Faust says, "I don't think God cares who wins football games, do you?" He goes to mass every morning and visits the Notre Dame Grotto to pray twice a day.
In Faust's first season, Notre Dame was a less than exemplary 5-6. For 1982 he changed to a multiple offense, brought in Ron Hudson from UCLA to coordinate it and tried to delegate more authority. The Irish were 6-1-1 until quarterback Blair Kiel went down with a shoulder injury. They finished 6-4-1.
In 1983, despite a messy situation at quarterback with Beuerlein, then a freshman, taking over for Kiel after early-season losses to Michigan State and Miami, Notre Dame was 6-2 at the end of October. The Irish then lost three straight in November. Faust's teams have a 3-8 record in his three Novembers, probably as a result of his long practices. "We were always overworked," says receiver Tony Hunter, now with the Buffalo Bills. "We were so worn out as the season went on, it got the best of us." Kiel led a movement that got practices shortened from three hours to 2�. This year, after the sixth game, they were cut to two hours.
Last season Notre Dame went to the Liberty Bowl, but even that was controversial. The seniors opposed the trip, and it took three votes to get team approval. Not long before the game Phil Hersh, then of the Chicago Sun-Times, wrote a long article detailing Faust's alleged shortcomings. Faust agreed with some of it—his struggle to delegate, his unwise switching of offenses, his oppressive hovering over players to get them to class—but not the implications that he was incapable of improvement or that the team was mutinous. The article seemed to become a rallying point, and Notre Dame played well in beating Doug Flutie's Boston College 19-18.
"He's grown and matured just like the rest of us," says Pinkett. "He's improved every year, and so have we. He's gotten better at shielding us from the criticism, at being consistent. And a lot of that criticism is unjustified. He doesn't have the pads and helmet on. We do. Over the years few teams have really beat us. Mostly we beat ourselves. We have the plays to get the job done."
The LSU game proved that. The Notre Dame offense, often called predictable for its "Pinkett over the top" tendencies, got its second touchdown from third-and-goal at the two. "A great, great call," sang Frank Broyles of ABC. It was Pinkett over the top. Execution makes plays.
During halftime, ABC ran a summary of the charges against Faust gleaned from former players and a former assistant. It wasn't a powerful indictment, listing his impatient shuffling of assistants, his reluctance to accept blame and his inability to find the best use for players' specific strengths. All are problems Faust has addressed.
"My wife and I think there is a reason we were sent here," Faust says. "God has a reason for everything. Maybe he's put me through tough times, and Notre Dame through tough times, to see how we do or to make us better." Better how?
"If you tell people to stick with something, and you have never stuck with something, they don't have to listen. But if you have, if you've really had faith and lasted, you have a greater effect." Assuming you do last.
"God would never give you anything you can't handle. Whether you do handle it is another question." This is the Faust that considered the priesthood. He is a believer, as all consummate tryers must be, at least while trying. Commitment is as natural to him as popping your shoulder. "I could never be a good official," he once said, "because I'd pick a side and subconsciously root for 'em. I'm not a cold, calculating person."