" Saint Jude, pray for us," he concluded, "and for all who invoke thy aid."
Two weeks ago, after a bitter 36-32 loss to South Carolina, his color had returned to ruddy health by Monday morning. His voice had lost its wounded undertone. Taking a call from Father Edward Keller—"Indian Joe," now 80, who has been at Notre Dame since Knute Rockne—he said, "Don't even worry about it, Father. You just keep those prayers going. God bless you, Father." When asked about LSU, he spoke of challenge and showed nothing but excitement. In his presence, one filled with both elation and perplexity. Here was either the bravest of besieged men, able to tap all the strength available to any of us, or one who just didn't appreciate the seriousness of the situation. Or maybe both.
Notre Dame is special for its heritage of Rockne and Frank Leahy and Ara Parseghian, for winning 638 games and losing only 185 since taking up the sport in 1887. However, all those granted wishes, not to say answered prayers, have built up the irresistible expectation among the school's students, friends and far-flung subway alumni that the dominance will continue. Must continue. Listen to All-America guard Larry Williams: "At other schools hope springs eternal. Here, demand springs eternal."
The tone of that demand has grown anguished. Even with the win over LSU, the Irish are 4-4 this season and 22-19-1 since Faust took over. He has been hung in effigy, and The Cincinnati Enquirer has urged him to resign. But he has hardly been declared a pariah. His three children have lost no friends. His wife, Marlene, is coping well, thank you, though she bristles some at journalistic excess. She has a point. It was widely reported that FOR SALE signs had been planted on the Faust lawn. None ever has. "The only thing on the lawn was a big M when we beat Michigan [in 1982]," says Faust. "If that's the price for that, I'll pay it every year."
Faust was plucked from an extraordinarily successful program that he constructed over 18 seasons at Cincinnati's Moeller High. It was the "biggest promotion in the history of football," in the words of USA Today columnist Tom Weir, who has all but called for Notre Dame to remove Faust. Faust is now in the fourth year of a five-year contract. Therefore, unless he steps aside, he's safe for this season and next, no matter how much he loses.
Don't smirk. At Notre Dame, "contracts are sacred," says the Rev. Edmund P. Joyce, for 32 years vice-president of the university and the man who hired Faust, as well as Parseghian, Dan Devine and the three others since Leahy. Let newspaper headlines grow strident. Outside voices will have little or no effect on the Notre Dame administration.
"Understand, we all want success," says Joyce. "Winning is important. But it is one element among several. We would never tell a coach he has to win a certain number of games. The judgment won't be made on mathematics."
Nor does it seem that Faust's record is perceived as a financial burden. Notre Dame TV and gate receipts are eternal. "We lose only bowl game income," says Joyce. "For years we never played bowl games, so we don't necessarily think in those terms. And we have never seen any correlation between games won and donations by alumni. You get that only when you have a booster club raising funds just for athletics. We don't have one. Abuses come that way. We've never wanted to start down that path."
So the leverage might be termed strictly spiritual. "It comes from the man's own wish to succeed," says Joyce, "and the huge body of fans who want him to win." Number Joyce in that body. His long embrace of the muddy Faust after the LSU game was poignant proof. The unique Irish pressures aged Parseghian even when he was winning. In 11 seasons, the worst Parseghian teams were 7-2-1 in both 1965 and '68. In '66 and '73 he led Notre Dame to national championships. He quit in '74, at 51, for the sake of his health.
Now he strains to imagine what it must be like for Faust. "He's a good man, and no one has supported him more strongly than I have," says Parseghian, "but the obvious criticism has got to affect him and his family. Under those circumstances, I would not stay, myself. It is Gerry's decision. He has said that he will never embarrass the university."