Notre Dame firing Willingham doesn't hold a candle to Kevin's ouster
Posted: Monday December 13, 2004 6:46PM; Updated: Monday December 13, 2004 6:47PM
Kevin should have had a better chance to be the next Bill Rancic.
Brian Bahr/Getty Images
That photo above is no longer accurate. I've shaven my head to protest the firing of ... Kevin from The Apprentice. Dude has a bachelor's from Penn, an M.B.A. from Emory and is working on a law degree from the University of Chicago; friendly, personable, obviously bright.
OK, he sweats profusely during presentations, but he's not Albert Brooks auditioning for a weekend anchor spot, either. Kelly's going to win (and Michael Douglas, senescence be damned, will play him in the movie), but Kevin deserved to go up against him in the final. I'd like to think that race had nothing to do in Willingham or Kevin being fired, or in Peterson being passed over for the Heisman. I'd like to think that. But I imagine there's a huge segment of people who believe that it did play a factor, and all I can say is that I do not blame them.
More than Ty Willingham, even more than Adrian Peterson, no high-profile African-American male has had more cause in the last two weeks to ask, "Is it because I'm black?" than Kevin. And had he done so, that would definitely deserve to have been included on TV Guide's "100 Most Memorable TV Moments" list (see below).
Matt Leinart is a worthy, albeit safe, Heisman choice. Unlike some other past Heisman QBs (in the last decade alone), Leinart has the goods to be a terrific NFL quarterback. But Peterson was simply a stud this season. He broke tackles, punished defensive backs, and was just as dangerous on a sweep (see his first carry against Texas, a 44-yarder) as he was off-tackle (see his first carry of the second half against Baylor, which also went for about 40 yards).
In the middle of the fourth quarter of that Baylor game, by the way, I was standing behind the Sooner bench, directly behind Peterson, when a female Baylor student got my attention (I know what you're thinking; what I mean is, she said, "Excuse me, older-lookin' guy"). Anyway, she asked, "Is that Adrian Peterson?"
"Yes. What gave it away for you, the 'PETERSON' on his jersey?"
"Whatever, Assface. Hey, can you get his autograph for me?"
Suffice it to say, that's only happened to me once before, in Gainesville, Fla. The female student there wanted me to get her Kirk Herbstreit's autograph. Seriously.
As for Willingham, well, Notre Dame has lost more face in the past two weeks than Viktor Yuschenko. The Irish, in their quest to become Urban outfitters, apparently found a Gap between what they were offering and what former Utah coach Urban Meyer wanted and thus came off looking like a Banana Republic. A few more thoughts concerning what's happened:
1. Fr. Edward "Monk" Malloy, Notre Dame's president of the past 18 years who will retire next June, blasted the school for the decision. "In my 18 years, there has only been two days that I've been embarrassed to be president of Notre Dame: Tuesday and Wednesday of last week," Malloy said in reference to Willingham's dismissal.
Didn't he see Rudy?
Malloy was in a difficult spot. As an outgoing president (although not as "outgoing" as Fr. Hesburgh in the meet-and-greet sense), Malloy felt that he should allow the new prez, Fr. John Jenkins, to have more of a stake in to the future of the football program, since it would be Jenkins who would have to live with it. On the other hand, Malloy is still steering the ship.
Ultimately, it seems that for Malloy to blast the decision of a university of which, technically, he is still in charge, is less than noble. He either could have prevented Willingham's firing, resigned himself, or, like so many monks before him, taken a vow of silence once the decision was made
You have to love that Malloy used the term "messiah coach" to describe Meyer, by the way. Wouldn't this be somewhat blasphemous if anyone else said it?
2. Charlie Weis? I'll admit, I am a little concerned about the gastric bypass surgery that the school's new coach underwent two years ago. Are the Irish just one "I'll have a HuddleBurger and fries" away from another coaching search? I hope not.
3. And finally, nobody cares, but Notre Dame did happen to win the national championship in women's soccer last week. No other school this decade has won national titles in the two premier women's college sports, basketball and soccer.
