Today, ESPN writer Rick Reilly wrote an article detailing why Notre Dame should be “demoted”—that is, he wants Notre Dame to be forced to join a conference, to be stripped of its NBC television contract, and to no longer receive “undeserved hellahype in preseason rankings and All-America teams.”Reilly believes that Notre Dame is receiving unfair treatment by getting a seat at the table for BCS postseason talks, and doesn’t like that a conference such as the ACC would bend over backwards to add the Irish to its ranks. He even goes so far as to compare Notre Dame’s revered status to the Penn State scandal:
“Somebody needs to make Notre Dame play by the same rules as everybody else. If there’s anything we’ve learned from the Penn State mess, it’s that nobody gets to live on a pedestal anymore.”
Rick, are you serious?
Undoubtedly, Mr. Reilly will get exactly what he wants. His article will be read by hundreds of thousands of people, it will spark serious outrage, and the Notre Dame forums all over the web will run wild. Wonderful.
But intent aside, there are so many issues with Rick’s article itself. First of all, he believes that Notre Dame doesn’t deserve a share of bowl revenues. But he isn’t writing the article about a team like Northwestern, which rarely reaches a bowl game and still receives the same share of revenue as the rest of the Big 10. He’s singling out the Irish, giving them even more “undeserved attention and hype.” He’s making his article a self-fulfilling prophecy.
John Walters, a Notre Dame graduate and writer, also points out some of the hypocrisy in Reilly’s piece (several tweets combined into one):
@jdubs88: The utter *$%@ IRONY of a writer who was at the top of HIS game 20 years ago but now earns more $$$ than anyone in our field calling out ND for taking the $$ it can get is beyond hilarious. And I may have fractured a friendship w/ that comment, Rick, but it’s what everyone is thinking. You wanna prove ND doesn’t matter? Go write 2,000 words on Clemson. You didn’t, did you? It’s called the free market. No one is forcing NBC to give ND that $$$, just like no one forced John Walsh to give u a 7-fig salary.”
Reilly claims that Notre Dame is not a national brand, because it lost to Tulsa in 2010. If that is the case, Appalachian State was the undoing of Michigan as a brand, and Boise State put an end to Oklahoma years ago. Give me a break. Millions of fans tune in to those teams each and every week; they buy tickets to the games, they buy jerseys, they buy preseason magazines with their favourite players on the cover. In short, losing does not relegate teams to insignificance. Otherwise Bill Simmons would’ve rendered Reilly hopeless years ago.
One big problem I have is his claim that “somebody needs to do something” and his pleading to the NCAA and college football’s conference commissioners to put an end to Notre Dame’s prominence. But these powerful figures are catering to the school because, unlike Reilly, they realise its worth and prestige.
The NCAA itself was calling for Notre Dame’s athletic director Jack Swarbrick to be its President a few years ago. The reality is that college football is all about money these days, and Notre Dame matters as much as any team in the country, like it or not. How can Reilly have a problem with that? It’s the money/popularity of athletics that he’s made a living off for the entirety of his professional career.
The very worst part of his article is that Rick Reilly states that he was once a fan of the Fighting Irish. He used to love watching them play. Now, because the chips are down, Reilly is folding. One of the great things in sports is sticking with your team through thick-and-thin, ultimately experiencing the ecstasy of finally winning the game, bowl, or championship you’ve been patiently waiting for. Reilly will never get to appreciate that, because he is a sellout.
Sorry Mr. Reilly, but I’m not sad to see you go. I doubt ESPN will either since your contract is almost up.
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