Posted: Monday August 14, 2006 12:30PM; Updated: Monday August 14, 2006 9:06PM
Notre Dame haters were up in arms when the Irish jumped from unranked to No. 10 last season and didn't fall in the AP poll after a narrow loss to USC.
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The e-mails first started pouring in nearly a year ago. They came from all parts of the country and across the globe, and they encompassed fans from Texas to Tennessee, Oklahoma to Ohio State. All revolved around the same theme: indignation over the media's perceived love affair with Notre Dame and coach Charlie Weis.
The furor started building at the beginning of last season, when in the span of two weeks the Fighting Irish jumped from unranked to 10th in the AP poll after beating soon-to-be-exposed Pittsburgh and Michigan. The voters wouldn't do that for any other team. It's ridiculous!
It grew louder when Weis' team didn't fall even a spot following its memorable last-second loss to USC. The media are treating the game as if Notre Dame won. It's absurd!
And it reached a fever pitch when the then 9-2 Irish, as expected, were granted a free pass to the Fiesta Bowl over arguably more deserving squads: Oregon (10-1), Auburn (9-2) and Virginia Tech (10-2). This is a travesty! Bowl bids shouldn't be based on how many times the movie Rudy is shown on television.
Heading into the 2006 season, that collective Notre Dame resentment -- an age-old staple of college football that had sat idle during the Irish's decade-long run of irrelevance -- is back out in the open. Fans of the nation's other glamour programs, having been subjected to a long summer's worth of Brady Quinn magazine covers, Jeff Samardzija baseball updates and Tom Zbikowski boxing stories, are practically bursting with ire over the fact that a team that gave up 617 yards of offense the last time it took the field is ranked in the preseason Top 3. How can anyone seriously believe Notre Dame is a national championship contender? The Irish have lost eight straight bowl games, for crying out loud!
The truth is, all of these points are valid. It's no secret that every little thing Notre Dame does gets magnified in the media simply because it's Notre Dame. Did the Irish get way more hype than they deserved last season? Absolutely. Is Weis getting far more credit than he's earned based on one promising season? No doubt.
Is Notre Dame, which returns 17 starters from last year's 9-3 team, really a legitimate contender for this year's national title? Actually, yes.
This opinion is not being offered in an attempt to sell magazines or bowl tickets. This writer has no vested interest in NBC's ratings. It is the simple, objective truth about the Irish's football squad, gleaned from watching their games, analyzing their roster and speaking with some of the coaches who have faced them.
After reading nearly a year's worth of e-mails on the subject, I can tell you that those who resent Notre Dame -- and Lord knows there are a lot of you -- tend to espouse four common critiques of the Irish. It's time to debunk them.