4. Weis' Tom-Brady Quinn transition should be interesting to watch. Quinn is an accurate passer whose biggest flaw to date has been not knowing when to flee the pocket. Nobody will benefit more from Weis' hiring (beside Weis, that is, to the tune of $2 million per year) than Quinn.
5. Weis never played football at Notre Dame, but he was a student manager for the team. Another student manager for those mid-70s Irish squads was NBC broadcaster Ted Robinson.
6. Willingham heads to the University of Washington, which provided the Irish its easiest win last season. Notre Dame led U-Dub 31-3 at the half and it was hardly that close. We'll see what difference a year and a coaching change makes when the Irish visit Seattle next Sept. 24.
Eight in the Box
1. I spent last week in my hometown of Phoenix, which sadly has bloated to twice the size that it was in the mid-1980s. That's right, Phoenix has become the Kirstie Alley of metropolitan areas. I'm not saying that the Valley of the Sun is the poster child of urban sprawl, but remember Hi and Edwina's home in Raising Arizona? It's now a Best Buy parking lot. (The Kirstie Alley rip, by the way, is inspired by SI On Campus colleague Adam Duerson, who last year, as a weather forecast for the Cotton Bowl, wrote: "Winter weather in Dallas is kind of like Goldie Hawn. Could be 35. Could be 60".)
2. Saturday night: Covering the Heisman presentation from the bar at The Roaring Fork in Scottsdale (because you never know when Mike Tyson's gonna show up and jump on the hood of your car). When Leinart appeared on the screen, my friend Michelle West asked, "When did Bob the Bachelor dye his hair?"
3. Re Iron Mike: You gotta think that facial tattoo does him no favors whenever he's in a police line-up.
4. Did anyone else watch the Division II championship game between Pittsburg State and Valdosta State (you can tell it's D-II because the "State" prefix isn't actually a state) from Florence, Ala.? Valdosta State won 36-31, and is thus the national champion even though it entered the game ranked No. 3. So playoff proponents can say that at least it was settled on the field, while others will wonder if the two best teams played in the national championship game. The stands, by the way, were at best half-full (at least it appeared that way on TV). If you ever do attend this game -- it's always held in Florence -- make your way over to the University of North Alabama campus, which houses a live lion outdoors right in the midst of campus year-round.
5. Millers' Tale: Virginia tight end Heath Miller, a 6-foot-5, 255-pound senior, was selected as a first-team All-America by The Sporting News. The publication named Arizona State tight end Zach Miller, a 6-foot-4, 245-pound true freshman, to its second team. On numbers alone Zach would seem to have the edge:
If you think Heath feels the heat from Zach, imagine what it must be like to be Brent Miller. Brent, Zach's brother, is older by one year and also a back-up tight end for the Sun Devils.
6. Double airport celebrity sighting on Sunday: At Phoenix Sky Harbor (coolest airport name by far), I found myself standing next to Tears for Fears lead singer Roland Orzabal in the "pulled-aside-for-a-pat-down" search area. (These are the things I can do without, indeed). Then, at JFK, at the baggage carousel, hovering near the translucently lovely Cate Blanchett, whose bags were not among the missing.
7. What I've learned from watching The Apprentice: handsome white men with above-average people skills can succeed in the business world. Whoa! Consider my mind fully-blown.
8. TV Guide puts 14 sports moments in its "The 100 Most Memorable TV Moments" issue (15 if you count Marcia Brady's "Oh, my nose!" pigskin peril). No. 1 (and No. 17 overall) is Dale Earnhardt's death, while No. 2 (No. 21 overall) is USA Hockey's "Miracle on Ice." I'm wondering whether the fact that the Guide also had a feature on Earnhardt and ESPN's film 3 had anything to do with that.
Overall, Frank Costanza's favorite mag did a great job except for that blunder. I would've added two more sports moments: Franz Klammer's final downhill run at Innsbruck in the '76 Winter Games and Doug Flutie's Hail Mary pass against Miami. "The Play" -- the Cal-Stanford kickoff return from 1983 -- didn't make it but then again that game was not nationally televised.