xavier basketball, a stepping stone for coaches to move on to greener pastures. (Butch Jones, exit stage right). Kelly has to be the toast of the town in South Bend and rightfully so. He has restored the program to the heights that their fan base expects, even if those expectations are unrealistic in some years. When this season began, I figured the Irish would lose two or three games at the least, never expecting an undefeated regular season and a spot in the BCS title game.
Admittedly, the BCS system is flawed but there is no doubt the Irish deserve their spot. It is who comes after them that is subject for debate. Unless there is some sort of divine intervention, there will be a team from the SEC matched up against Notre Dame on Jan. 7. (As an ND fan, I am hoping for Georgia.) Many people, including myself, wonder how the Oregon Ducks could be left out of the mix. (Again, as an ND fan, I don't want to face that offense.) A playoff system is in place and on the way and I am certain that there will be flaws and complaints with it also, but I must say that as a traditionalist, I want to see all the bowl games on New Year's Day like it used to be. Not going to happen!
The jilted bride in this whole scenario is the scarlet and gray up in Columbus. Boy, did the Buckeyes pick a great season to go undefeated! Not to say that they haven't always been, but Ohio State is going to be good for a long time with Urban Meyer at the helm, but what was with that ovation for Jim Tressel on Saturday? Give me the argument that he was just sticking up for his players, but he is still always going to be the name associated with the bowl ban of this year. From a personal standpoint, I am kind of glad there will not be an ND-OSU title game. I would have had a tough time picking someone to root for, though I believe my Irish loyalties may have won out. Maybe next year?
Speaking of college sports, I must mention the thrill that I experienced last Wednesday evening. Being on the floor with my camera at Rupp Arena for UK basketball was an experience beyond description for me. What made it even more special was the fact that my son and daughter were at the game with me, though admittedly jealous that my seat was a whole lot better than theirs. I know the population of readers of this column is filled with UK haters, but like South Bend on Saturdays, there is something special about the atmosphere of a full house of blue-clad fans at Rupp Arena.
I knew I was meant to be there when after I dropped my kids off to go to their seats, I had to go to the media entrance at the back of the arena. As I turned the corner and headed down the ramp towards the gate, as if coming out of the heavens, I heard the trumpets sound and the melodic tones of the UK fight song filled the air. When I walked in, I saw that it was the pep ban warming up, but nevertheless it was a sign of a memorable night. As I stood on the court for the player introductions and the National Anthem, I found tears beginning to swell in my eyes. I quickly dried them as I was surrounded by a pair of female photographers and the tears wouldn't look too manly.
So, now the long wait for Jan. 7 begins, plenty of time for every pundit to dissect and analyze the BCS title game until it can't be analyzed any more. If nothing else, I can be pretty sure that Santa Claus will be delivering a large amount of blue and gold to my house!